Healing our Country -- in 3 Concentric Circles

Giving Thanks, Healing America:

Resist Trump, Reach-out to his Voters.

3 Concentric Circles for Passion & Compassion

What do we do now, still mourning and nevertheless needing to organize to prevent deep damage to our democracy? And even more, seeking to break through as we have in crises past,  to a new and far more just and compassionate America?

 What would it mean to approach this Thanksgiving in such a mood as to give real Thanks?

The Truth of our Trouble: Two halves of our country –- the “Old America” (mostly white men and women in communities where dignified blue-collar work —now vanished—and stable extended family was once a way of life) and the “New America”  (mostly Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Asians, Natives, immigrants, LGBTQ folk, feminist women and men, debt-burdened college graduates)) -- both feel themselves left out --- and have turned to attacking each other, rather than transforming the system that keeps them both under debilitating pressure.

"Attacking each other" is probably too simple a description. It is probably more accurate to say the New America has been ignoring  Old America until this election   -- but to Old America, having its wounds and fears ignored has certainly felt like being attacked, being left to suffer from destruction of its jobs and from contempt for its values. Old America has been simmering with discontent; once Trump addressed that discontent and added burning-peppery racist, xenophobic, and misogynist spices to the stew, his incitement either encouraged the discontent to become racist and xenophobic  or surfaced such dormant feelings to explode.

Around the Thanksgiving tables of our beloved friends and families, we can begin the healing by joining love to thought.  In another letter I will share more of my thinking about the underlying spiritual and cultural crisis that has exploded into the political sphere. But today I want to begin sharing some next healing steps we could decide to take.

I have been thinking of these healing acts in three concentric circles:

First, the innerness of our own hearts, minds, souls –-the “I” of each of us.  But there is no real I without a Thou. It takes a village of vitality, a neighborly neighborhood, a compassionate community,  to raise a clear-headed and compassionate adult.

The Thanksgiving table is one version of that "village." We might gently tell our beloved friends and family that we need to share some ideas and ask some advice about meeting needs in a neighborly way. If we can approach them with openness and hearing instead of rage at our differences, we can also take the first steps to heal our country.

I suggest as a goal for our responses: Resist Trump, Reach-out to his Voters.

If we need to feel rage, let it be aimed at the mis-leaders who have drawn us into fear of each other, not at the other half of our country, or even of our table,  who may have voted differently from us.

At the table, we need to express the grief and fear we feel, facing others who can feel our feelings even if they disagree with us -- who can cry with us, embrace us.

But tears are not enough. Just as Rabbi Abraham  Joshua Heschel said prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, so tears are useless unless they water a wellspring of change.  

At the table, we could say that out of the shock and trauma of the last few weeks, you'd like to raise some thoughts about actions we could take as friends and neighbors: Truly neighborly neighbors in this moment will act to meet each others’ needs:

  • If the new national healthcare system is destroyed and clinics like Planned Parenthood are defunded, should we create neighborhood health clinics supported by each other?
  • If the newly enacted regulations on banks to prevent fraud and a cesspool of corruption are repealed, do we need to create credit unions and free-loan societies rooted in our religious congregations?
  • If our system for safeguarding the health and safety of our food is wrecked by budget cuts, can we greatly multiply the numbers of our neighborhood grocery co-ops?
  • If a new national pro-carbon policy shatters our efforts to heal the Earth from global scorching, do we need to birth neighborhood  solar-energy co-ops?

Notice that these proposals are up-beat, practical visions of a reasonable future. They are not freighted with hostility.

The next suggestion, however, may raise the hackles of some of our beloveds. I urge us to raise it, gently and deliberately with a biblical passage:

What if a national immigration law or presidential order tries to expel millions of our neighbors?   The Bible teaches (Deut 23:16-17 in Jewish translations; 15-16  in Christian versions): “You are not to hand over to his master a slave who has sought refuge with you from his master. You shall let him live with you, among you, in any place that he chooses that seems good to him among your settlements within your boundaries. Do not mistreat him!”

What does that mean for us today? Should churches and synagogues and mosques and temples  shelter those who seek refuge among us from cruel masters in the countries of their birth?

The second concentric circle reaches beyond our Thanksgiving tables: Our state and local governments. Many of our cities and some of our states are ready to work for the common good, or can become ready if citizens mobilize at the state or local level:

  • Ready to insist that their local police not serve as an arm of the Deportation Force. As the Mayor of Philadelphia has said, “We are a  Fourth Amendment City. “ (“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause….”]
  • Ready to struggle at state and city levels to impose carbon taxes and emission regulations and to write utility regulations to encourage wind and solar energy use by households and transport systems, so as to protect the health of the people. Federal officials and officers who attempt to violate these provisions should be hauled into court.
  • Ready to  create municipal Public Banks, making pension funds and similar bodies of money into reservoirs for investment for the public good instead of Big Bank super-profit and planet-arsenous Big Oil.
  • Ready to sue in civil courts and bring criminal charges against companies like Exxon and their executives that 40 years ago lied to the public about the effects of burning oil, robbing us of a generation of action to heal the planet before we were plagued by Superstorms and Hyerdroughts and flooded shoreline cities.

Finally, the concentric circle of our national government. Many of its actions for the next four years may violate what we consider our national interests and the needs of our people, in favor of Hyper-Profit for the Hyper-Rich. What can we do?

First of all, there may be a few issues where an enlivened, open-eyed, skillful, and passionate band of Congressional liberals and progressives can join with specific Administration proposals. They could, for example, support investing hundreds of billions in building and staffing bridges, swift and convenient and inexpensive and wind or solar-powered railroads, public schools, grass-roots art centers, etc. They should insist that these projects pay their builders and their staffs  good wages without discrimination by race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religion, and migration status and should benefit, not damage, the Earth. 

Such a program would be a major step toward meeting some of the real needs of the blue-collar whites who have felt left out of the New America  --without endorsing any racism, misogyny, and xenophoba that has flared up among them.

Secondly, we should be prepared to resist oppressive and immoral invasions of our liberties.  For example: If the new government dares to set up a surveillance system upon Muslims, then  millions of Americans of every religion, led by our clergy, should register as Muslims.  (ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal has already issued just such a call. See <https://www.change.org/p/donald-trump-thwarting-threatened-registration-of-muslims-with-u-s-government> ).

It will surely take hard work and shared money to birth a Transformed America that meets the economic, political, cultural, and spiritual needs of us all, the “Old Americans” and the “New Americans” alike. It may take suffering as well,  as it took when the Black-led multiracial movement for a fuller American democracy was born and flourished half a century ago.

The choice is up to us. Despair, or loving action. A dead end, or joyful children and grandchildren. The three concentric circles are actually intertwined.  They begin in face-to-face communities, and come back there as we face the bigger centers of power that have toughened themselves against the politics of love.

Half a century ago, Martin Luther King spoke of the “fierce urgency of Now!” Fifty years later, the urgency of this hour is even fiercer.

To meet each other fully is to meet the needs that are erupting in this hour. Words can inspire us to meet each other and our needs; words alone cannot meet them. I will shortly be sharing our action project to bring Dr. King into our generation and the future.

 If these words have moved you,  please help The Shalom Center continue to heal the deep wounds of our society, by making a contribution through the maroon "Contribute" button in the left column.



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