Reaching my Limit
Several months ago I made a decision to limit the amount of space I take up in this blog with the rants and ravings of #45. However, the barrage of despicable statements and deplorable actions, and obvious cruelty behind them, have pushed me to edge. That being said, my point in this blog is not to recount the many mean-spirited tweets, public statements and actions come out of the White House, but rather to ask: What will “we, the people” do?
The News from Hong Kong, Sudan, Puerto Rico, and Russia
For the past several weeks I have been watching with great interest the massive crowds in Hong Kong and Puerto Rico. Before that, the people of Sudan convinced their president of 30 years needed to go. Just this weekend we read of people in Russia demanding opposition candidates be allowed to run for local offices. Something is happening around the globe. In all of these instances, people have taken to the streets to protest their governments’ illegal and unethical actions. They are saying “enough is enough” and taking democracy back into their hands. They are saying if you (our elected leaders) don’t act in our interest, we will take the power back. In some cases the protests and police retaliation have led to violence, while in other instances the people got their way without violence.
Is it time for those of us in the U.S. to do likewise? A few weeks ago I was in a pub in Manchester, England. A fellow sitting next to me asked what I thought of Pres. Trump. I said: ‘He embarrasses me as an American.” I am tired of being embarrassed. I am fed up with twitter rants. I have had it with his xenophobic, mean-spirited actions. I am done with his lawlessness and unethical behavior. It is time to say we have had enough.
Another Time of Testing?
Renowned sociologist Robert Bellah observed that have been three periods in American history when there was mass disagreement on the meaning and purpose of the United States as a nation. The first was the Revolutionary War, the second was the period leading up to and through the Civil War, and the third was the 1960’s during the movements for Civil Rights, an end to the Vietnam war, and the advancement of Women’s Rights. All three eras were characterized by significant upheaval and vast disagreement over basic American values. Bellah described these eras as times “of testing so severe that not only the form but even the existence of our nation has been called into question.”*** Reading Bellah’s analysis one can only wonder: are we today in such a period of chaos and confusion? Are we entering another time of reordering and reexamining what we as a nation stand for? Do we need to again ask what truths do we hold as self-evident?
I came of age at the end of the Civil Rights era, in the midst of the Vietnam war. My first act of resistance was to leaflet and march against the war. It was a frightening and uncertain time. I remember leafletting for a march on a corner in Minneapolis as a Vietnam vet told me: “Very soon, there is going to be a civil war in this country. I will be on one side and you will be on the other. And I will come looking for you.” I did not believe in what my country was doing in Southeast Asia and marching was my only real option, but I wondered if my adversary that night was correct. Fifty years later, I wonder if we are in such a time again.
The People’s Congress
Since the Democrats in the House are divided on whether to impeach and Republicans in the Senate won’t take any action against the President, it may be time for a People’s Congress right on the Washington Mall. If little Puerto Rico can get hundreds of thousands to block a major highway, we can get a few million to fill the Washington Mall, block Pennsylvania Ave, and demand change.
Imagine this: Four or five million people flood the streets of Washington, DC. Traffic is brought to a standstill. The White House, the Congress Building, the Department of Justice, the FBI and countless other government buildings are surrounded by people calling for an end to the Trump Administration. All the big players are there: The Poor People’s Campaign, the Movement for Black Lives, the New Sanctuary Movement, the Women’s March and much more. But also represented are thousands of community centers, local activist organizations, faith-based organizations, gun violence preventions groups, as well as people of all races, ethnicities, religions, and generations. While most the groups represented may be considered more “progressive” or “liberal, ”even conservative groups fed up with the rhetoric and meanness show up.
The people gathered don’t agree on every issue, but they do all agree that something has to change in our political rhetoric. They agree that leadership should not act only in response to their big donors and what serves their political advantage. They are demanding that those leaders work in response to the people they are elected to serve. And they agree that a certain level of respect, decency, and ethical decorum are to be required.
We want leaders who are role models. We want leaders who are willing to listen, especially to those with whom they disagree. We want leaders who sow understanding rather than chaos. And mostly they want leaders who tell the truth.
A whimsical fantasy? A pipe dream? Impossible?
As folk singer Carrie Newcomer sings: It’s just impossible…Until it’s not!
*** The quote from Robert Bellah comes from his book The Broken Covenant:American Civil Religion in Time of Trial