11/27/16- Facing Our Fears, Finding Our Power

Sermon 11/27/16- Facing our Fears, Finding our Power: FIGHT!
We opened last week’s sermon with a collective sigh and tried to pull ourselves together, rallying around the strength we find in this community and giving thanks for the many blessings we have. And that was good. But this week…what do we do? Start out with a collective scream, with a side of foot stomping and punching of pew cushions? If you feel you must…go ahead. Get it out. I’m still angry and disappointed too. I may be making a big assumption here…that we’re all angry and disappointed, and if you’re not, I apologize, but I know that my congregation, generally, is hurting and afraid, along with a lot of other people in our community. And no matter who you voted for, there’s a change in the air in our country that can’t be denied, and we have to address it, so here goes…
OK…first…it’s important to name our fears and face some facts. We have a president-elect whose candidacy tapped into the very real vein of racial intolerance and gender bias that has existed here in our country since we founded it and built its wealth on the backs of slave labor. Despite all the progress we have made over the last 8 years of President Obama’s presidency, or maybe because of it, we find ourselves here…where if I were a black man, or transgender, or Hispanic or Latina, or a refugee who is looking for a safe place to live, or an immigrant who has overstayed their green card, I would be fearful indeed. So, I’m not going to pull any punches here. There’s stuff to be afraid of. Over 700 hate crimes have been reported in this country since the election and the mainstreaming of white nationalism is deplorable. But I’m not going to get all doom and gloom on you here…neither am I going to take anything lying down.
If this insane election has taught us nothing else, it has showed us that racial intolerance, fear about immigrants, and an inherent bias against women in power, has been brewing just underneath the barrier of “political correctness” for a long time, as it always has in this country for one batch of immigrants after another, for one race after another that looks or acts differently.
But the fears on both sides are real…I don’t want to discount the real feelings that lots of people have in our country because our worldview changed so radically over the last 60 years or so. What we consider progress is considered losing our way as Americans by some. Did you think 20 years ago that same sex couples would be able to marry in every state in this Union, or that the internet would bring globalization to the level it has? I didn’t. And for me, and probably you, these are good things. But for a lot of other people, social change is not so easy. We are in our little MA bubble of liberalism here, after all.
We do have to acknowledge that. People want change…but they want the change that they most want to see, on both sides, and at their own pace…we want change now, and others want it to slow down because it can be a lot to process. And as much as lots of votes might have been by people who thought that the president-elect would somehow save our economy and bring back jobs, and he pandered to that element enough to swing this election, I haven’t seen that part playing out so much…it’s the racially charged rhetoric that scares me. It’s the anger…once again, on both sides that scares me. And while our side gets hysterical and looks at property in Nova Scotia, the other side…when Obama was elected, their hysteria manifested in arming themselves to the teeth and digging their heels in to weather the storm.
I am NOT advocating violence or preparing for violence by buying a gun, far from it. I am making a point about how our bipartisan country thinks. And that we have to arm ourselves in other ways to weather this storm; rolling over and giving up and being cynical about everything means that injustice wins. If you really care about our country, you’ll take this as a call to action and a test of character.
We are Unitarians. We fight for the underdog. We care deeply about social justice issues. I read an editorial in the Washington Post last week that said liberals have gotten hysterical about this because we care so much about social justice and we insist we are right about our views. OK, that’s fair. Our principles are what we are passionate about. We do get hysterical and despondent when our candidate loses like this. But saying that you’re going to leave the country is antithetical to our beliefs…no…we don’t leave the country…we stay and we fight for our principles. This is what we do.
But, Karen…What does that even mean? What do we actually DO? Remember my opening words from the beloved hero of Republicans, Ronald Reagan? “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” The first thing we can do is make our voices heard in any and every way we can. We can still go with the smooth transition of power if we must; that’s what’s happened and we have to face it, but it’s no reason to tuck tails and let anyone get away with anything. I’d like to turn the whole “If you see something, say something” on its head. If you see something…like someone making rude comments about immigrants, blacks, gays, women…opinions that are being mainstreamed as we speak, you find your power and you speak up. And save the hysteria for our conversations after church…keep your emotions in check and speak instead with fortitude and conviction, that you won’t stand for race-bashing, or immigrant-bashing, or women-bashing. We don’t have to be argumentative to be passionate.
If it’s a family member or a friend, I suggest trying the Big Mommy Guilt tactic I used on my kids. Instead of yelling and screaming, look hurt, sigh, say, “I’m so disappointed. I thought…well…I thought you respected all of these laws we’ve discussed together and agreed to, but, well, I guess you don’t. That’s unfortunate. I hope we can communicate with love and respect in the future” Cuz I’ll tell you right now that the problems you might have with family who have different views than you do aren’t going to end. Best to keep the relationship intact and talk about…I dunno, recipes, or your garden, or all the things you used to talk about before this rift tore our country in half. It’s easier to get belligerent with family and friends and I caution against it…because emotions are very high right now and high emotions change, but your family doesn’t.
But in more practical terms, if you’re sitting at the bar and someone says something about “those immigrants taking all the jobs,” or “those Syrian terrorists we’re just letting into the country unchecked,” or “those criminals who deserve whatever they get,” or “those black boys in hoodies with guns,” or “those women trying to tell us what to do”…Well, go ahead and say, “What a load of crap. I don’t believe that at all.” Don’t follow that up with “You’re so stupid!.” It only feeds the beast of hate and division. Follow up with, “Why do powerful women scare you? Or why do you think that immigrants are a threat? Or why do you assume that black men are thugs?” These are honest questions, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get an honest answer. And if you listen to it and consider it, while sticking to your principles, maybe a real conversation can happen.
Choose your battles is what I’m saying. If your battle is with someone you actually like outside of their politics, try your damnedest to make that a conversation that counts instead of cutting us off from each other. On the larger scale…don’t let this administration to come get away with anything. Let your voice be heard and fight for what you know is right. America is not a place where we register people based on their religion, and I still have enough faith in our Constitution to believe that the voice of the people counts. Please don’t forget that Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote in this country by over 2 million votes so far…more people believed that we are indeed stronger together. Our voices might be quieted for a time out of grief and frustration, but don’t forget that a president who doesn’t have the votes of the actual people does not have anything close to a mandate to make sweeping changes on behalf of his minority. He’s supposed to rule fairly for everyone, so let’s make sure that it happens to the best of our ability. We don’t lie down and let the progress we’ve seen get backtracked to what is essentially, “Make America Hate Again.” I don’t know about you, but I won’t stand for it. I will never keep quiet and just let injustice go unchecked. I’m a liberal. This only makes me want to double down and fight injustice wherever I find it. Remember that we are the voice of the voiceless…we will never back down from the compassion and inclusion that our faith asks of us, and the principles that we live by. I’m really hoping that one consequence of this election is that women and minorities will start running for office in greater numbers than ever, and use their voices to represent us in local and national government.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” That means that it’s our character that counts right now. Are we going to be whiney or are we going to be wise? Are we going to react or are we going to respond? Reacting is easy. Unitarians have never chosen the easy path. We push back when those who don’t have the strength to push can’t. I suggest we face what we have before us with dignity and reason, and we fight for what’s right, no matter what.