Building Bridges: Bernie Has the Right Idea

Like many prochoice activists, when I first saw this article in Common Dreams, I was surprised and disappointed. Why was Bernie Sanders stumping for an enemy of women’s autonomy?

That was my first reaction. But after I thought more about it, my position softened. If Bernie believes that Mello will keep his word as mayor, he’s probably doing the right thing. If we need to change the minds and hearts of abortion opponents, that starts with accepting them where they are. When was the last time you were convinced by someone who was angry at you and insisting that you were wrong?

Principles, Persuasion, and Politics

Of course, in a perfect world, there would be no question that women must make their own choices free from government interference, direct or indirect. But this isn’t a perfect world. We need to persuade people who disagree with us.

As a practical matter, politics is often about seeking compromise (or at least it was before 1994) and trading favors. If Mello wins, and he believes Bernie helped him get there,then Mello will “owe” Bernie. That might be a good thing.

Keeping an Open Heart

The one point on which many thinking Americans agree is that demonizing the other side has not been helpful, and we need to stop. We won’t make progress by looking at the world through the lens of us vs. them.

Granted, some of our opponents are hard-core and will never get that we deserve autonomy and respect. I’m not waiting for Mitch McConnell to apologize to Elizabeth Warren and help pass single payer health care. But many people are just doing the best they can to get through life. And if they see that we have that in common, they may become more accepting and open. Call me naive, but I think it’s worth a try, even though it’s hard to learn new ways of thinking.

By supporting people who are with him on  the issues closest to his heart and seem open to learning about other people’s viewpoints, Bernie is showing us how we need to move forward. And he’s doing it by walking the spiritual path he described during the campaign.


Rev. Jackson, Please Don’t Pray for Me

I have just returned from the Chicago Tax March. The main message was that President Trump should release his tax returns. We had some great speakers: Rep. Jan Schakowsky, State Sen. Daniel Biss, and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. Rev. Jackson’s talk included lots of familiar chants: “Congress, do your job.” “I am Somebody.” “I matter.”

Then someone decided that Rev. Jackson should offer a prayer. And he brought us right back to the bad old days—the time when Christians assumed that their prayers should begin many secular events, such as local bar association meetings downstate.

According to Rev. Jackson, our demonstration wasn’t just love in action and an expression of the unity of humankind. After all, it was the day before Easter. He prayed in Jesus’s name.He prayed in the name of “the Father, the Son, and the precious Holy Ghost.” Not only were Jesus and the Holy
Trinity invoked multiple times, but our actions were “washed in the blood.”

Not Every Compassionate Activist Is Christian

Rev. Jackson, as a long-time supporter of gay rights and marriage equality, I expect you know better than to assume that everyone around you is heterosexual. Why, then, would you assume that everyone at a progressive rally is Christian?

Perhaps you were not aware that at least one of the other speakers is Jewish. And many members of the audience are, too, including me.There also were Muslims in attendance. I’m pretty sure that there were adherents of other faiths, too—Buddhists, Hindus, and less “mainstream” faiths that predate Christianity. And let’s not forget the atheists and agnostics.

Jews and Muslims and Buddhists Are Somebody, Too

We count. We matter. And we feel excluded, even erased, when someone prays on our behalf using terms we would never use ourselves. Washed in the blood? I can’t believe in a God who demands blood sacrifice any more than I can believe in a God who would send me to hell because I don’t think the right things about him.

Rev. Jackson, on matters of social justice, you still speak for me. But on matters of faith, it’s hard to see much difference between you and Lindsay Graham or Jeff Sessions.


Shift Happens When I Least Expect It

I have always hated housework. I was heavily influenced by Pat Mainardi’s feminist essay, The Politics of HouseworkI felt it took away from worthwhile things I could be doing instead, things that would feel better and make me happier. But the fact remained that if no one did it, it didn’t get done. And in a loving household, sharing shouldn’t have to mean keeping score, or feeling unappreciated.

Work Is Love Made Visible

So recently I decided to add a little pleasure to housework. Put on some music, get happy. Suddenly, I remembered a quotation that was posted in the kitchen of the home of my friend’s yoga teacher, some 30 years ago:” Work Is Love Made Visible.”* And I found that it opened my heart.

I cleaned the kitchen as a way to love my family and myself. I thought about how we all deserved the peace that came with order and cleanliness. And that was a gift to all of us.

*I couldn’t remember the source of the quotation, if I ever knew it.  Actually, it was Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet.

Thanks, Leo. I needed to read that post.

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Finding balance is hard. Striving for self-improvement is hard. I bet I’m not the only person who has a hard time balancing work, personal growth, maintenance of mind, body, spirit, and surroundings, creativity, and resistance (or, put more positively, activism).

Shoulding on myself

So I end up telling myself:

  • I should go to the gym (because I should get fit)
  • I should get back to meditating (because I should be more spiritually in tune)
  • I should clean out the fridge
  • I should set more specific goals for each day.
  • I should think more positively.

You can see why I call it “shoulding on myself.”

Forgetting what I know

I have an email account I don’t use much any more, and I had forgotten that it still receives emails from zen habits. Today I happened to open the email, and it was just what I needed to hear.Stop striving. You could try coming from appreciation and compassion. As in:

  • I appreciate my body, so I take care of it by eating well and exercising.
  • I appreciate life, so I go outside and be in nature instead of hanging out on my phone or at the computer.
  • I appreciate the moment, so I meditate.

That certainly feels better than, “There’s so much I need to do, I don’t know what to do first.”

So, thank you, Leo. I encourage everyone to check out this post.