Our nation faces one of its most grave crises. We are watching the chief executive amass unprecedented power, defying the rule of law. Nothing in our history has prepared us for this challenge to our Constitution, to our statutes, to our interactions among the branches of government. We are fighting for the soul of democracy. No one can stay idle in the face of this challenge.
I was born in the early wave of the post war “baby boom”. I grew up with “Holocaust Consciousness” followed quickly by awareness of post-war threats to our own democracy in the wave of anti-communist fervor from many in Congress and society. Then came a growing awareness of the evils of Jim Crow segregation. To say I was a scared little kid would be an understatement. I remember my parents watching the Army-McCarthy hearings, not understanding much other than the danger to innocent people, Hearing my parents and their friends talk about those threats to democracy and equality, to justice and fairness was pretty overwhelming.
I have dreaded the day I’d have to find my courage to stand up against something as evil and scary as fascism had been in Europe. Would I have what it takes to resist? To be as brave as Miep Gies who hid the Frank family? To defy authority in the name of democracy and of my faith in Jesus’ teachings on justice for all people?
In 2003, just before the start of US bombing of Iraq, I participated in an 8-state convening against hate crimes that even then were on the rise. The last night we saw a film about German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his anti-fascist resistance during the Third Reich. In the discussion that followed, the group leader said, “Be prepared from here on, to lay down your life for what you believe.” When asked what that meant, he said, “Devote your life to standing for justice. And, if needed, to lay down your life for that purpose.”
It was incredibly sobering and frightening to hear this. Would we need to do this? In America?
We at the Council of Churches have tried to live by that principle: lay down your life for what you believe. Some of you know that we have been under siege from vandalism and threats for doing exactly that. Some of our denominational affiliates have been contacted by extremists demanding they drop out of the Council, always by those who detest our stands for equality and for justice. No one has dropped out, and the retaliation, while minor, has resulted in vandalism, stalking, threats.
And yet we have stayed the course. Did we have any real alternative?
Now we call on all of you to do whatever you can for love of our fellow human beings, for the preservation of democracy, for the protection of the rule of law.
Remember the “Faithful Five Minutes” of calls to your elected officials every day. Bolster the strong, chastise the weak. Speak up and out for justice and our Constitution.
Rally when you are able. Join diverse coalitions of immigrant rights groups, labor, racial justice groups, civil rights groups, and diverse faiths then go to your representatives’ and senators’ offices, both federal and state level. Fight for the rule of law. Stand against oppression. Keep abreast of current events. Speak out where needed. Your voice is powerful.
We are struggling to keep the soul of our nation intact. This is the greatest threat we have faced since the Civil War. Today as I write, it is the 154thanniversary of the Confederate surrender, the Army of Virginia, to the forces of the Union Army at Appomattox. It saved the nation. Can we do this again, this time we hope without the bloodshed?
Only our actions through law can prevent another civil war, another rise of dictatorial power, another threat to democracy and our constitution.
I may be retired, but I will never stop working against injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Please do whatever you can, however you can, for as long as you can. Our nation’s survival is on the line.
Thank you. Blessings on all you do.
Director Emerita Public Policy