Saturday, January 13, 2018

Language, Presidential and Otherwise

Every time President Trump says something offensive or outrageous or so, so wrong, I wrestle with whether or not to say anything.  Thursday's comment about immigration and who we admit and who we don't--and the profanity about some of the nations--well, I just don't know what to say.  Actually, I have a lot to say, but I'm not sure it's wise.

So I decided to write this post on my theology blog.  You will probably not be surprised to find out that I am plunged into despair by Donald Trump's language.

As with most other adults, I have absolutely no control over Donald Trump--and even less so with this President, since he is unlikely to care what I think about his language and actions.  So what's an artist to do?

I wrote 2 poems this morning, neither of which had anything to do with Donald Trump.  And I started thinking about how much I would produce in a year if I created a poem every time this president does something or says something that I see as problematic.  Some weeks, I'd be writing every day, multiple times a day.

I am torn over how to respond to national politics.  In my younger years, I'd have sworn that writing to our politicians could make a difference.  In my younger years, I might have plotted how I might could run for office.  Throughout my life I've given money to people who have the time and energy to do the tasks I cannot do when it comes to social justice.  I've marched, I've organized, I've thought about trying to live below the economic line which would mean that I wouldn't pay taxes so that my earnings wouldn't go to pay for nuclear weapons and other national programs that I thought were toxic.  Throughout my life, I've seen my teaching as a site of resistance.

I am 52 years old, and I know that some of those actions seem to have worked, some have worked for a time, some have yet to work, some may never work.  The act of creating a better world may take longer than I anticipated.

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: we cannot know which work is going to be most important, which is what makes the work so frustrating. That e-mail that seems unimportant today . . . will likely be unimportant hundreds of years from now, but who knows. The poem that seems strange and bizarre and something that must be hidden from one's grandmother may turn out to be the poem that touches the most readers. Being kind to one's coworkers who cluck and fuss and flutter about matters that seem so terribly unimportant is no small accomplishment either.

We can't know how long the struggle for justice might be. Those of us who work towards social justice and human dignity for all are similar to those medieval builders of cathedral: we may not be around to see the magnificent completion of our vision, but it's important to play our part. In the words of that old Gospel song, we keep our eyes on the prize, our hands on the plow, and hold on.

And it's important to remember that our art can be part of that.  Our art can illuminate and perhaps change hearts and minds.  And even if it doesn't, it can keep our creative hearts soft and open. And that's no small thing these days.

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