We Shall Overcome!

Dear Friends,

The incessant, daily impact and speed of the worsening political climate is so creepy. I feel more and more unsettled, cautious, anxious. It's like a noxious odor filling the night air. How dangerous is it really? Will it soon go away or will it cause serious harm? The ambivalence about what action to take creates an increasing wariness and weariness in me. And I don’t think I am alone. This is not a new feeling. But where in the past I could expect things to calm down, this hasn’t worked of late. The political situation only gets worse.

Viewing the incineration of Standing Rock buildings made me especially sad. But so did the news of rescinding protection for transgendered people and harsher deportation rules on immigration. And then came the clearly stated intention to weaken or eliminate the government’s primary responsibility to serve and protect the environment and its citizens - especially the most vulnerable.

The result is that consciously or subconsciously we are all getting more and more edgy. Petty but significant conflicts in my island’s community life have spiked, for example. Whether we are aware of it or not, there is a sort of bracing for things to get worse. So thoughts turn to how might we plan to protect the immigrants from deportation. How do we find support for people dependent on ACA/Obama medical care if it’s taken from them? It’s unsettling to write this, but I think these concerns need to be outed and named, in large part because we need to know we are not alone with these feelings. And we need to know that right action is not obvious. We are wise to be wary, and we are even wiser to be looking for imaginative, strategic ways to live differently into these coming months.

The strange thing is that amidst all that seems so threatening another part of me is also aware that a positive, healing change is somehow also part of the chaos. I got that feeling when I saw the fires at Standing Rock. Those weren’t primarily fires of despondency and defeat, sad as they were. They were strategic fires of resistance and commitment to take the struggle for indigenous rights and water protection to a new and likely higher level. The parting words from the tribal elders spoke of a deepened commitment to the cause were not words of a hollow hope; it was a gut’s assurance that what occurred at Standing Rock, both during the occupation and the strategic retreat, was a moral and courageous stand that will be remembered and will serve as inspiration for generations to come. One of the tribal leaders described Standing Rock as a seed planted for the future.

I am going to hold on to the Standing Rock inspired resistance to injustice in the coming days when there will likely be more chaos, danger and madness. For the poor and Native Americans especially the destructive injustices of economic greed have been in place long before this particular administration . They are now being uncomfortably and hastily outed. Standing Rock forces us to recognize how the unchecked power of corrupt politics and the corporations have abused Native Americans for all of U.S. history. And now we need to see how that abuse affects the rest of us as well.

I don’t know what a future timeline for a restorative, healing process will look like, but I believe it will come. Ibelieve the Sioux get it right when they stake their future not on a physical fight they would loose, but on the power of their prayer, nonviolent practices, the righteousness of the cause, and the solidarity of their supporters. And I think that applies to the larger political reality as well. So I dream of a counter to the present political climate that affirms the timeless values of compassion, equity, dignity, and the solidarity of the commons. It may seem like a cliche, but it’s hard to improve on the words “We shall overcome!"

Peace,
Tom