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AFTER THE ELECTION

Some of us are grieving. Some of us are raging. Some of us are listening and reflecting. Some of us are getting busy. Some of us are doing all of these and more.

 

At times like these, we need to dig deep and ground ourselves in our deepest values and spiritual practices, reach out to each other—especially those in pain around us—and keep our eyes on the prize. As we are ready.

 

I’m fortunate to live in a place where there are multiple opportunities for expressing grief, anger, and hope, including the repetitive, rhythmic, communal physical movements—marching and chanting, dancing and playing, singing and praying—which trauma therapists say are essential to healing and empowerment. I hope you are finding or creating such opportunities where you live.

 

This election was not just about ordinary politics—mobilizing those who share our political positions, seeking to persuade those who do not—though we need to recommit ourselves to these efforts. Nor was it just about educating people about the facts, though there continues to be a need for that as well.

 

This election was also about other, deeper things. Some of it was—and continues to be—just plain bullying, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, willful ignorance. We need to challenge these as powerfully, as creatively, and as effectively as we can. We need to fight like hell, and love the literal hell out of each other. The future of the planet and marginalized people everywhere is at stake.

 

Some of it was about fears—some founded, some not: fear of being made less than and dominated by others, fear of being abandoned by society, fear of losing a world in which your deepest values and strongest convictions make sense—the kind of existential fears that can make people do desperate things. We need to listen and love each other out of our fears, and call each other to be our best selves.

 

And as I’ve begun to encounter some of the people “on the other side,” I’m seeing that at a deep level this election was also about fundamentally different understandings of basic values: what constitutes hate or disrespect, what constitutes love or faith, what fairness looks like, what safety looks like, what freedom means, and how important they all are.

 

At this level, I don’t see any way to move forward except to engage each other around these values, hearing each other’s deepest convictions and why we believe in them, listening to each other’s stories of how we got to where we are, and building relationships in the process.

 

Two things can happen out of such engagement. One is that we can begin to stop fearing each other; as Meg Wheatley says, “You don’t fear people whose story you know.” The other is that we can start to understand each other, which I believe is the only way to move towards the kind of inclusive society we seek. Not that we will always or even often agree with each other. But understanding is the only basis on which we can create a society in which each person is valued, everyone’s voice is heard, and we are all in this together.

 

What would such engagement look like? I’ve seen and heard glimpses of it in recent days. My brother, a Lutheran pastor, asked an elderly parishioner why she voted for Trump; she said she’d heard Clinton would outlaw Christianity. But because they were in relationship, she believed my brother when he said she’d been lied to… At a protest downtown, an earnest young man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat engaged a small group of protestors, repeatedly affirming his respect for them and patiently answering questions about why he believed what he believed, hour after hour… People have shared deeply on Facebook—not just their opinions, but their stories and their experiences, their commitments and their hopes…

 

This, too, is what democracy looks like.

 

RECENT REFLECTIONS FROM AROUND THE STATE

October 15 #ReviveLove Tour – Rev. Krista Taves, Quincy Unitarian Church:

We have misused the first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, to justify ideas which are harmful, seeing them as personal expressions of freedom. With a power and privilege analysis, we instead condition our first principle with the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. A commitment to diversity does not mean that all ideas are equally true…” [click here to read more]

October 16 Moral Declaration Worship Weekend – Rev. Sarah Richards, Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship:

[Quoting Rev. Forrest Gilmore:] ‘Our seventh Principle, respect for the interdependent web of all existence, is a glorious statement. Yet we make a profound mistake when we limit it to merely an environmental idea. It is so much more. It is our response to the great dangers of both individualism and oppression. It is our solution to the seeming conflict between the individual and the group… [It] can help us develop that social understanding of ourselves that we and our culture so desperately need.’

“Ours is not the politics of division and fear, but of inclusion, diversity, and love, and if we don’t speak up, if we don’t take action to express our values and principles, what good are we?[click here to read more]

September 12 Moral Day of Action – Bill Sasso, UUANI Board member from Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship:

“It was a bright, warm day as we stood with hundreds of other demonstrators beneath the statue of Abraham Lincoln in front of the State Capitol…” [click here to read more]


AUGUST 2016 – Rev. Scott Aaseng, UUANI Director:

Reviving the Heart of Democracy

The current election season has displayed stark contrasts in value systems. The upcoming elections offer an important opportunity for UUs to act for values of justice, compassion, and interdependence over narcissism, xenophobia, and exploitation.

Yet we will likely face continuing challenges to our core values after the election, including ongoing attempts to de-legitimize and undermine the democratic process itself. The times call for a deeper response than either “politics as usual” or “tear it all down.”    We need to re-build our very democracy. I would argue that we need to do it by connecting with each other through real conversations, engaging in what Parker Palmer calls “healing the heart of democracy.” And we need what Rev. William Barber calls “a movement with heart” to revive this nation and bring it back to its core values of equality, liberty, and justice for all.

