• David Carlson

298: No single politician can set us straight. The journey that lies ahead is ours to undertake.


Day 298 Friday January 8th 2021:

No single politician can set us straight. The journey that lies ahead is ours to undertake.


Three kings and a tyrant


Every Wednesday for the last four years, I've gathered with a group of women to reflect on Scripture and to pray for our world. We pray for our neighborhood, our country, our friends, our families and our world. We share the journey, and this past Wednesday, Jan. 6, was no different. It was Epiphany.


After reading Matthew's account of the wise men's journey, our small group listened to the words of Jan Richardson's Epiphany blessing, "For Those Who Have Far to Travel." Sitting in peaceful reflection on the past year and the gift and challenge of the journey, we were united in our diversity. Old and young, black and white, women of all different backgrounds, we shared the movements of God in our lives. This week, that meant sharing how the pandemic bore with it tragedy and grace; what promise the vaccine brought; why peace was as important as that the electoral votes be counted; and the hard-learned fact that the isolation of the last few months had as much to reveal to us about other people as it did about ourselves.


Listening to one of our elder members share, I felt my phone begin to buzz. With a swift movement of my thumb down its side, I stilled the device so I could be attentive to her sharing. What a blessing to journey together like the wise men, she reflected, to be attentive, be surprised and discover the truth and where it leads us.


Wednesday was like any other Wednesday until it wasn't.


Suddenly, the Epiphany story was a little more real ... the journey more treacherous ... the need for truth and peace all the more pressing.



A tyrant saw a threat to his power. Filled with fear, he brought fright to the whole country. He stoked fear and incited violence. The king could not stand the truth and so he sought to rout it out. But the truth would not yield; it had come into this world in the form of a child and, vulnerable as it might be, the truth embodied in the child would persevere, in ways both paradoxical and puzzling to our concept of power.


This new king — a prince of peace — would reject violence and injustice. His power greater than that of any politician was (and is) found in steadfast, boundless love that urges reconciliation, humility and righteousness. His love, like a star in the night, draws all who can see and invites everyone to see with new eyes the promise of the truth he offers.


On the floor of the Senate Wednesday night, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey pointed to the deadly flaw and sadistic (and seditious) shift in thinking as he declared how people had been duped into choosing Trump over truth. This sycophantic shift was punctuated by the events on Wednesday. They gave us a moment for pause many moments too late.


Yet to quote the statement from Pax Christi USA,


"Maybe today's events will serve as a moment of conversion for some; maybe this moment may serve to give pause to the worst impulses of our national character. Only time will tell. The words and actions of our elected leaders moving forward will tell the tale of what impact today's events have."


In the words of Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, "What has been unfolding at the Capitol today should shock the conscience of any patriotic American and any faithful Catholic. The eyes of the world look on in horror as we suffer this national disgrace.


"For many months we have witnessed the deliberate erosion of the norms of our system of government." That erosion has taken the sacred right of peaceful protest and desecrated it by introducing violence.


"May God's love suffuse our political life together," Cupich continues, "reminding all Americans that politics is the peaceful resolution of conflicting points of view. This is our tradition as a democratic nation — and we undermine it at our own peril."


Watching the breaking news coverage, I struggled to hold on to the prayerful peace of my normal Wednesday. As rioters carried myriad flags up the U.S. Capitol steps without any intervention, a commentator tried to reassure the audience at home. "This is a last gasp," she said as more and more individuals ascended the steps. I am sure the phrase was meant as a reassurance, implying that this was a worrisome but passing moment — the end of days, weeks, months and years of unrest.


The phrase, though, wedged itself in with the fading peace within me: One. Last. Gasp.


This moment wasn't a blip on the screen. In a year filled with tragedy, it didn't feel like the period at the end of sentence or the last surge of a movement. It felt more like a bad dream come to life. This moment was the culmination of many predictions, the revelation of the destructive power of distrust, white supremacy and conspiracy theories. The result of hubris and hatred weaponized in the name of a tyrant.


As the space in front of the Capitol filled with people, this "last gasp" knocked the wind out of me. All I could think of were the tragic last words of Eric Garner, "I can't breathe," and the thousands of people suffering from COVID-19 in the United States who are literally gasping for breath. In an age when we are hypersensitive to signs and symptoms, what happened Wednesday is less of a "last gasp" and more a mind-blowing reminder of the division in our country and the violence, hatred and destruction that are startlingly apparent in our body politic.


As we journey forward, the soul of the nation hangs in the balance. No president will save us, no single politician can set us straight. The journey that lies ahead is ours to undertake. It means facing racism head on, holding people accountable, and seeking reconciliation.


Each step has its cost, the invaluable price of truth. Charting our course will surely push us to our limits, but the work of finding our direction requires such effort.

