Monthly Archives: January 2021

CANCEL FEAR

Most of the time I hate graffiti. It defaces property and reminds me of gangs marking their territory. But, the other day, my husband and I were out walking and we passed a large cement block that had a message sprawled across it: CANCEL FEAR. Surprised, I thought, “Well, this is actually something incredibly helpful for this moment in which we’re living. (See picture below)

And I remembered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose life we’re celebrating today. I can only imagine the great trepidation he and his followers must have felt walking straight into the crowds full of sweaty clenched fists, high flying billy clubs, stretched hoses spewing out stinging daggers, and the shouts, those shouts, all wrapped around, infusing, and punctuating that crowing jewel of all insults . . . nigger.

Still, he and his followers walked. And later he would even refer to them, those very ones who aimed fists, billy clubs, hoses and insults, as his white brothers.

As an interfaith minister, I’ve long championed the path of inter–spiritual, inter–cultural, dialogue and communication. From the To Hear How Others Pray series fifteen years ago co–sponsored with the Souhegan Valley and Nashua Interfaith Councils to the Under One Sky Interfaith Peace Walks of 2016 and 2017, sponsored by the Souhegan Valley Interfaith Council, to my TEDx talk of 2018 stressing how we can find unity in diversity one encounter at a time. Over the years, my ministry has centered around galvanizing people for collaboration—particularly with those with whom we may feel tempted to label as the other.

However, I believe this moment is calling for a different response—very similar to the time of Dr. King. Sadly, the path of collaboration only works when both others (yes, we’re all the other to someone) are wanting and willing to sit together to find common ground. But, just like the angry white mobs that accosted Dr. King and his followers, those today who are exhibiting rage, hatred and terror in the name of certain political ideologies are also clearly not interested in the path of collaboration. And, as a result, our very democracy now hangs dangling from a noose, each moment losing breath and strength to kick. 

So, what are we to do? I propose we must come together with those of similar minds to explore ways we can fight for the America we want for ourselves and, more importantly, for our children—as opposed to simply succumbing to fighting against the other. This is key for if we fall into fighting against we become no different from those with whom we would resist. Dr. King modeled this great ideal as he marshalled the forces of love for his fellow man, through non–violent action, to confront a tyranny of hate. It would serve us well to take note for it was only in this way that he was able to describe the others as his brothers—assuming we too would desire to aim so high.

Yet, when fear reins, many recall his untimely demise. Yes. But I believe this very moment is also asking each of us, “What are you willing to die for?”

Overplayed? I don’t think so. Consider all the brave men and women who face death every day: our military service men and women, all the first responders, our police force, the health care workers who show up every day to care for the sick and dying in the middle of this pandemic. Every day, so many, not–so–ordinary people just like you and me live the answer to, “What are you willing to die for?”

And, so can we.

Let’s never lose hope or site of the incredible healing that can occur when those of differing viewpoints and beliefs are willing to come together and truly listen with open minds and hearts for the sake of cultivating greater understanding and awareness. But, when such collaboration eludes us, as it did in Dr. King’s time, let’s rise to follow his example. Let’s fight for the forces of love to confront, today, the growing tyranny threatening the welfare of all our people.

It’s our turn. I know together we can restore the soul of our great nation and re–enliven the ideals still burning in that torch held high by our great lady, the Statue of Liberty.  So, when our grandchildren ask, “What did you do?” We can answer, “I stood tall and did what I could. And, even though I often had great trepidation, I still worked hard to cancel fear . . .

So love could rein.

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Our Finest Hour?

It could be. Even though the images of insurrection we witnessed yesterday will brand our hearts for a long time to come. We did imagine it could happen. Still, we hoped not. Images. The image that most seared my heart was not the one of the insurrectionist at the front of the People’s Chamber with his arm raised, hand in a fist. It wasn’t of the one posing in the Speaker’s secretary’s office, cocked back in the chair with his feet propped up on the desk. It wasn’t even the one where Trump’s loyalists, on the scaffolding, were trying to replace the American flag with a Trump flag. No. For me, sadly, it was a less provocative image: it was the one of the woman being carried out on a stretcher, covered in blood. The one who didn’t make it.

I don’t know if she was there also to raise a fist or if she was just an innocent staffer who’d gotten up that day to go to work and do her job. Whatever the reasons that brought her to the end of her life, just seeing her awakened in me the tragic reminder of what can happen when we collectively lose control and revert to the ravages of war. Yes, war. Only this time it was not on a faraway land. It was right here at home.

Collectively. I don’t believe we’ll be able to come together to heal this moment unless we also own it. And this ownership is not about judgement or blame of others or ourselves. Rather, it’s about seeing one another behind the masks of hate, bigotry and revenge. It’s about seeing a fellow sister being carried out on a stretcher covered in blood. We can’t bring others into our hearts unless we can find them there first. It begins with us. Then, and only then, will we be able to recognize the very image of God right in front of us. Only then will we be able to rise up to heal the wounds of this time with the laser compassion required in this moment. Laser because justice seeks accountability for harmful action. Compassion because, behind all masks of harm, is a crippling desperation peering out from the face of God.   

Our finest hour? Yes, if we remember that just a small amount of light ignites the dark. Just a pause, a second look, can turn the heart. It’s one of those striking paradoxes that nothing opens us to love like hate; to healing like suffering; to unity like divisiveness; to forgiveness like blame.

Let’s come together to find ways not to be better Democrats or Republicans or even better Americans. Let’s broaden our vision to look for ways to become better human beings in and around and with one another.

Let’s do it for the one who was carried out covered in blood. The one who didn’t make it. If we do, just maybe, together, we can create a new spark of hope from the still hot embers of this moment. . .

for all humankind.  

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