One Year

The Progressive and even the non-partisan or “fake” news was filled with the Democratic victories in Virginia, yesterday. All three state-wide offices were won by Democrats and it seemed the lower house of the legislature might turn from red to blue as well. The new Lt. Governor is African American. One of the newly elected legislators is the first out transgender state lawmaker. The State of Maine voted, over their Governor’s objection, to expand the Medicaid program.

It has been one year since the last national election. One year since progressives began learning what it feels like not only to lose politically, but to be regularly disregarded and maligned. Couple that with the threat most of us feel as deportations increase, as Obama-care is undermined, as a huge tax give away to corporations and the wealthy is fast tracked, as corruption becomes impossible to overlook, as defense budgets explode and the safety net is stretched beyond the breaking point.

This has been one difficult year.

Progressives have been yearning for some sign that change may be on the horizon, that more of our fellow citizens might be coming to their senses, that our resistance might be having an impact. We keep hoping that enough Americans might finally be so turned off that the common good might make it once again at least onto the list of options for consideration.

One year. We have resisted. We have protested. Some of us have tried to tune out. But all of us have worried. The worry has seemed impossible to avoid.

One of the costs, for me, is a hardening of my heart … my willingness to write off a third of this country’s citizens. I spoke about this from the pulpit two weeks ago. That was a message that could never be wrapped up in a single sermon. For one thing, the harm is on-going. As I listened to our President’s address to the South Korean legislature this week, to all his bellicose threats, I was almost expecting him to declare war on the North. That theoretically would require assent by our Congress, but, frankly, I doubt that would hold him back.

This year has cost so much. The most mean-spirited, the most racist, the most fearful impulses have been elevated to the White House and by the White House. Whatever the political trajectory from here, it will not be a return to the assumption of slow but steady progress toward the Beloved Community. I am afraid that the bells of hate cannot be un-rung.

Part of my own internal work, perhaps the center of my internal work, is to resist cynicism and to be faithful in my commitment to the possibility that love can be real, if we make it so. My discipline therefore requires me to remain naïve, while at the same time exercising hard-nosed evaluation of what things might actually help. It is a constant balancing act … one year in.

Today, I find myself settling into the reality that we all need to be “long haul” people. Despite the glimmers of optimism many see in the Virginia results, shifting direction of this deeply entrenched culture will not happen in one day, in one election cycle and perhaps not even in one lifetime.

Long-haul people need hope, not just optimism.  A leap of faith is still required.  And communities of resistance and of vision to support us.

I am, needless to say, preparing to lead our Celebration Sunday worship. I will most certainly talk about the importance of First Unitarian in our lives. This first anniversary of a new national normal will give my words more weight. Our Vision Statement talks of First Unitarian as a beacon of hope. There is no doubt in my mind that we need to keep that beacon burning strong and bright. I hope you will join me in providing the fuel.