A Resurgence of Humanity

Kathie and Sherry

Tomorrow my sister Kathie plans to go to a “Moral Mondays” demonstration in Raleigh.  She may even participate in civil disobedience there.  Because she lives in Asheville, I’ve been watching the right-wing coup that has been taking place in what has been a relatively progressive Southern state.   The state took over Asheville’s public water district, which has always been locally-run and locally-funded, without negotiation or compensation. The legislature is now in the process of dismantling voting rights, firing environmental regulators, cutting unemployment, firing teachers’ aides, increasing class sizes, and ending safety net protections for the most vulnerable people.

Powerful billionaire Art Pope, active in ALEC, is now North Carolina’s Budget Director.  Pope has been called “a cross between the Koch brothers and Karl Rove.”  Big money, corporate sponsors, and entrenched political players are clearly at work here, aligned to make true democracy irrelevant.  And yet, in the face of incredible odds against them, people are rising up to say “no.” 

This is not just happening in North Carolina, but around the world:  in Taksim Square, in Brazil, in Idle No More and related actions against the Keystone XL pipeline,  in anti-drone actions, in appearances of still-alive Occupy movements.  People are also engaged in smaller but persistent struggles taking place around the world.

It is heartening to see people rising up in resistance to the Powers that Be.  Why?  For one thing, many of us know that only through “we the people” is there any hope of turning back the ascendant evil of today’s domination system, which consumes life and threatens the future.  For another, when people join together, rise up, say “enough,” and organize new ways of being in community, it is an expression of our humanity. I’m convinced that the Spirit is present wherever people resist dehumanization and come more fully alive.

During the Nazi Regime, theologian William Stringfellow claimed that in times of great social evil, resistance enables us to maintain our humanity.  We live in such a time.  Stringfellow wrote, “In resistance people live most humanly.  ‘No` to death means ‘yes’ to life.”

As we stand together, respecting all aspects of our diversity as human beings, joining in solidarity with people of every race, class, and nation, resisting the powers of death, we express our humanity.  We are connected!  We are in solidarity with each other as we take our turns standing against the takeover of our world by institutional forces that would have us believe that they cannot be stopped.  As I wrote in “In Resistance is the Secret of Joy” from Shaking the Gates of Hell:

“In resistance to the institutions and systems that destroy the earth and crush the life out of people, hope comes alive. As we withdraw our consent from these Powers, practicing noncooperation, finding or creating life-supporting alternatives, what has seemed impossible becomes possible because we are willing to pay the price to make it so. It is like the difference between being a spectator in the stands and being a player on the field. As Dorothee Soelle says, “Only when we ourselves enter the game and bind our own life inextricably to the game’s outcome does hope arrive.”

As we begin the process of breaking free, we recognize others engaged in the same process and we see that change is not only possible, but is happening now. Then, in spite of the risks, losses, and even sacrifices, the struggle becomes joyous, even fun. Fun? Yes, fun, energizing, inspiring, hopeful.”

People rising up in so many places is hopeful.  It is evidence of a resurgence of humanity.

I wish I could go with you tomorrow, Sister.  I’ll be with you in spirit.

Have fun.

To find out more about North Carolina and Moral Mondays, read   “Protestors Shake Up North Carolina’s Legislature.  Read more about how the state takeover of Asheville’s water district is motivating people, about clergy involvement in Moral Mondays, about Art Pope pushing the ALEC agenda, and “Why North Carolina’s Moral Mondays Matter for Democracy and the Planet.

Once You Knew

Idle No More NC

A friend recently introduced me to the poem, Hieroglyphic Stairway, by Drew Dellinger.  The beginning of the poem grabbed me, because it speaks to my experience:

it’s 3:23 in the morning

and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?

surely you did something
when the seasons started failing?

as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?

did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?

what did you do
once
you
knew?

After participating Friday evening in an Idle No More round dance at the Bark House in downtown Nevada City, I spent the weekend watching  films at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival that takes place here every year.  Many of these films showed remote or familiar places of natural  beauty.   Some focused on environmental dangers, including climate change, fracking, species loss, and toxic pollution.  Many told the stories of courageous individuals taking creative action to preserve human communities and the natural world.  After introducing and watching the films at the Vets Hall on Sunday afternoon, I went home and slept for twelve hours.

It can be overwhelming to be confronted with so much information and so many opportunities for action.  When the festival celebrations are over, most of us return to our day-to-day lives.  How can we incorporate what we have learned into a way of being that will enable us to be a part of the change we want to see in the world?

This is a spiritual issue.  How can we develop the capacity to face the extent of global destruction without becoming paralyzed?  How can we find inner peace and take care of our personal responsibilities while doing our small part to bring hope and healing to the world?

I’ve found this to be a lifelong challenge that involves ongoing personal transformation as well as social action.  There are many spiritual paths, many faith traditions that foster spiritual awakening and moral development.  For me it begins with entrusting myself to the Love that brought the universe into being and following wherever that Love may lead, as Jesus did.

I don’t always know what to do.  But I do know that I am not alone, that people in my community and around the world are also awakening to the multi-faceted global crisis and taking action that will make a more hopeful future possible.  And I know that Love is sustaining us even now and can work through us for the well being of the whole.

Regardless of how things turn out for us as a species, our great great grandchildren will look back on this pivotal time.  Will this be the time of descent into environmental collapse and global chaos?  Or will this be the time of “the great turning” toward more compassionate and sustainable ways of being human?

Regardless of the outcome, the question will remain:

what did you do

once
you
knew?

Idle No More

Tomorrow, Friday, at 5 p.m., community members are invited to meet at the Maidu bark house at the foot of Broad Street in Nevada City to join in a traditional round dance.  This event is being held in solidarity with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who has been fasting for weeks, and with First Nations people around the world who are rising up to demand that governments honor the rights of Indigenous people and the rights of Mother Earth.

The Idle No More movement began in Canada with a teach-in in Saskatoon that was held in response to the Canadian government’s introduction  of Bill C-45, an omnibus bill that Native activists claim weaken environmental protection laws and treaty rights.  On December 11, Chief Spence stopped eating all solid food and now only occasionally consumes lemon water, medicinal teas, and fish broth.  This hunger strike has drawn attention to the issues of First Nations and has mobilized support actions around the world.  Find out more in this article at TruthOut called “Idle No More Indigenous Uprising Sweeps North America.”

I’ll be in Nevada City at the Round Dance on Friday.  I wouldn’t miss it.  I hope that my grandchildren can come, too.  No matter what happens in the future, I want them to be able to look back and know that the adults in their lives were doing everything in their power to help create a world that would sustain them and their children and grandchildren for generations to come.  I want them to know that we were Idle No More.