The name I chose for this blog in 2014 has given me pause many times over the past few years. Henry David Thoreau insisted that "surely joy is the condition of life," and I still believe that to be true. Yet in 2020, another perspective on joy has been far more resonant for me: Brother David Steindl-Rast's affirmation that joy is "the happiness that doesn't depend on what happens."
These are not easy times for people who believe in justice, fairness, and equity. Just this week, we've seen confirmation that the Supreme Court has become wholly politicized, both in the speedy nomination and anticipated party-line vote to seat a new justice and in the current court's ruling that allows a premature halt to the 2020 Census. These are decisions that will erase people, endanger health, and enrich corporate America.
There is abundant cause for despair, which is exactly why we need to believe instead in repair as the greater good--the higher power--that will pull us through these next few months. Hope is a muscle. Here are a few examples of repair as hope in action:tracking good-news stories about the election, such as how the nonpartisan Poll Hero Project has recruited tens of thousands of young Americans to be poll workers amid the pandemic that has kept many older poll-working veterans home. Tomorrow, volunteers with the Vote Forward project will mail 15 million hand-written letters to fellow Americans who vote infrequently, urging them to make the effort this year. We are seeing indications of a truly massive turnout.
Last Monday, we marked Indigenous Peoples Day. Just as 2020 has been a year of heightened awareness of systemic racism dating back 400 years, it's also been a year of more fully recognizing how our founders displaced the people who were here first. We can't remake the past, but we can acknowledge the full history of where we live--and we can also consider paying rent to recognize and honor this connection. I made a donation to Real Rent Duwamish this week, and I will make it a goal to begin small, symbolic monthly rent payments by next October.
Earlier this year, as the pandemic began to unfold, the federal government basically told the states and local governments that "you're on your own." It's one thing for progressive coastal states to step up and act in such times, but I was inspired by this program from The Harwood Institute highlighting how two red-state communities--Clark County, Kentucky, and Jackson, Mississippi--took that edict to heart and worked to be sure their citizens were safe, fed, and housed. "Now is not the time to go to the corner and hoard resources," said Von Gordon of the William Winter Institute in Jackson. "Hope has really emerged in people continuing to show up" and "be authentic about their fears and the challenges," added Beth Willett Jones of the Greater Clark Foundation.
Finally, as a society, we must continue to recognize the reality that America was built and is still being sustained with the physical labor of people who were literally enslaved (in centuries past) or who are working essential jobs for insufficient pay to this day. We can do many things to help repair this, from supporting microbusinesses owned by marginalized people and ethical small businesses that do right by their employees to electing people who will fight for livable wages, robust benefits, student loan debt relief, and strong safety nets.
Many of us have been working very hard this year to raise our own awareness and advocate for changes we want to see. I said earlier in this post that I want to hear what you plan to do on Nov. 4 and beyond to give voice to your values (and also, frankly, to take care of yourself and your loved ones as winter descends). Please share in the comments or send me an email; the best address for that is sidewalk206 at gmail dot com. I look forward to hearing from you, and I'll share some of your thoughts in next week's post.
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