The body is such an inconvenient thing. Especially when it gets pneumonia. And is running for President. Or when it overdoses on heroin and passes out while driving around a four year old. Or when the police keep killing African American bodies for no good reason, even those with their hands on their head. Very inconvenient and unreliable, the human body can be.
Dead bodies can be inconvenient too, especially when you’ve spent billions of dollars on 60% of a pipeline like Energy Transfer Partners has for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and there are sacred burial grounds of Lakota ancestors. Or are there? Either way, the pipeline will be completed, so says the corporate CEO – media and actual living Native Americans be damned. Put the dogs on their bodies. That will send a message.
The news this month has been awful. And so much of it seems to come down to a total lack of respect for the body – for human life, especially if you are poor and black, or if you are native to this land we call ours.
As a religious leader, it’s one of my prime messages. The body is sacred above all else – not our spirituality (whatever that is or may be), not our mind, our religious beliefs, our convictions. We aren’t brains floating around disembodied. Everything we do and accomplish is due to our having a body. Our well-being as individuals and as a society is centered in our bodies.
This Sunday, September 25, the title of my homily is “The Courage to Tackle the Impossible.” I chose this title because I’m tasked with addressing the epidemic of gun violence in America. The UU Church of Studio City has a Gun Violence Prevention Project, and my first reaction was, “wow, they are really taking on the impossible.” After all, if the aftermath of Sandy Hook could yield no meaningful legislation, what on earth could? What do we do about the NRA wearing the pants in our country? What do we do about the militarization of the police, about our culture of violence growing ever more pervasive and virulent?
My 7 year-old son won’t watch Star Wars because he says it’s too violent. He told me, “I’m afraid if I watch it, I will become a bad and violent person, and I don’t want that to happen.” This is based on watching his classmates warring with each other Star Wars-style with pretend light sabers. My boy is saying, “peace starts with me” and I couldn’t be prouder. I am not a perfect parent in this regard – my children are frightened by the violence in shows you would think benign for children to watch, like Puss in Boots, and even the Care Bears, for Chrissake. There is no social contract about keeping violence out of TV and movies for kids.
While it may all seem overwhelming and impossible, I have hope. While rioting is worrisome in Charlotte, NC, it is all the people have left to do, as it is with the Standing Rock Sioux nation and other nations in North Dakota – they can put their bodies on the line.
When all is lost, and there is no hope in the decency of others, all hope is put in the body. A body can protest – take up space and draw attention to injustice. I think of the hunger strikers of the undocumented mothers in immigrant detention or the men at Guantanamo Bay. It is the last resort, to use our bodies to save our own lives and say, “you may try to destroy my life, but I will use my body to fight for my life.”
We also use our bodies in less dire circumstances to protest, organize, and gather ourselves en masse to create pressure that creates change. This is the method of a new organization developing in Pasadena, called Pasadenans Organizing for Progress, or POP. We are debuting our existence this Sunday, September 25 at the Pasadena Peace & Unity Festival, from 2 – 6:30 PM behind Madison Elementary School, which includes some awesome musical acts like Ozomatli. This event is organized by NDLON (National Day Laborer Organizing Network) and sponsors include the Pasadena Playhouse and Weekly. The idea is to have some joy in place of the worry; peace in place of the violence; unity instead of division.
I’ll be there 3:30 – 5 PM and you can come say hi at the POP table. I believe in POP because such an effort gives me courage and hope that we can tackle the impossible. That with enough bodies working together, changes in how we police Pasadena could set a national standard, as could high standards of enforcement for the new minimum wage, among other important concerns. We are raising money to hire full-time organizers.
Progressive grass-roots organizing, and/or supporting it financially, is the least of what we can do – especially white people. We don’t have to resort to rioting, risk being bitten by pit bulls, or stop eating so we and our children can possibly be released from prison, our only crime existing without papers. Our bodies are not particularly in danger the way bodies of people of color are in this country.
It’s an excellent opportunity to get involved and support POP if you care about progressive change. It’s change that not only could make Pasadena a stronger city, but our whole country. With courage and faith in our potential, we can put our bodies where our mouths are and where our hearts are in our highest hopes for humanity.
For more information about POP, contact Ed Washatka firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you this Sunday, and until next time, Do the Hustle!
– Rev. At-Large, aka Hannah Hustlin’ Hope Petrie!