Following our Thanksgiving dinner my wife and I cautiously asked each other what we were especially thankful for at this difficult and discouraging time. After naming the expected - each other, our family, our many, many blessings, past and present - Cathy offered an unexpected gratitude: she was grateful that we are trying. At first I thought, of course we are trying! But what I believe she meant is that given the state of politics - and to some extent, the state of our existential lives and souls - we have been stunned by this sudden threatening shift in the status quo, and it’s hard to know what to think, what to plan, what to do, both with our personal lives and with our schedules, responsibilities, and political lives. There is at least a fleeting consideration of running away from it all, or hiding out for a time, or perhaps letting others take on the burden of working through the threats and dangers facing us in the near future.
So it is quite fitting to be grateful for those of us committed to trying to stay the course in the coming months of seeking peace and justice and the necessity of some level of reconciliation in our divided society. The act of trying at this time is a serious challenge, and we need to be grateful for all those willing and able to join the struggle.
And then my mind shifts to Standing Rock and the courageous, heroic witness of both resistance and righteousness of the Water Protectors and all their supporters. The concept of “trying" takes on a new level of meaning and commitment. Trying to protect the water and the land and the entire planet against a militarized force is not a half-hearted gesture. It means not only to join in solidarity with others in the immediate circles at the Standing Rock camps, but to stand in solidarity especially with the indigenous people around the world, and solidarity with our planet, with water, with air, with all that is so deeply precious to life. There is no assurance of success, so the word “trying” is appropriate, but the willingness of people to offer peaceful, nonviolent resistance in the face of cold, injury and death does provide a different kind of assurance than success. The courageous witness going on at Standing Rock assures those now present, and in future generations, of the power of the indomitable human spirit whether it is immediately “successful” or not. When held in prayer and profound community as is the practice at Standing Rock, the power of nonviolence ultimately defines the best of our species and ultimately the only way we are going to preserve and sustain the planet. I would even say that Standing Rock represents a new - or, more accurately, renewed - spiritual, cultural, global representation of the enduring, saving power of love and truth that most dramatically and powerfully manifests in faithful nonviolent direct action against oppression and indifference. This is the message of the best off our religious traditions and the best of true, heroic leadership.
Standing Rock is also an iconic, prophetic message to all of us in this moment of history. Like the Sioux and Lakota people and their supporters we must also commit to protecting and reverencing those sacred principles, people, and places in our personal, individual lives as well. This would include nurturing and protecting our children and grandchildren; all the beloved creatures that support and enrich our lives; the grandeur of our environment and all of creation; the preciousness of all of life, and the genius of our ability to love, imagine and create. Many of these sacred principles, and all that we hold dear and precious, may be tested in the coming months it seems. How well prepared are we with spirited commitment, deep community, and tactical training to resist harm when we must and offer creative responses when we are able?
Blessed are those who try, who try to find out what is most precious and sacred in their lives and try to be ready to protect those things, even at a personal and deep cost. Doing so we stand in the light of many in the past and the present - and now especially those at Standing Rock - who have given us a heritage of courage and self-sacrifice in the name of love of life, peace and justice.