“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Everything is so big here. Although there are no skyscrapers to clutter the skyline view of the capital, there is an incredible sense of magnanimity about everything. From the great edifices of government with their monstrously high vaulted ceilings, to the imposing monumental sculptures, to the grandiose parks and museums, there seems to be no end to awe-inspiring magnificence. I sit with ambiguity because, while I appreciate the beauty and understand the need to represent, it seems to me to be antithetical to democracy. Walking on marble floors into meetings where people discuss whether or not they can afford to feed, shelter, or provide health care for the people they serve does something to my sensibilities. I think this reflects on the standard we set for the world of democracy. Do we have to dress up our governing bodies like royals and aristocrats in order to have the respect of other nations? Or of the people? And, if that is the case, then I have to wonder if we should not resist a narrative like that, which continues to perpetuate the mythos of the naturalness and propriety of great disparity. I have been thoroughly enjoying seeing these majestic places and things, but the wrongness of it nags at me. It illustrates and reiterates the need to remake democracy. It needs to be transformed from the concept held by the founding fathers, who were simply looking for more equally distributed power among a ruling class. There is much work to be done until our democracy is one which works for the empowerment of all persons rather than against it.
So far, this has been an amazing learning experience to help prepare me to do my part. There has been so much information, and I feel as if I am on overload, but it has all been very important and very good. Every speaker has moved me and every presentation has provoked me. Some of the things that have stuck with me are that it only takes 7 letters for the Senator’s staff to look into a matter; that the foundations of this nation are racist; that tax breaks for the rich are an expenditure; by creating a stronger collective memory, we can begin to heal; to have influence, you have got to be organized; the budget is a moral document; and solidarity gives people the strength to say what they need to say when they need to say it. I have taken to heart an analogy offered by one of our presenters who said we have got to go back up the river and find out what is calling all these people to fall in. The insight is incredible. He asked why we have made it holy to care compassionately for the oppressed and yet treat the practices and policies that are at the root of their suffering as outside of our domain. We have been manipulated by a mythos that makes religious people complicit with the system by devolving ministry to paternalism. All of these amazing sessions have left me with a great deal to process for my own evolution as a faith leader working for social justice.
Our meetings in the Senate buildings were also tremendous learning experiences for me. Many barriers have been broken down for me. Engaging with government officials has been demystified for me. I am no longer intimidated about bringing my concerns to my representatives. Not only that, but I feel more called to do so than I ever have before. This opportunity to deepen relationships with my colleagues has also had a significant impact on me. The staffer I spoke with in Senator Kamala Harris’s office was named Grant. He suggested that we share an Op Ed story, encourage others to express their concerns, and pressure House Republicans to vote on the side of the people. This is only the beginning. We have all come here and introduced ourselves, but the relationships will be built in follow-ups. We must come against “mad destruction” with determination. All of this training and experience has equipped us to engage in new levels of resistance. Wherever we come from, my hope for us all is that this is a launching place into a more deliberate, relentless revolutionary living out of our faith.