First—I didn’t think this question up. It was a meme, posted by my friend Betsy Coffia, Commissioner in Grand Traverse County, Michigan, who said this:
What will it look like to truly love and fight for your country, this year?
What bubbled up first for me was ‘Ask not what your country can do for you…’ but Betsy’s thousands of followers didn’t need any further prompting. Grand Traverse County recently made national news when a woman (whom I also know, from a postcard-writing campaign) asked her elected officials to denounce the Proud Boys and one flashed a rifle instead. After five and a half hours of mainly appalled public comment responding to this event, the Commission, by a 3-3 vote (with the gunslinger recusing himself), voted not to censure him.
Evidently, three of them they think he’s ‘learned his lesson.’
Stuff like this is happening all over the country—outbreaks of overt racism and well-meant attempts to declare anti-racist sentiments starting World War III in civic meetings. Charter school administrators in Utah agreeing that parents can opt out of Black History Month lessons. The whole MTG (Q-GA) debacle.
It is, in fact, the perfect time to ask: What will it look like to love your country, and fight for your country, this year, when the most deadly wave of the coronavirus pandemic crashes over a population frantic to be vaccinated, devastated by unemployment and inequity, and torn in half?
I had to think about that one.
How can you fight for something that is mostly a distant vision or aspirational goal? Also, how do you muster the courage to speak–as we used to say in the 70s–truth to power, when it might cost you friendships, and felicitous relationships with family and neighbors? Plus a lot of time and energy.
So I asked my own friends the same question (tipping my hat to Betsy, of course). And I’m asking you.
Some responses, so far:
- Listen to other opinions and acknowledge the opposing view. Give clear and supportable reasons for yours. It will take time to un-indoctrinate.
- Support good local and state level journalism financially.
- Call B.S. on white supremacy.
- Seriously taking steps to accelerate the necessary transition to clean, renewable energy.
- More peace and love.
- Encouraging and really supporting women to run for office.
- Attend school board meetings locally and advocate for critical thinking skills to be taught.
- Figure out outcomes where people agree, then starting there. Infrastructure, for instance.
- Denouncing all forms of prejudice whenever and wherever we find them.
- Try to further eliminate unconscious bias and not be politicized by the rhetoric.
- Develop patience, in all things.
- Work with my church on racial parity in the city and state.
- Speak up for local politicians when they are attacked by the bullies. Vet local politicians, too.
- Support public schools and teacher recruitment/retention.
- Keep asking, “Whose voices are missing here?” Move closer to grandchildren who are in a city, in a blue state.
Most of the people who comment on my Facebook page are educators—and that last bullet was one of two responses that mentioned public education. Perhaps teachers have internalized the goal of supporting public education to the point where they don’t think about it anymore. Or maybe they feel that they alone are powerless, admitting the limitations of one-person campaigns to save public education. But the question still applies: What will YOU do to show love for public education?
I think it would be a good exercise on this cold, wintry week, when the Senate begins the second impeachment trial of a corrupt and failed president, and an insurrection on the Capitol is still visible in our rear-view mirror.
What will YOU do this year to show love to your country? How will you fight for America?
MLK said “the only normalcy we will settle for is the normalcy that recognizes the dignity and worth of all of God’s children.” I hope part of “my recognition of that dignity” will be to visit the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, sometime in the early part of 2022. And, to visit/experience the Rosa Parks Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. It will be a privilege to write about these visits at wellsofwellness.org which has mostly been silent in recent years. In the mean time I will continue to read the words of Baldwin, Garza, Glaude, Stevenson, McGhee, Angelou, Walker, Gorman, and . . . I am hungry for “the present I am constructing to be,” ala Alice Walker, “the future I am dreaming.”
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Thanks for commenting. Visiting the National Museum of African-American History and Culture was a highlight of 2019 for me. We have all been discouraged from dreaming about a just and equitable future–time to revive that.
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Precisely: revive and help others remember the dreaming, and to work for Critical Thinking and Empathy together as essential tools for all of us, no?