On February 2nd, 2017 while I sat wedged between my mother and my mother-in-law, 1,500 of us heard Senator Bernie Sanders speak the words, “despair is not an option.” He was, of course, referring to the current state of our country under a Trump administration. The 2016 presidential candidate spoke more calmly than he was known for during his campaign, urging us to come together as a progressive movement. Sanders implored that the feminists must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the environmentalists, that the LGBT community must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Black Lives Matter, that each of us in the liberal community are inextricably linked. He told us that “for a demagogue to succeed they need to cultivate hate” so in order to create change we must not be divided by our differences. Coming straight from the Senate floor that day, Bernie Sanders reminded us that all major change has come from the bottom-up; not the top-down.
Sanders’ speech was the kick-off of Sister Giant in Washington, D.C. where faith leaders, activist group leaders, filmmakers, politicians, journalists, and historians came together to mobilize the spiritual community. With 49 U.S. states and 26 countries represented in attendance, there was a power of faith that is often lacking from the left. While the GOP is seen as the Christian party, we on the left are attributed to our science and rationale. It was at Sister Giant that the faith community, consisting of Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Jews, came together to be held accountable for the compassion that is written into all of our most treasured doctrine. By the end of the weekend it was clear that any form of higher consciousness demands political involvement. Marianne Williamson reminded us that there is a difference between being anti-slavery and being an abolitionist, and we must choose the path of action.
“But, how?” we all demanded, and in doing so echoed the concerns of the majority of Americans. The daily protests, strikes, and unrest are proof that the American people are unhappy but the lack of organization indicates that we don’t know where to start. These feelings are normal; facing such a large problem can seem insurmountable. That’s where this blog comes in. I have learned in my 10+ years of activism that to get involved, we (especially white folks, men) should fall in line behind the people that have been doing it for years. It is neither our place nor is it helpful to co-opt a movement; offering instead our membership and support. Black, female, immigrant, LGBTQ activists have enough on their plate in the face of this administration and their efforts are not best spent educating the generation of activists newly mobilized by this election.
There is a saying (of whose specific origin I cannot find) that if you want to go fast, go alone and if you want to go far, go together. If we want to power real change in this country, it is vital that we are of service to each other in this fight. The best service I can offer you all now is to be generous with my political education and invite you along while we navigate activism. I am not here to preach but rather to humbly stand by your side as we take the blinders off and get to the heart of what is fueling this country’s hate. Together, here, we will learn things as fundamental as what our Constitution actually says and things as complex as systematic and economic oppression. If we want to fight, we need to know what we’re up against and we do not need to tackle it alone.
Whatever it was that kept us from getting involved before, leave it behind; guilt will not serve us going forward. Vow at this moment to abandon complacency, open your mind to new information, and surrender your fear. We have a lot of work to do, and I hope you’ll join me.