The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
And he said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
At the moment I am not tireless. I haven’t had a cold in years, and the election made me sick. It’s a good thing the holidays are coming up, so we can rest and regain our strength for the passionate concerns ahead.
In case you were wondering, yes, I was part of the feckless group-think that thought Hilary would scrape in, but nor was I blind-sided. I know America and its history. The pendulum swings, especially after a President like Barack Obama, who represented so many progressive values, just by the color of his skin. The back-lash prevailed.
I am part of the professional class that the Democratic party has been perceived to primarily represent (by no fault of Obama’s with such an obstructionist congress; they blocked stimulus the working class could have used). But I’m also part of the <1% who has been working to play an activist role in recent years. As Peter Dreier has recalled the words of Joe Hill, “Mourn. And then organize.” Or, as the case may be, convalesce from the immune-system compromising election, then get to work.
You may not believe me, but activist work is fun. It’s invigorating. It provides the kind of structure and purpose that keeps you thriving. It’s not all righteous indignation. We crack jokes too. There is laughter.
If you’re suffering and feeling afraid for our country, you’re not alone. I have a message of hope, of good things to come. Now is the time to play an active role in the story of America. Isn’t this more appealing than the role of complacent consumer, squanderer of freedom?
Our American story began with extreme oppression of native people and people of color, especially African slaves. That oppression continues to this day, but here’s some good news. There are activist movements gaining momentum in recent months and years, and the irony may be that they are even more motivated and determined than ever with the election of the Donald. It depends on people like us to make that choice. Will we join them?
Take that fury and fear and disappointment and do something constructive with it. Join the movements that already exist and lend your talents and your voice. Find your community of people who care deeply like you. Counter the hate crimes on the rise, committed against people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. I can help you find those movements if you need assistance. Join the feminist movement. And/or, ignite the movement you want to join.
Yesterday, I went to the Army Corps of Engineers office building in Los Angeles, to participate in a worldwide day of protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which transgresses the rights of native people. Not nativists, the descendants of actual Native Americans. I surmise there were about 1200 people there who peacefully took a stand for our nation’s “water protectors.” I heard someone say, “we are not protesting, we are protecting.” Protection will become quite the theme in the months and years to come. Will you get to claim the role of “protector”?
Protesting an oil pipeline that’s to be built in North Dakota may seem far removed, but it’s not. We live in such a small world now, and the story of climate change is everyone’s story. One of my biggest fears is going backwards in the progress we’re making toward clean energy and a sustainable world for our children and their children.
So I’m going to do something about it.
Activism has been a part of my story for several years now, so it doesn’t seem so daunting to, simply, continue the work. Like I say, it’s fun and rewarding. It forms a life well lived. Take friends with you, and know that one good thing to come is that you’ll make friends along the way – if you show up. And show up, and show up. And show up.
Half of life is about showing up. I believe that. You may not always feel like it, you may be tired. But more often than not, when you show up, you’re glad you did. This is how we empower ourselves and our fellow human beings.
So enjoy your holidays, but prepare to make space for activism in your life. And look at your budgets because this is going to take dinero. I’m looking at making my own lattes and less lunches out. I am putting my money where my mouth is and I hope you’ll join me.
I look forward to the future. Our work is cut out for us. With Clinton as our president, we would have sat back into complacency. It’s a good thing that we cannot do that now, for the truth of the matter is, all of our biggest concerns were still in full throttle under Democratic leadership. Too much green house gas, too much war, too much police state, too much corporate power, too much suffering of the poor and disenfranchised. Too much injustice. This is the human saga of which we are a part.
The progressive task has always been before us, and now more than ever, it’s time to try new things. Like forming the unlikely friendships we’ve wondered about. Like listening to and working with those with whom we think we have nothing in common.
If it’s true, in a democracy, we get the leader we deserve. If that strikes you as hogwash, keep in mind, only 25% of the American people voted for Trump, 25% voted for Hilary, and around 46% of the American people did not vote. So it’s not only conversations with Trump voters I urge you to have, but also with non-voters. Let’s get to work, and earn the leader all of America deserves in the future. If issues and personal rights are not your thing, jump into the political fight, and help find the next progressive leader who can win the White House in 2020.
Right now, we have to live with not knowing what’s coming. We have to wait, and this not-knowing is an anxiety factory. Rather than sitting, not knowing, and worrying, the best salve is to activate.
People of color: tell us white people what we can do. White people: let’s use our white privilege to demolish white privilege. Men, we could use your strength in the feminist fight.
Everyone, let’s call on our deepest spiritual reserves to do the hard work of mutuality. Relationship-building and activism is spiritual practice – it’s how we affirm who we are and walk our talk of compassion, equality, and inclusion. So be strong. Be well. Hustle with heart and hope!
Faithfully yours, Rev. At-Large aka Hannah Hustlin’ the Hope Petrie