This is going to be a glass-half-full post. If you’re not ready for that, I understand and I beg your indulgence. But what I need right now is some optimism. Winston Churchill once said that an optimist is someone who sees opportunity in every difficulty.
So today, I have decided to be grateful for … struggle.
I was raised Mormon and one of the most of their most popular scripture verses comes from the Book of Mormon: “For there must needs be opposition in all things. If not so, righteousness could not be brought to pass.” (paraphrased)
I took that scripture to heart at a young age.
And so my whole life I’ve been king
king for a fight. Some grand struggle to throw myself into, to give my little life greater meaning. And yet, I have found myself to be a “rebel without a cause” for the greater portion of my life.
As an adolescent, I sought that struggle in a stereotypical rebellion against all adult authority. And as a young adult, I sought it in the struggle for the souls of the “unconverted” in South America. Not long after, I sought that struggle in rebellion against the religion I had recently been proselytizing for. But these struggles carried me only so far and left me empty in the end.
It seemed to me that I had been born too late, having missed the great social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. As a young adult, I read with longing and envy Theodore Roszak’s description of the generation that had hoped to change the world. I was too young even to participate in the anti-nuclear movement of the 80s, not to mention having been born into a household on the wrong side of the political spectrum. That bias blinded me to the little revolutions going on all around me (some televised and some not).
It was not until recently, that I found my struggle. Having children gave me a certain perspective, one that stretched beyond the limits of my individual life. And then I had a series of experiences which culminated in what you might call transcendent moment. In that moment, I saw myself (and all of us) as a small, but paradoxically significant, part of an unimaginably vast universe. My day-to-day concerns and even my natural fear of death melted away. And in their place rose a new sense of responsibility and care for the human species and for all life on Spaceship Earth.
Since then, I have found the struggle that I long sought in fighting for ecological sanity, for the rights of LGBT people, people of color, and women. I have First Unitarian of Hobart and Unitarian Universalism generally to thank for this. Without the UU, I may not have heard some of these calls for justice. My Unitarian friends and those who came before them have been examples to point my way.
This past Tuesday night, I realized that these struggles have only begun. If I had been tempted to complacency, I found new motivation in the outcome of this last presidential election.
Whatever you think of the neoliberal alternative offered by the Democrats, next year we will have a President who has denied climate change and who may withdraw our country from the Paris climate agreement, which was barely adequate to begin with. A President who is willfully blind to systematic racism and speaks the coded language of white supremacy. And we will have a Vice President who has signed legislation which deprives LGBT citizens of basic rights and respect, and women of the fundamental right to control over their bodies.
But let’s not forget that the majority of voters did not vote for this outcome, and many who did, did so in spite of, not because of, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and the rest. We are not alone.
We are in for a monumental struggle, one which may define the generations of those now living. I wish it weren’t happening, but it is. And so I am looking forward to the fight.
I realize that this can seem like very privileged attitude. As a white, heterosexual male, living in an industrialized nation, I am in a position of privilege. And many of the policies of the new administration will not impact me directly or immediately.
But I believe there is wisdom in that Mormon scripture: “There must needs be opposition in all things. If not so, righteousness could not be brought to pass.” It is my hope that out of this opposition, a deep and widespread righteousness never before seen will spring forth.
Last week in an article at Mother Jones entitled, “Don’t Mourn, Fight Like Hell”, Clara Jeffrey wrote:
“Just as videos of police shootings shoved the most heinous forms of structural racism into the feeds of white America, … the actions of Trump and his most virulent supporters cast a light on an ugliness that needed to be confronted to be overcome.”
Like draining the puss from an infection — it’s disgusting and painful, but a step toward a healthy body politic.
I believe — I hope — that having such an obvious and arrogant example of prejudice and meanness ensconced in our highest offices will spur those who have hitherto been complacent into action. And if not, I intend to rouse them with my own voice.
Yesterday, I marched with thousands of people through the streets of Chicago, chanting “Love Trumps Hate”. I saw a little Latina girl, maybe 8 years old, carrying a sign which read:
“Mr. Trump. I won’t be afraid. I’ll be loud!!!”
I can’t think of any better words to close with today: Don’t mourn. Fight like hell! Don’t be afraid. Be loud!
This talk was given at my First Unitarian Church as part of a service on gratitude.