“He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of lowly esteem.” – Mary of Nazareth [circa 2,000 years ago]
I cannot seem to come up with anything snarky or witty to write regarding the “carnage” that is taking place in Washington since Trump has assumed office and went into a maniacal flurry of signing Executive Orders. How can I not be serious when all our worst fears are being realized: Men, women and children treated like outlaws at our gates for no other reason than their religion; Gag orders placed on the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services; Go ahead on the construction of the WALL and the XL Pipeline through Indian Lands; just to name 4 of the 20 orders issued thus far. [a side note here: Remember a few months ago when the Republicans called President Obama an imperialist because he was issuing executive orders.] I am but one voice, one person and I do what I can but it feels like trying to move a mountain by carrying the dirt away one thimbleful at a time.
But upon reflection this morning, it came to me that all great paradigm shifts in this country were preceded by times of upheaval, terrible violence and suffering. This time will be no different.
History tells the tale: The thousands of members of the American Anti Slavery Society established in 1833 had no idea the toll that the freeing of humans from slavery would take on this country. They did not foresee the bloodiest war the US had ever imagined would ensue as a result of the Abolitionist movement. If they had known, would they still have continued to push the idea that all men are equal, even those with dark skin?
If Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucy Stone had known that 100 years later women would still be fighting for their rights: equal pay, the right to their own bodies and the right to take their place beside Priests and Bishops in the practice of their Religion, maybe they would have given up in despair of ever accomplishing anything. If they had known, would they have continued fighting for the cause?
If Martin Luther King and those who participated in the 1955 Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Alabama after Rosa Parks was arrested had known of the bloodshed and hatred that was about to be unleashed because of their audacity to stand up for freedom, known that four little girls would be blown to pieces when a Baptist church was bombed in Birmingham, or had foreknowledge of the beatings they would endure at the hands of the police, or knew that civil rights leaders would be murdered in Mississippi; would Dr. King have encouraged his followers to back off? Would knowing that his own life was in danger because of his defiance have stopped him from speaking out?
The answer to each of these question is NO, a resounding unhesitant NO. And yet, here we are again in 2017 and we know what is right, just and good and we must not cease either. We know that there will be causalities, suffering, sacrifice and darkness before the dawn. But we also know that goodness and love will prevail.
For the past week I have been reciting the Magnificat, [Luke 1:46-65] the song of Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus. Her words of defiance are as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago in Roman occupied Palestine. A time will come, she declares, when the mighty will be toppled, the hungry will be fed and the rich will be sent away empty. This is a song of hope.
I also know that the collective will to change only comes after great suffering, when a person or society hits their bottom, when their consciousness is awakened to include a broader more inclusive vision. If we have learned anything from the rise of Nazism in Europe, it is that each of us is accountable to God and our own souls. We cannot blindly obey laws and leaders who are inherently evil. We see this righteous defiance across the nation when cities declare that they will not corporate with deportation of illegal immigrants (unless a crime has been committed) even if it means losing Federal money (So far there are over 300 Sanctuary Cities – Cincinnati has just declared they will also join this awesome group); when a judge rules to put a hold on enforcing the ban on Moslems entering this country; when Attorney General Sally Yates is fired after she refuses to enforce the edicts of this new regime; when Republican leader John McCain, breaking ranks to stand for what is right, says that the US cannot reinstate torture (which Trump has said he wants to do); when millions of civilian protesters march in solidarity in Washington and all over the country to protest this administration’s unjust orders. We will not go into this dark night quietly.
In four years, after we have endured the worst that this regime can dish out, the United State will be ready to march into the light of a beautiful future. We will have national health care. We will welcome refugees who need safety and a home. There will be no laws that discriminate against persons or groups based on their sexual orientation or sexual identity.We will have laws to protect the earth and guard her precious resources. We will not be a church state, but our laws will reflect that Americans are of all colors and belief systems, backgrounds and ethnicities. We will be that shining light on the hill, but never at the expense of others. I have a dream too.