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  • Rev. Dr. Thomas Norris

A Time for Protest and Action

If you are a member of the Medicine Signs Community, past or present, then there should be no question about where you stand on the protests going on in over 100 of our cities nationwide. We are Universalists! We are committed to diversity. Remember, we have the "gospel" (good news), too. We are all brothers and sisters!


As citizens our First Amendment right in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution guarantees our right to free speech, our right to free assembly, and our right to petition to redress the wrongs of our government. Protest has been the American way ever since the American Revolution.


George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor are just the latest examples of a 400 year history of government oppression of our Black brothers and sisters. I am white. I will never have a police officer hold me down and asphyxiate me with his knee on my neck until I am dead. I jog in my neighborhood all the time and never have to worry if some white law enforcement officer will gun me down. I will never have to fear that plain clothes police officers will break down my door and shoot my wife in her bed while she sleeps. So, I cannot really understand what my Black brothers and sisters go through every time they get in a car, or go birding in Central Park, or jog through their community. But I can imagine and I can empathize. And it makes me incredibly sad and angry that in 2020 we are still doing this to our brothers and sisters.


I am a child of the Sixties. I protested and marched for Civil Rights and for the Peace Movement. In November 1969 I joined a million people who marched on Washington against the horrible war in Vietnam. I was just married six days before, but I had to be there. It was bitterly cold, but we didn't care. We marched across the Potomac to the White House and shouted the name of a soldier or citizen of Vietnam who had died in the war in front of the People's House, the White House. In every doorway of a federal building that we passed there was a young soldier crouched in front of a tripod machine gun. Pointed at us. Our soldiers were pointing guns at their own people. In 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of protesters at Kent State University and killed four students and injured nine.


Pardon me, if this does not feel eerily familiar. Just as President Nixon saw the protesters as the enemy--as opposed to good Americans acting on their Constitution-given rights--President Trump is doing the same. If you were not horrified to see the American military use force, tear gas, pepper pellets, low-flying helicopters, and rubber bullets against peaceful demonstrators in Washington D.C. last night, then you do not understand the values of democracy, of our country, and of our Universalist faith. This was all to clear the way for Donald Trump to have a photo op with a Bible in front of the St. John's Episcopal Church, which the Episcopal clergy of that church and the American Bishop all condemned. An Australian news reporter and her team were pummeled by these soldiers and were hit by rubber bullets. They were clearly frightened out of their wits. But, what do you think that looked like to the citizens of Australia? In the past we might have expected to see such scenes in Hong Kong or Russia or the Philippines, but in the U.S.?


Make no mistake my friends, these are times when we must be awake and aware. The first can of worms opened is the systemic racism that has permeated our law enforcement and government since the beginnings of the country. The second can of worms is the realization that there are some in our government, starting from the top, that wish to undermine all our cherished constitutional traditions, the things that truly make America great. George Washington refused to be called King George, saying, "We already have rid ourselves of one King George." King Donald doesn't seem to understand that tradition. He appears to know nothing of our laws and traditions. The President is the servant of the people, but he believes it is the other way around. As a spiritual person I do not feel I have the right to judge Donald Trump's soul, I can only protest his behavior. Everyone of us in the mental health field recognize he is mentally ill. He suffers from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder and is incapable of normal human empathy and compassion. He cannot put himself in another person's shoes. Everything always has to be about him. That is the disorder and it would be merely a sad thing if he did not have so much power. This illness can be very destructive and self-destructive.


President Obama recently noted that we must both protest and follow that up with action. If we want real change we need to organize and change the system. In a recent Twitter message, Obama stated one word, which says it all. "Vote!" Bring in the city councils, the school boards, the mayors, the state and federal legislators, the governors, the sheriffs, and the other officials that will reform the police departments, root out racism in the system, and most importantly listen to the voice of the people.


I am 71 and an Elder now, so it is a little harder for me to get out and protest. However, if this continues, especially if our government continues moving in an authoritarian direction, you will see me on the front lines. I do not want to be one of those German citizens of the 1930s that did not pay attention to what was happening in their government until one day there was a Hitler. They were shocked and surprised and said they did not see what was coming. We have the lessons of history to teach us, so wake up, my friends. This is the time for protest and action.


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