I spent a quiet New Year’s eve at home, thankful, I think to not be drinking more than I should. As one friend reminded me after a New Year’s eve when I had most definitely been over served by the bartender, “you know what happens when a drunk resolves to stop drinking on New Year’s eve? They are more than likely to just give up thinking instead.”
Sitting at his computer preparing to write about his New Year’s resolutions the Quaker Parker Palmer’s spell checker changed resolutions it to New Year’s revolutions, perfect he thought, resolutions are too boring anyway. Here is what he wrote in On Being:
“The past year brought a floodtide of human suffering…the plight of millions of refugees, the spate of mass killings in public places, the persistence of racism and the violence it fosters, the growing number of people living in or on the edge of poverty, the failures of our justice system, the downward spiral of a democracy en route to becoming an oligarchy, the ongoing degradation of Earth itself. That’s why we need some revolutions in the New Year.
“Revolutions that succeed are always for something rather than merely against this or that. But if we’re serious about what we’re for, we need to name what we’re willing to stand openly against. It’s not enough to say “Yes!” to things like love, truth, and justice without saying a loud, clear “No!” to their ruthless enemies, risking reprisals as we do. Pete Seeger had these words inscribed on his banjo: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”
Revolutions are the most active form of social resistance, and while Parker Palmer is correct, a revolution starts as a movement of resistance; a promise that is part of our faith.
Just what is this promise we make as part of our faith; what I call so often as our spiritual imperative? In short, it is the need for us to create a better world. For hundreds of years, our forebears, who have been part of this country since its founding, devoted their lives to the creation of a religion dedicated to building a better world. Above all, they wanted to build a world where justice took precedence over self-interest. They wanted to help the disadvantaged and the poor. They wanted to build strong social institutions based on equality. They wanted to put an end to discrimination. They believed that we should be about creating a better society on earth, not worrying about an eternal life beyond death. More interested in getting heaven into people than people into heaven.
We have lost that revolutionary fever.
We have become deadened to the power of those with money over our lives. You know that the first thing a conquering people do to the conquered? They establish a system of debt. If you owe money, than you are enslaved at a moral level much more powerfully than if we put you in chains. Think about it; why are so many people still holding on to property that is worth less than what they owe. Because there is moral stigma to not paying your debts, even if the debt is only a contract secured by property. I contend that our struggle with immigration reform is just such a debt. We are forcing people into dangerous journeys across our borders, denying children brought here by their parents a fair education, and tearing families apart because we have made being here a moral debt – the debt that to be here you have to be born here - despite the fact that 99 per cent of immigrants are law abiding, tax paying people regardless of their citizenship status. There ought to be a revolution. And we ought to be part of it!
Happy New Year, John