We Were There


We live in singular times, friends. Name another era in which a colicky dullard of a billionaire ascended to the presidency; a party in possession of two branches (three if you count the stolen judicial) functioned like reruns of a circular firing squad; and a hostile foreign power set up an American presidential election like a cheap bowling pin.

Seriously, assuming we don’t all perish in a nuclear winter precipitated by two madmen an ocean apart, we can say for the ages we were witness to the hands down, four most cockamamie years in the history of American government.

But we can also testify — and this is important — that we showed up. That we were there.

We were there when enough was enough, and a vast network of progressive coalitions formed to unite and resist, march and fundraise, regroup and persist.

We were there when the monuments to chattel slavery started falling - a small but proud act of spiritual reckoning for sins past and present.

We were there when the once fixed and binary lines of gender were blurred, and we beamed with pride as six transgender souls stood for and won political office.

We were there when private citizens, houses of faith and whole cities defied a mandate to surrender children made handy scapegoats for conservative phobias and political expediency.

We were there when Big Bank preyed on its own customers, closing our accounts, boycotting its products and finding an option we can live with.

We were there when gun violence continued to maim and murder, and skin pigment determined justice, fighting lobby by lobby, court by court.

We were there when a young quarterback took a knee on the sideline, writing and blogging and messaging our solidarity. Even as the death threats started pouring in.

We were there when a profit-margin president turned his back on Planet Earth, meeting with our state and federal reps, pushing for solar and wind credits.

And we were there when each woman came forward, determined to speak her truth, holding faith with her. Even as we knew we had all participated in her silencing.

It is perhaps as the progressive historian Howard Zinn once proposed, the very nature of liberals to dwell on the negative; thereby (and I paraphrase) compromising our fierceness, surrendering our power, and abandoning those who need us to lock arms, not turn tails.

But in the end, it’s not a matter of our DNA, cellular or political.

It’s about showing up. It’s about whether or not we were there.

Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister and substance abuse counselor living in Pittsburgh, Pa. Email donaldlrollins@gmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2017


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