Iron and steel can be shaped and hardened into durable implements with fire and repeated blows. Maybe the “heat” generated in our turbulent society will allow us to shape it for the better. It’s up to those who love peace to stay engaged lest others forge only weapons, chains, and shackles.
The durable metal [mettle?] of American Individualism and independence needs tempering with compassion and stewardship for the common good. It’s about having integrity as an inclusive and beloved community. Can that vision be forged from the base metal of predatory self-interest? How much heat and how many blows are necessary?
These are indeed dark times. I read of national and world events, grind my teeth, and sometimes despair that the light of hope for my children and grandchildren is dimming, not brightening. Rex Ambler’s Pendle Hill Pamphlet “Living in Dark Times” was published last month. The Pendel Hill website summarizes his message thus:
How can we effect positive change in our current difficult world situation? In this pamphlet based on his talk at the 2016 Friends General Conference Gathering, Rex Ambler shares his reflections and insights. Citing William Penn, he urges readers to avoid objectifying the world, focus within, and live lives that reflect the truth they discover.
In the days following Charlottesville’s white supremacist march historians offered evidence that the construction of Confederate memorials represents more than a simple historical artifact of the US Civil War.
The peak in 1915 was a period of extreme segregationist sentiment among white Americans. President Woodrow Wilson ordered the segregation of black federal workers. The first Hollywood blockbuster film, Birth of a Nation, celebrated the KKK, debased blacks, and fueled the growth of racism and segregation in the following decade. The NAACP was founded in the same period.
While at Chautauqua (8/5 to 8/20/17) Marguerite and I attended a showing of Birth of a Movement presented by the filmmaker Bestor Kram. This Independent Lens PBS Documentary gives the historical context surrounding Birth of a Nation and offers a key to understanding why Confederate Memorials are not merely a commemoration of historic figures and events. (Click the image below to view the trailer.)
When we understand the political and social climate surrounding the creation of these Monuments, it becomes clear that they were erected to honor the ideology of white supremacy and those who fought to preserve not just slavery, but the whole social system that dehumanized blacks.
Critics point out that in Germany when structures and artifacts of the Nazi era have been preserved, it is done in a context of national shame. Students are taught about that period as a dark time, not a proud one.
This is not generally the case with Dixie. And, the Confederate flag has been taken by the white supremacists as a symbol of their tribe. You won’t find black Americans flying the “Stars and Bars” on the back of their pickup trucks.
[with no apologies at all to that loser Rudyard Kipling] If you can duck the blame when all about you Have seen with their own eyes that it was you; If you can demand trust when men should doubt you, And call down vengeance for their doubting too; If you can dodge and not be […]
The Boy Scouts of America were part of my formative years and as an adult, I led two Explorer Posts. At every meeting Scouts recite the Scout oath and law:
Scout Oath or Promise
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
A Scout is …
trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful,
thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
You may see this as quaint. Perhaps you object to the reference to God, or the notion of duty to country, or the idea of being obedient. All these traditions are now widely scorned as naive.
Rotary clubs across the nation recite the Rotary Four Way Test:
The Four-Way Test of the things we think say or do.
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Both of these traditions deserve to be part of our American Civic Hygiene: practices that protect against infection by calumny, fear, bigotry, ignorance, intolerance, and avarice. No sneering!
There is a Twitter protest (#idesofmarch, #idesoftrump) which suggests that angry citizens deluge the White House with postcards on March 15th. Julius Caesar was assassinated on that day in 44BC as we remember from Shakespeare’s play in which a soothsayer warns the emperor, “Beware the ides of March.”
This is a really bad idea for several reasons. No good purpose would be served by such an action. We already know that the 45th president has a very thin skin, and would react badly with the attendant storm of press commentary. He uses the drama of such moments to cover actions that he doesn’t want headlined, and the press obliges in the interest of keeping ratings and circulation up.
The act itself is purely rage – an act of hate and cruelty toward someone who evidently can’t help himself and may be mentally ill. “Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light can,” as Martin Luther King famously said. We may be furious with 45’s actions and words, but we must respond with clarity and with words and deeds that promote resolution. Our outrage must be channeled to influence our government representatives positively. They are beginning to see that the game has changed, and that the Trumpists (19% of people eligible to vote) will not suffice to reelect them if the other 80% is mad as hell and organized.
President Trump prides himself on counter punching. His instinct, when attacked, is to attack back. I know of no instance where he has paused and looked inward when confronted. In fact he wants the world to see him that way. Much to the dismay of his would-be political handlers, he strikes out on twitter and in public discourse.
He does understand leverage and power. The real leverage he respects is the 2018 election, and a congress that
balks because so many of their constituents oppose his policies.
Many of my friends are engaged in issue specific calls, visits, and letters to their elected representatives. This is how and where to strike back. Get the contact information for all of your elected representatives at this League of Women Voters site:
Check out the Indivisible Guide written by congressional staffers about how to influence your elected officials:
Sending nasty postcards to the White House will squander your time plus half a dollar’s worth of postage and postcard. Worse, in doing it we become that evil we hate. It is essentially a personal attack, a publicity stunt, … exactly the behavior we deplore in our 45th President.
Although as educated people we like to think of ourselves and others as rational — we aren’t. Most of what we say and do is only loosely informed by fact and logic. In reality, we self-construct a story about reality and then conform to it. Understanding how we do this explains our social and political behavior. Continue reading Trust the Story?