We must act. Everyone of us. In the face of daily assaults on who we are as Americans, national and local organizations are making it easier and more practical for the average citizen to take action.
This is what we see after only a few days after the inauguration: launching plans to build the wall after insulting Mexican citizens and their president, reinstituting black ops, barring immigrants and asylum seekers, hysterically investigating non-existent voter fraud, nominating cabinet heads bent on slashing budgets and regulations – even gutting the agencies they would lead – along with threats to withhold funds from sanctuary cities. Can he debase our nation further? Yes, unless we act.
We read or listen to the morning news with heavy hearts and with dread, for what’s occurring is not, at root, a policy assault. It’s much deeper, more relentless and unnerving. On display is “leadership” characterized by meanness and indecency – mocking the disabled, trashing journalists, demeaning any opposition, real or perceived, questioning NATO, the bulwark of a peaceful Europe, maligning other nations who “steal our jobs.” The assault aims straight at our core values: who we are as caring people who stand for “the other,” and who we are as a caring nation.
Rather than giving the government back to the people as he so vehemently promised, our new President is doing the opposite – accruing power in Washington. What he plans to “give back to the people” will be the power to spend a reduced amount of money depleted by program cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy. “This is a president who’s been clear that he wants to centralize as much authority as he can in himself,” Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said Wednesday. “This is dangerous for our democracy.”
But hope, tangible hope exists: Legal actions have begun – judges ruling Trump’s directives unconstitutional, and volunteer lawyers setting up makeshift offices at airports. Stunning moral actions pop up all over the country. “I’m ready to register as a Muslim,” said Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State. Seattle’s Mayor, Ed Murray said, “This is the darkest day in immigration history since the internment of Japanese Americans in the Second World War. We will not be intimidated by federal dollars, and we will not be intimidated by the authoritative message from this Administration.” Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh plans to open City Hall evoking the “sanctuary church” movement in which religious groups offered shelter to undocumented immigrants. Walsh offered “illegals” any office in city hall, “including mine.” What a stirring image this evokes: the mayor of one of the nation’s most vibrant cities setting up cots in his office for an immigrant family.
Citizens have marched, picketed, letting their local state and national representatives know how they feel about crucial issues such as the elimination of ObamaCare, the Paris climate change agreements, the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, of Violence Against Women grants, repeal of common-sense rules on Wall Street banks and reduction in funding for civil rights enforcement and community policing…to name only a few. National organizations have weighed in.
Practical Ways to Take Action Now
- Join a local arm of MoveOn.Org
- Check out the recently-launched and ballooning “Daily Action,” designed specifically for the overly-busy and action-paralyzed. Every day at 10:00 Direct Action (https://dailyaction.org/) describes a problem followed by a concrete task and a number to call.
- Moms’ Rising (http://momsrising.org/) cites specific actions “you can do from anywhere.”
- For faith-based actions see http://faithinpubliclife.org.
Whatever actions you decide to take, remember to do four things:
- Pick your issue and stay with it.
- Stay healthy. Take care of yourself. Know what sustains you: music, travel, kids, grandkids, sports. This struggle will take time and energy. Replenish: We must get up. We must stay up.
- Stay close to your beloved community –civic, faith, academic, medical, legal – wherever you are. If you don’t have one, create one. We need each other.
- Remember: Never, ever give into the thought that you can do nothing. Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus, and the nation’s nascent Civil Rights movement began its seismic rumble.
Americans are people of hope, and of action. The Reverend William Coffin asserts that our first call is to be faithful, to show up. Did Rosa Parks know what she was setting in motion? We must each decide to do something. One of the 20th century’s greatest theologians, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, after marching for civil rights in Selma, said, “I felt my legs were praying.” For Heschel, policy and theology were always intertwined – “religion without indignation at political evils was impossible.” (from Heschel’s Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity).
Act to manifest our values as individuals. Act to manifest our values as a nation. Active citizenship shows the world what truly makes America great.