Our friend Rob Schofield over at Policy Watch wrote a column on Tuesday that was as vitally important in its truth-telling as it was hard to read for the future it forecasts. One of the crucial facts he offered — those of us opposed to the policies, personalities, and vicious rhetoric of the current administration must be prepared for the long haul. The reality is proving to be every bit as damaging as we thought it might. So what now? A couple of thoughts:
- Don’t accept the lies. Trust your brain, eyes, and ears, and the critical thinking skills you have developed over a lifetime. Science is science. Math is math. Facts are facts. Part of this new normal being painted would have us begin to doubt ourselves. I read George Orwell in high school and again in college but never imagined I might actually live in his reality. Let’s stick with OUR normal.
- Reject the language that ranges from what you’d expect of a frustrated 8-year-old to words, opinions, and spin that are genuinely racist, sexist, xenophobic, or otherwise offensive and undermining (pick a vulnerable group or a policy based in science, fact, or reason, and consider it at-risk).
- They’re going to try to divide us on these issues, pitting one group’s needs against another. That’s fundamental to their playbook. We’ve got to be stronger and smarter than that. People of faith, in particular, believe that we are responsible for one another and that the beloved community only happens when all are well and cared for.
- Call our Senators and Congressional Representatives. The majority is acting like they received a mandate. They did not. Be respectful and thoughtful but let them know when you don’t agree with what’s going on as well as when you do agree. Here’s a primer from people who know how it works. I was at a meeting this week where someone offered a simple but brilliant idea — add your elected officials’ numbers to your cell phone’s address book. When you’ve got a few moments, call. Commit to doing it at least once a week. They should never be able to say truthfully that they haven’t heard from the other side on an issue.
- Educate yourself and those around you. Work on sharing what you’re learning in groups that might not always agree. Churches are a vitally important place for that to happen through book studies and small groups. That is where we need to have hard, thoughtful discussions and work together on how current issues align with our faithful call. And if there was ever a time to partner with a faith community unlike yours and get to know them, this is it.
- There are more trainings, workshops, and resources out there than ever. Some of them put a very human face on issues like affordable health care, including recent publications from the NC Justice Center and MomsRising. They serve as a crucial reminder that these are not theoretical policies that come down to dollars and cents. These are people’s lives. And every one of those individuals affected is a beloved child of God, just as you and I are.
- Stop being so southern. You can be polite and disagree. When people share information that is just plain wrong, respectfully challenge them or ask why they believe that to be true. I’m as guilty as the next person of walking away from that guy at church who always greeted me with a smile but was worried about all the “terrorist cells” springing up in immigrant communities. We might have opted to say nothing when their comment fell short of full-on hate but was still flat-out wrong, rather than introducing the slightest whiff of unpleasantness into coffee hour. No more. You can smile and speak gently while clarifying their misinformation.
The faith community fueled the civil rights movement in the face of prospects more daunting than these. And here’s the thing – those faithful marchers, lunch-counter sitters, bus boycotters, and literacy-test takers knew that those of us who consider ourselves Christians are tasked with two primary calls – to love God and to love our neighbor. How we behave when faced with hatred and injustice reflects our commitment to our higher power and to one another.