Thursday, June 30, 2016

How Love Has a Side

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. 

The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. 

The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. 

And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”

--Eli Wiesel

To call upon ourselves and others to act "on the side of Love," is to challenge the indifference, including our own indifference, that allows injustice and oppression to continue. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Once Again

When I was a youth in the early 60's, it seemed that this book was on every Unitarian family's coffee table.


Dearest UU's --
We can do what we need to do. 
We have done it before, many times.
We are pretty good at it.

Standing, Rolling, Dancing, Singing, Praying, Preaching, Acting on the Side of Love -- Landrum

At our the preceding Ministry Days preceding the UU General Assembly, ableist language was used in worship to the extent that UUMA Board Member Josh Pawelek issued this response:

Clearly there is a problem with ableism in our public presentation. Public statements, music, stories and metaphors that perpetuate ableism have been hurtful to colleagues. As with any oppression, this ableism likely runs deeper than our public presentation. I remain grateful to all those who are willing to call it to our attention, and I am deeply sorry that such calling is still necessary. (The full response is here.)
The most prominent example of ableist language in our movement, however, is our social justice arm: Standing on the Side of Love.  And before you say, "It's just a metaphor," I invite you to watch this and read this by UU minister Theresa Soto.  The point here is not to convince you that ableist metaphors are a problem.  The point is that we often think, even if it is ableist, "Standing on the Side of Love" is a done deal and it would be too hard to change it.  I'd like to offer a different possibility.  I think we need to change this, and it's possible to change this.  The important part of the "Standing on the Side of Love" isn't the "Standing," it's that we're acting "on the Side of Love." 

Step 1: Start including our non-standing bodies in the message.  Without changing the name officially, widen the images and merchandise.  Start by offering "I Roll on the Side of Love" or "Rolling on the Side of Love" or "Sitting on the Side of Love" t-shirts, bumper stickers, and other items. Make it easy for people to get these items -- don't make them make their own.  Start making images that you share on your webpage with these words more and more frequently. 

Step 2: Offer more and more words as options -- we can dance, pray, sing, and act in lots of ways "on the Side of Love."  Start using all sorts of words more and more frequently until "standing" is just one word among many, used no more frequently than the others.  Do this on merchandise and images in particular.  Maybe ministers would like t-shirts that say "Preaching on the Side of Love" or "Serving on the Side of Love."  Maybe DREs would like "Teaching on the Side of Love" or "Growing on the Side of Love" or other ideas. 

Step 3: Drop "Standing" as the title of the organization in favor of "On the Side of Love" or "The Side of Love."  Start by using the shortened version on images and merchandise where no one verb will do.  Then as people get used to the new name, change URLs and official name and usage of the organization. 

I think it's time for us to recognize that while it's been a great campaign and done some really neat things, the title is ableist, and that is problematic.  Let's fix it, folks.  We're better than just throwing up our hands and saying, "Oh well." 

Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Street Sets the Agenda...

more than we realize.

Consider Occupy! which made us think about percentages, which made Romney's 47% comment so fatal.

Consider the Ferguson resistance and Black Lives Matter ! which has pulled the Obama administration and the Democratic Party to the left on criminal justice issues.

The beginning of the end of the George W. Bush's administration was when Cindy Sheahan camped out at his ranch.

So now consider the demonstrations against Donald Trump. The pattern is that the largest and most confrontational have been in the Southwest. It is reported that Mexican flags are often present there.

It seems to me that Trump's anti-Hispanic, particularly anti-Mexican animus, is being protested in the streets. Of course. If you advocate deporting 11 million people, they and their friends and families are going to take it personally. What we see now is the foreshadowing the massive resistance that would take place if Trump's deportation plan began to approach reality.

Conventional politicians and liberal journalists ask how it can be communicated just how dangerous Trump is. How can we not 'normalize' him as just another politician, with some unusual quirks? But normal methods of criticism and opposition actually serve to normalize him.

The people in the streets are putting forth a completely different message. Trump is not a normal politician, but a dangerous authoritarian. We need to not only vote against him, but protest him, by making our opposition visible, not confined to the privacy of the voting booth. And we need to prepare to resist him if he were to come to power. And we need to disrupt his rise to power now.

And, (this is shaky ground, I know) do we need to confront the individuals who publicly support him? Can we say that we need to confront white supremacy and, at the same time, treat support for a candidate of retrograde and authoritarian white supremacy as just another political opinion? I am just asking.....

MSNBC's video of white people being publicly set upon by young people, especially young people of color, for wearing Trump gear is brain-scrambling.
We are used to spectacle of protesters being thrown out of Trump rallies -- a drama in which the overwhelming power of white supremacy crushes another single victim. It matches our sense of the balance of power in the country.

I am not advocating the tactic, but I am saying that the spectacle of in the streets of San Jose show a different, and more accurate, balance of power. The Trump fans are not the majority: they are a minority full of bluster and bravado, but mostly afraid and amazed that the world is no longer theirs. Inside the hall, they chortle at the thought of Mexico paying for the wall to keep Mexicans out of the US and cheer the idea of deporting many of those already here. It all seems so easy and it's fun to say it all out loud.

But outside the hall, in the streets, those people, the ones so easily banished, are real and are angry. They do not plan to go quietly. And they remind us that in the American southwest, it is the white Europeans from back east who are the settler/invaders who have arrived last.

The spectacle is unsettling because we are not used to pitying the white racist, nor used to hoping that the riot police rescue them.

Yes, attacking people on the street for their political views is over the line. A lot of lines have been crossed in this campaign already. Calling for mass deportations is over the line.

What's happening in the streets sets the agenda for the future.