Today we face a concerted effort to overturn American democracy and to substitute an oligarchy of the Hyper-Wealthy.
This New American Oligarchy even tries to choke to death our Mother Earth –- the home that makes possible all human life -- by strangling the renewable-energy business while subsidizing Big Oil and Big Coal and removing the anti-pollution regulations that protect the purity of our water, food, and breathable air. All for its own enormous profit.
You would expect the people who will suffer from this Oligarchy of the Hyper-Wealthy to rise up and throw these murderous rascals out of office. How do those who attack democracy make themselves electable? By calling forth the latent fears and bigotries that, once given new energy and visibility, begin to deny the human rights of Black folk, of immigrants and refugees, of Muslims and perhaps of Jews, of independent-minded women who are no longer cowed by sexual harassment and violence.
Denying human rights is the goal of Oligarchy. And it also becomes the means by which to achieve that goal.
What do we do?
Already we have seen the emergence of a movement that calls itself Resistance. To tell the truth, so far it is more Remonstrance than Resistance. When civil-rights organizations begged Congress to pass a law, that was Remonstrance. When four college kids sat down at a lunch counter, that was Resistance. It took both to change America.
One of the most astonishing and important aspects of this movement is that the largest demonstration in US history, three million people scattered all across the country on last January 21, was imagined by women, led by women, and made up mostly, by far, of women. And they didn’t just march and go home. Thousands of them decided to run for political office for the first time.
That is a systemic breakthrough. It has already had an effect on our culture – on the ubiquitous, iniquitous sexual harassment, violation, and rape that more and more women are coming out of the closet of shame and impotence to challenge.
What is the role of the Spirit and of religious and spiritual communities in this struggle? The attacks on racial and religious minorities, on women and the GLBTQ community, on immigrants, on the Earth, are all attacks on different limbs and organs of the ONE. These attacks deny the interwoven interbreathing that suffuses all life. These attacks wound and threaten to kill the life that scientists call an ecosystem, in which every species is crucial to all the others.
This is what Jesus meant when he said, “If you harm even the least of these, you are harming me.” It is what the Sh’ma says: “Hush’sh’sh and listen, you Godwrestlers who live amongst all peoples, hush’sh’sh and listen to the Breath of Life, the still small voice that is our sacred truth: That Voice is One!” It is what the Holy Quran is saying: “God created us from a single pair of human beings in order to evolve into varied tribes and nations, not to despise each other but to know and love each other, bringing our diversities into our single family.”
It is democracy, not Oligarchy, that carries that truth into the world of action. And if our religious and spiritual communities can revive that message, can turn it into liturgies of light and passion, can make festivals like Hanukkah and Advent and Eid into moments when our legs are[raying as we nonviolently confront the Oligarchy, then it will fall and the Spirit will arise.
There will be an election in November that may serve as a referendum on Trumpery –-- not just an “advisory” referendum but more -- either a reconfirmation or a serious reduction in its power. But there is a long way to walk before anyone runs in November, and I want to lift up what may be the two most dangerous moments we may face this coming year.
One is that Mr. Trump may decide he is in such legal and political danger from the investigation headed by Robert Mueller that he fires Mueller and/or pardons his own family and close advisers. That would be a break in the rule of law in America and a threat to all our spiritual truths.
If this usurpation of ultimate power were left unchallenged, few of our human rights and little of our democracy would survive.
On the other hand, our traditions teach that when the tyrannies of Pharaoh and Caesar and the power elite of Mecca became unbearable, the Spirit broke through and new communities were born.
The second possible moment of great danger is perhaps a month or two before the November elections, if polls show the Democrats are about to carry the Congress and Mr. Trump decides to pull out of the hat the oldest trick of a politician in trouble: He goes to war and invokes war powers to control the political situation at home.
In regard to the second possibility, I know of no planning or even brainstorming -- yet. In regard to the first possibility, the on-line progressive stalwart Move On and dozens of other strong progressive groups have joined to set up a Rapid Response network to go into action if Mr. Trump tries to fire Special Counsel Mueller. Within hours, that network intends to mobilize millions of Americans into public demonstrations.
You can access the plans at <https://act.moveon.org/event/mueller-firing-rapid-response-events/search/>
What would be the demand of such demonstrations?
One proposal I have seen on line is that in such a crucial moment, we demand new general elections in November. For President and Vice-President and for the whole Senate as well as the whole House of Representatives.
That would be Resistance, not only Remonstrance. It would break the conventional rules, but in a way that affirms the rules.
[Last Sunday, when I raised this possibility at a Human Rights Day gathering in South Jersey sponsored by Amnesty International, the gathering startled me by breaking into applause and cheers. That moment was noted by two local newspapers that covered the event.]
Now a harder question: How could such a demand be carried out, with or without acquiescence by the election apparatus in most states?
To begin with, by insisting, by refusing to leave public squares and streets and even Federal office buildings until the election apparatus agrees.
And where it does not, by holding our own elections in or near the regular precincts, in churches and synagogues and mosques, in schools and community centers. And then sending our own newly elected representatives to Washington –- the White House, the Senate –- to challenge the credentials and occupy the seats of those who were voted out.
This is what the Black and white pro-civil-rights community of Mississippi did in 1964, when Black folk couldn’t vote anywhere in the state. They organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and voted in churches and community centers for an independent-minded delegation to the Democratic National Convention that summer.
The delegation, led by Fannie Lou Hamer, demanded that the Convention seat them instead of the all-white pro-segregation, and racist delegation that had long held those Mississippi seats
This suggestion of new elections next November goes even deeper into what we think the rules are, and broader across the whole country. Would it be easy now? Of course not. But if the time were ever ripe for a deep reexamination of our political system, now is when.
What about later in the year? Say it is September, polls show the Democrats poised for a big win in Congress, and Mr. Trump decides to change the conversation by bombing Iran or North Korea. No declaration of war or authorization by Congress.
What do we do?
What could our spiritual and religious communities do in such a crisis?
Let me end by inviting you-all to do three things:
1) Either click to <https://www.facebook.com/events/881082792061621/> and register to head to Washington DC early tomorrow to join another wave of sit-ins on Capitol Hill to stop the Tax Deform bill, or call 1202-244-3121, ask for Senator Collins and then Senator McCain, and urge them both to announce now they will vote No on final passage of the bill..
2) Click to <https://act.moveon.org/event/mueller-firing-rapid-response-events/search/> and check out the plans for Rapid Response if Speciaal Counsel Mueller is fired.
3) Join in the brainstorming about what to do if Mr. Trump tries to fire Special Counsel Mueller, or if he goes to war later in 2018. Write me your thoughts, for publication with your name unless you say not.
Celebrate the festivals of Light in times of Darkness! Kindle the candles of Hanukkah (beginning tonght) and Advent.