I want to share with you my thoughts about what happened this past week, from two perspectives:
I: Great public events, and II. My own work.
Then l will look at what the implications are for the work we all need to be doing to preserve and advance democracy and the very livability of our Earth -- when they are most seriously threatened.
I. Publicly, through the week there were protests after protests; a most danger-foreboding Inaugural Address; an outright lie by the new President Trump and his press secretary about the size of his inauguration crowd; and then the astounding turnout for the Women's March on Washington and its sister marches all around the world, all condemning Trump’s policies. Some estimates claim three million people marched in the US alone.
Lying about the Inaugural crowd served two Trumpian purposes: It expressed his own internally driven hyper-narcissism, his inability to believe that he could ever be second-best; and strategically, since it was couched in an assertion that the mainstream media were lying, it served his political purpose of keeping his supporters contemptuous of those media and dependent on him alone for The Truth.
The personality structure of a bully, a narcissist, and a sociopath is brilliantly translated into a radically top-down, anti-democratic policy system set forth in the Inaugural Address and in the makeup of a Cabinet filled with Billionaires and Bigots.
Much of the media attention has focused on Trump as personality. The relationship between his personality and his policies is important. But now it is time to turn our attention to the anti-democratic policies and how they endanger all Americans but the hyper-wealthy -- even, and especially, how they endanger those who voted to support him. That path will lead us to a successful expansion of our democracy, a transformative healing for ourselves and all of Earth.
The Inaugural Address was danger-foreboding because its dominant motif was "total allegiance to the United States of America, … our loyalty to our country, … patriotism…” “We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement.” “We all salute the same great American Flag. “
- What about those of us who seek protection in the Constitution's insistence on equal protection of the laws from racial, sexual, and gender discrimination; its insistence on a free press and freedom of assembly and freedom of religion and freedom from intrusions into our emails and phone calls -- relying on those protections far more than on our military and our militarized police?
- What about those of us who salute the 13-starred Flag of a revolution against tyranny? Or the Rainbow Flag of sexual and cultural and religious diversity?
- What about those millions of us who are not “Americans” – citizens of the USA – and those of us who welcome those millions into our midst?
And THEN! -- there was the Women’s March and all its Sister Marches. Three elements were astounding:
- Its sheer size;
- Its emotional and spiritual warmth, expressing anger focused into love and laughter – so that among dozens of cities and millions of people, there was not a single act of violence and not a single arrest;
- Its multiplicity of identities, and of the issues expressed cheerfully and strongly by people from Identity X and Issue-concern X about Identities and Issues Y, Z, M, Q, B, and many more. Marchers enjoyed, did not disdain, the signs that expressed concerns different from their own.
In this way the world-wide Women’s March absorbed and went beyond identity politics into what might be called “community politics.” Indeed, it embodied the Beloved Community that Martin Luther King yearned for. In the Beloved Community, diversities are crucial -- not each alone, but together like the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle: They fit together to make a larger Whole. We must become a people both diverse and indivisible.
And the Wholeness the March embodied said to all of us: We can defeat Trump’s effort to subjugate America.
II. For me, the week was focused on Martin Luther King -- — a kind of healing antidote to Trumpery.
It began on Sunday, January 15 – King’s real birthday --with a multireligious activist prayer service to reawaken and reclaim his most profound and prophetic sermon -- “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” He spoke on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City, to an activist gathering called "Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam.”
In that sermon 50 years ago, Dr. King warned against the deadly "triplets" of racism, militarism, and materialism that threatened American democracy then and still do today. He spoke of “the fierce urgency of Now" – – and today the urgency is even fiercer. He called for a radical revolution in American values from a "thing -oriented society to a person-oriented society."
So to pursue the work of drawing on King’s wisdom to strengthen transformative change today, on Monday morning, the official MLK Birthday, we opened a new Website, <MLK50.org>.
Many inspiring and informative ways to reclaim Dr. Kingare already on-line there, and the whole panoply of our January 15 responses to that sermon will soon be. My own talk is at
From Monday through Thursday I taught for a retreat and conference at the Stony Point Center on " BEYOND ‘Beyond Vietnam’: Reclaiming King’s Courage for Movement Building Today.”
My co-teachers were Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem; and Rev. Anthony Grimes, Director of Campaigns & Strategy for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who is also intimately involved with Black Lives Matter.
Among our gathering were a wonderful range of spiritually rooted activists --- for example, Rev. Aundreia Alexander, associate general secretary of the National Council of Churches; Bernice McCann of the Berriganian Catholic movement; Rick Ufford-Chase, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and now co-director of the Stony Point Ceenter; and Sharon Stout, of the Friends Meeting in Adelphi, Md.
Our goal was both to translate the meaning of Dr. King’s 1967 sermon for our own generation, and to begin planning how to turn his wisdom into action for the year ahead: MLK + 50 — A Jubilee Year of Truth and Transformation.
Three most important activist tactics to emerge from our work during this past week were these:
1. On Tuesday, April 4, exactly the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "Beyond Vietnam" sermon, there will be a major all-day gathering at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, three blocks from the White House. We are tentatively calling that gathering “Clergy and Laity Concerned About America," or perhaps "People of the Spirit Concerned About America” -- echoing the gathering to which Dr. King spoke 50 years ago: "Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam.”
We look toward filling the church with 1,000 people from all across the country, responding to the sermon of 50 years ago with workshops through the day on how to address in our home towns everywhere the deadly triplets of racism, militarism, and materialism as they take new forms in our own generation.
The gathering will then walk to the White House to carry out an activist vigil, demanding forward-moving action to move past these deadly triplets into specific policies toward a more democratic and more compassionate America.
There is already in existence the beginning of a planning committee to organize this event on April 4 in Washington. It includes leaders of the National Council of Churches, PICO -- the national umbrella group for religiously rooted community organizing all around the country – – The Shalom Center, and New York Avenue Presbyterian Church itself. The planning committee will swiftly be expanded,
2. We will reach out to houses of worship, prayer, and meditation and to such community groups as labor unions, PTAs, neighborhood associations, and public libraries throughout America to gather on one of the days during the weekend before April 4 (Friday, March 31 to Sunday April 2), to read and/or watch and listen to Dr. King's prophetic sermon and to work out activist responses to its teachings.
3. Once a month from April 2017 to April 2018, we will send out a single sentence or very brief passage from the “Beyond Vietnam" sermon, and with it a suggestion for a specific vigorous action to embody and carry out the teaching in that passage.
There is more to learn from this past week at every level. We will of course keep unfolding it. We welcome your comments and responses – and your help!
Comment on this article through the Comment sites below. Please share this article with others (tgrough the FaceBook, etc. icons above.. Please remember to check out <MLK50.org>.
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May there be Blessings for all of us and for our common home, this Earth! -- of the fusion of truth, freedom, compassion, and justice into wholeness -- shalom, salaam, true peace -- Arthur