Together, we can find our way. E Pluribus Unum.


If we can see the light, we have no other options. This is where we've arrived amid the darkness of our times. Now it is our turn to open our eyes, follow the light, and return to the soul of our country by another way.


[A Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, Colleen Gibson is the author of the blog Wandering in Wonder and has been published in various periodicals, including America, Commonweal and Give Us This Day. She currently serves as coordinator of services at the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Center in Camden, New Jersey.]


ANNOUNCEMENT #1:



I received a call from Peter Schneider last night reporting the passsing of Bill Boorman’s brother Jack. It is obvious from knowing and loving Bill and reading his brother’s remembrance that we are in the company of two good angels who are also very talented. Their lives bless us.


- From the International Monetary Fund:


It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of John Boorman on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. “Jack”, as he was fondly known, served as Director of the Policy, Development, and Review Department (PDR), what is now the Strategy, Policy, and Review Department (SPR), from 1990 to 2001.

Mr. Boorman, a US National, had a long and distinguished career at the Fund starting as an Economist in 1974 and continuing through senior positions in the Asian and European departments, as Director of PDR, and then as Counsellor in 2001 (the highest staff position in the IMF). After his retirement in 2002 and through 2017, Mr. Boorman continued to play an active role in the Fund community, including acting as an Advisor to Management as well as in the Independent Evaluation Office.

Mr. Boorman was a highly influential figure in the Fund, who was well-regarded and respected by colleagues at all levels. He was known for his keen intellect and extensive institutional knowledge; and he has made lasting contributions to the development and implementation of Fund policies across the full range of its operations. Mr. Boorman played a key role in the Fund’s response to the transformation of the Former Soviet Union to market economies and in the Asian crisis. He was an inspiration and mentor to generations of Fund staff and will be greatly missed by his Fund colleagues and friends.

On behalf of the Fund, I would like to express our deepest condolences to his family, especially his wife Helen and to his many friends and colleagues.

More details on memorial service will be communicated via HR Web in the coming days as they become available.

- Kristalina Georgieva


Announcement #2

Happy New Year everyone! May this year bring health and well-being for us all -- and justice for Palestine!


And we're excited that our film screening of This is Not a Movie: ROBERT FISK and the Politics of Truth is coming up next Wednesday, January 13, 5-7:30pm Pacific -- so REGISTER NOW. Plus you'll get to hear from award-winning film director Yung Chang afterwards! MECA is honored to co-host this with the Arab Film & Media Institute, this screening will benefit both our organizations. Scroll down for more info.


"This is Not a Movie:

ROBERT FISK and the Politics of Truth"

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 – 5-7:30pm PT / 8-10:30pm ET

Followed by a Q & A with filmmaker Yung Chang!

$10 Donation,

REGISTER: https://bit.ly/meca-afmi-fisk



ABOUT THE FILM:

For more than 40 years, journalist Robert Fisk has reported on some of the most violent and divisive conflicts in the world. Yung Chang’s This Is Not a Movie captures Fisk in action—feet on the ground, notebook in hand, as he travels into landscapes devastated by war, ferreting out the facts and firing reports back home to reach an audience of millions.


“In response to the idea that journalism is or should be ‘objective,’ Fisk said, "I always say that reporters should be neutral and unbiased on the side of those who suffer. If you were covering the 18th-century slave trade, you would not give equal space to the slave-ship captain. … At the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut in 1982, I did not give equal time to the Israeli army who watched the killings and whose Lebanese allies committed the atrocity.”



REGISTER NOW! https://bit.ly/meca-afmi-fisk


Cosponsored by Norcal Friends of Sabeel and Jewish Voice for Peace/Bay Area.


BLESSING





For Those Who Have Far to Travel

An Epiphany Blessing


If you could see

the journey whole

you might never

undertake it;

might never dare

the first step

that propels you

from the place

you have known

toward the place

you know not.


Call it

one of the mercies

of the road:

that we see it

only by stages

as it opens

before us,

as it comes into

our keeping

step by

single step.


There is nothing

for it

but to go

and by our going

take the vows

the pilgrim takes:


to be faithful to

the next step;

to rely on more

than the map;

to heed the signposts

of intuition and dream;

to follow the star

that only you

will recognize;


to keep an open eye

for the wonders that

attend the path;

to press on

beyond distractions

beyond fatigue

beyond what would

tempt you

from the way.


There are vows

that only you

will know;

the secret promises

for your particular path

and the new ones

you will need to make

when the road

is revealed

by turns

you could not

have foreseen.


Keep them, break them,

make them again:

each promise becomes

part of the path;

each choice creates

the road

that will take you

to the place

where at last

you will kneel


to offer the gift

most needed—

the gift that only you

can give—

before turning to go

home by

another way.


- By Jan Richardson

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