One of our recent Sacred Circles was a real eye-opener for me. The topic was Spiritual Activism, and we really had a wonderful discussion about the fact that Universalists cannot sit passively by in a difficult and dangerous world. Our brand of spirituality is active, engaging and loving. However, that was not the eye-opening part.
What hit me the hardest was the fear. One member of the church, a young Hindu woman dressed in traditional Indian style, said she was frightened to speak out because she felt like a target. Mexican-American and Cuban-American members also expressed their fears about President Trump’s immigration policies and racism. A Haitian member talked about her fears over the years that her brothers and son would be targeted and profiled by the police (as they have been in the past) for simply being young Black men.
At first, the old Sixties activist in me attempted to assuage their fears by reminding them that the fear of crime is far greater than the actual incidence of crime. In other words, the odds that they would be personally targeted and singled out was incredibly low. I also stressed that we needed to overcome our fears and still do what is right. Activism may require some sacrifice. All of that is true, but something about it didn’t feel quite right even as the words tumbled out of my mouth.
I want to apologize to the members who attended that Sacred Circle. I wasn’t really listening. I’m an older white male. I am not a Hindu who has watched two Indian men shot in a Kansas City bar or a Sikh man shot in Seattle over the past week (two fatally), in both instances told to go home to their own country by the shooters. They were mistaken for Muslims. I am not a Latino watching the mass roundups of Hispanics by ICE over the past few weeks. My Hispanic friends tell me there is great nervousness in the Hispanic Community, even if they are citizens or hold Green Cards. I am not a young Black male who has to wonder when I will be pulled over by a cop just for being Black. I am not a woman who has been groped by an aggressive male, something that I know has happened to the majority of my women friends and relatives, and the women I counsel. I am not a gay, lesbian or transgender person having to watch the attacks on my rights to bathrooms, jobs and marriage. So, in essence, as a relatively privileged white male, I am hardly the one to speak about so-called “unfounded” fears.
If I listen carefully, they are not unfounded. At first The Trump Effect seemed to be just another Saturday Night Live joke. Now we know it is not. Hate crimes, as well as racist, sexist and Anti-Semitic language have increased alarmingly since even before the new President took office. The recent shootings of the Indian men, the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, and the vandalism and bomb threats against Jewish synagogues and schools and LGBT Centers across the country are just the most prominent examples.
I still haven’t changed my position that we need to overcome our fears and still do what is right. Activism always requires some sacrifice. However, I am humbled and listening to you. Now help me, help us with your ideas and suggestions for Spiritual Activism that take into account the real dangers that exist due to Trump World today. We have the spiritual tools to release the fear and guide us to effective action. Write us and we will include your ideas and thoughts in future blogs.