This is why we base our work on one-to-one conversations between people: as we build power to act collectively, we re-build the moral and relational fabric of our communities. Deepening our conversations, broadening our connections, and mobilizing ourselves for collective action—this is what UUANI is all about. Join us in building the world we long for.


JULY 2016 – Rev. Scott Aaseng, UUANI Director:

Time to Wake Up

This is a momentous time for racial justice in our country. The historic and systemic devaluing of Black lives is a long-standing reality we are collectively being forced to confront anew. As Ta-Nehisi Coates makes clear, it is time to wake up from our dream of a post-racial society and face the nightmare of violence, inequity, and dehumanization which affects us all—but kills some of us more than others.

Racism is reflected in the disproportionate impact on people of color of the budget crisis, the environmental crisis, economic inequality, inequities in the criminal justice system, political disenfranchisement…the list could go on and on. The point is not to say that there is only one issue, but to see the intersections between all the issues.

Many others (from UU World Senior Editor Kenny Wiley to Trinity UCC/Chicago to UUSC) have written about things we can all do to fight racial injustice, and this piece is deeply indebted to their work. At the risk of centering white people or my own perspective, I offer the following suggestions for ways white UUs in particular can join the struggle.

1. Wake Up – Do our own work – Get up to speed – Talk to other white people.

Whether we explore the Standing on the Side of Love website, or learn about local issues and campaigns, or read and discuss books like The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me, Waking Up White or other resources, or participate in Beloved Conversations or other small group processes to raise our awareness of whiteness and white fragility, we cannot just pretend that the problem is “somewhere else.” As white antiracism activist Chris Crass says, “The question for us as Unitarian Universalists is not how many people of color we can get in our pews; it’s how much damage can we do to white supremacy.

2. Show Up – Reach out – Listen.

Chicago Chalice Connection leader Megan Selby pointed out on our recent UUANI Action/Reflection call on racial justice that we need to get beyond just having comfortable book discussions amongst ourselves. Find out what’s going on in your community and/or online (BYP100, Black Lives Matter, NAACP, and the YWCA are just a few organizations active in Illinois) and get involved. Show up, offer to volunteer, provide whatever support is needed. Black Lives of UU has specifically called on UU congregations to offer meeting and healing space for Black organizers.

Above all, we need to listen. As Kenny Wiley puts it, “UUs need to connect to and embrace the Black Lives Matter movement as it exists today.” It’s not up to white UUs to critique or offer suggestions, but to follow the lead of those with far more experience with racism and far more at stake in the struggle.

3. Speak Up – Engage the struggle – Use your power

Leslie Butler MacFayden and others have challenged white people to go beyond just waking ourselves up and being allies in support of Black leadership – we need to take actions of solidarity, aligned with Black leadership, for the collective liberation of us all. As Australian Aborginial activist Lilla Watson says, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is one organization dedicated to organizing white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice.

And whether it’s calling on our elected officials to address police accountability and other issues facing people of color, or registering and voting in upcoming elections, or organizing a local teach-in and action (as the Chicago Chalice Connection did recently), we each have power we can use to further racial justice.

4. Stay Woke for the long haul

“Staying woke” is refusing to succumb to the temptation to ignore the racial realities of our country, as Kenny Wiley puts it. As we listen and learn and engage and act, we need to find ways to remain engaged and not get distracted after the issues have faded from center stage. Connect with others who share your commitment, and commit to holding each other accountable to your values. Find ways to incorporate your commitment to justice into your own spiritual practice. Develop ways of engaging that feed you and others.

Racial justice is about inherent worth and dignity, and it’s about the interdependent web. It’s about justice, equity, and compassion, and it’s about truth, democracy, and world community. It’s about acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth, and it’s about Beloved Community. We of all people can’t sit this one out.


PREVIOUS REFLECTIONS

January 2016 MLK Day of Action – Tracey Olson, UUANI Board member from the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale:

“Organized. Impressed. Excited. Meaningful. These words were some of those that 17 UCH members used to describe their experience…” [click here to read more]

August 2014 UUANI Training – Bill Rau, member of the UU Church of Bloomington-Normal:

“One of the purposes of one-on-ones is to intentionally construct a network of public relationships where the web is woven and strengthened through identified values and shared stories. The point is to strive for authentic, deeper connections among our fellows, bonds that cut through superficial small talk and delve into the big things that have shaped our lives and the values and interests that call us to stand up and be counted…” [click here to read more]

October 2013 March on Springfield for Marriage Equality – – Rev. Scott Aaseng, UUANI Director:

“UU’s were out in force at the Capitol, with at least a dozen Standing on the Side of Love banners and scores of yellow [Standing on the Side of Love] shirts…” [click here to read more]