Thursday, June 28, 2018

Keeping Our Collective Chins Up

Yesterday as news spread about Justice Kennedy's retirement, I wrote this Facebook post:

"As we feel despair about Justice Kennedy resigning, it's worth remembering that he was a Reagan appointee, and that Reagan likely thought that Kennedy would make different decisions than he has made. And that outcome isn't unusual, when one looks at the history of Supreme Court justices. Let's keep our collective chins up! I want to live in hope, not in fear. I keep remembering the 1980's, when things seemed quite bleak--but then Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and the wall between East and West Germany came down without bloodshed. Perhaps we are at a turning point that we don't recogize yet."

I understand people's despair over this retirement, but let's remember that Kennedy was nominated and confirmed with everyone expecting him to be a conservative bulwark--not a moderate swing vote.  He's been a friend of lefties, as he's protected women's reproductive rights and the rights of homosexuals in a variety of cases.  I will miss his insistence that the dignity of humans must be considered in court cases.

Any time this administration does anything that's rotten (which is a daily occurrence some weeks), my Facebook feed lights up with comparisons to Hitler's rise to power.  I confess to wondering whether or not we're in a similar place to Europe in the 1930's.  I want to believe that we can learn from earlier times when fascist forces rose up rather quickly.  On my good days, I believe.  On my despairing days, I wonder where I should move.

It's good to remember that our nation has faced dark days that didn't end in an apocalypse like Hitler's Germany and World War II.  Perhaps these days are more like the McCarthy era, when people were finally so outraged by the excesses that they were able to ignore the fearmongering and insist on a better future.  Perhaps these days are more like the Nixon regime, where the nation seemed closest to Constitutional crisis, but cooler heads prevailed, and the nation did not split asunder.

In these days where the news leaves me especially prone to despair, I've been taking great solace from the posts I'm seeing from the national gathering of Lutheran youth in Houston.  It's a huge group, and I'm inspired by their hope and enthusiasm.

When I think about just giving up, I will think about these youth.  I will think about my years of training in non-violent resistance to evil.  I will remember that we can't know when the tide is about to turn, when evil leaders will be washed away to sea.

When I need courage, I'll turn to this post on my theology blog, a photo essay about how the fabric of society can be rewoven--and often, from the scraps and frazzled strips, we can make something even more beautiful.

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