THAT Makes Us Great!
Still reeling from the events in Charlottesville, VA, and wanting to DO something, to counteract such violence and hatred, so many of us have been asking, “What should we DO?” Family, friends and colleagues, clergy friends and colleagues in Boston are asking “What should we DO this Saturday, when Alt-Right members and Neo-Nazis will be gathering in Boston, preaching more hatred, more racism, more violence?” We can’t keep silent, and let the voice of hatred have the final word. But we also cannot stoop to their level, cannot become what we hate. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, quoting Jesus, “When we fight hatred with hatred, we only contribute to the amount of hatred in the world.” No, we must come up with a creative alternative. We must transform hatred with the only thing powerful enough to truly transform this world: Love.
Two weeks ago I participated in Gamaliel Community Organizing Training, the same community organizing program that trained President Obama. At that training, each one of us participants was asked to figure out what Gamaliel calls our “Self Interest,” the thing that keeps us up at night. The thing we feel we were put here on this earth to fulfill, to change, to bring into being. Put positively, our “passion,” or what Joseph Campbell calls our “bliss.” For me that has always been EQUALITY. Radical equality of all people, following the example of Jesus. Anyone who knows me knows that I have devoted my entire life to fighting against sexism, racism, inequality of LBGTQ persons, and income inequality – inequality of any kind. At Gamaliel, we were told that whenever something challenges our deepest values, we must speak out, and we must ACT.
Last night, my husband, Ted, and I came up with an idea: to hand out American flags to everyone who feels that America is GREATEST when there is “Liberty and Justice for ALL.” Not just for rich, white men. We have seen a lot of confederate flags in the past week. That is NOT what makes America great. What makes us great is when we celebrate the diversity that makes us who we are as the United States. We need to reclaim our American flag, as a symbol of what really makes us great. We need to focus NOT on the things that divide us, but on the things that unite us. Now, when you see an American flag, know that it means an America that celebrates the greatest strength we have: our Diversity.
One of the times I feel most proud of being an American is when I watch the Olympics. When I see the American flag flying high, I see black and white and brown Americans, and every shade of color the great Artist has made us, draped in the flag that makes us One. I see female and male athletes, cisgender and transgender, and folks all over the fluid spectrum we call “gender.” I see LBGTQ and straight. In the Olympics we do not say, “Even though you are the fastest, you cannot run this race because you are Muslim or Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist, Sikh or Baha’i, or practice Native American spirituality. We see Diversity in all its power and beauty, and THAT is what makes America great.
There are many more folks who feel this way than there are white supremacists. We have just let them make a lot of noise. It is time. It is time for all of us to celebrate the Diversity which makes us truly GREAT, the diversity that makes us the United States of America.
I do not want “to make America great again” by going back to the segregation of the forties and fifties, when women served you your coffee and LBGTQ folks were stuffed into suffocating closets. I believe America can be great NOW, when we:
THAT makes us great!
May you see the Holy in all you encounter; may you reflect the Holy to all you encounter,
Linda Forsberg, Copyright August 17, 2017
Photos: Hannah and Peace Wall at Sanctuary Lutheran Church, Marshfield, MA; original artwork of Genesis 1 and 2, created for Vacation Bible School, Victoria Forsberg-Lary; Mural from Trinity Lutheran Church, Manhattan; Quilt of Color, Our Lady of Calvary Retreat House, Farmington, CT; original artwork created for Vacation Bible School by Victoria Forsberg-Lary