In face of divisiveness, will we choose love over hate
With divisiveness in our country filtering down to divisiveness in our communities close to home, we must choose how to respond. That we have a choice was a theme shining through the Aug. 13 "Truthful Tuesday Vigil" outside Spokane Valley City Hall before the City Council meeting.
Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience (FLLC) has set up Truthful Tuesday Vigils so people can express their grief about the ideologies of white supremacy, white nationalism and Christian Dominionism, and the threat that extremism poses to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for many in our communities and nation.
In the vigils, presenters call on citizens and city leaders to take a moral stand to build inclusiveness so all can live together in peace.
In August, the Rev. Gen Heywood, pastor of Veradale United Church of Christ and convener of the FLLC, shared a meditation on two hands of forgiveness.
One hand extends in the universal sign for stop. "With this hand," said Gen, "we are saying, 'You must stop what you are doing or saying that is hurting me, my community and my neighbor.
"The second hand reaches out in invitation to meet the other in common humanity, but only after harmful, divisive actions cease.
Offering two hands of forgiveness fosters hope that opposing sides can come together in forgiveness and repentance to find reconciliation. This requires choice to recognize and acknowledge any harm done and to work toward common ground.
Kurtis Robinson, president of the Spokane NAACP and the Spokane Coalition of Color, which includes the NAACP, the Hispanic Business/Professional Association and the Spokane chapter of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, called the Spokane Valley City Council to adopt a racial equity policy. He cited the recent choice of the council and mayor not to consider this, and said the Coalition of Color would like to work with the council and other community groups in its development.
He lifted up times in the history of the Spokane Tribe, the African American community and the lives of the Asian Americans where racism impacted policies, some of which continue.
He called for an end to restrictive housing covenants, which, while declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, continue to be written into home owners' association rules.
Monica Viellette, whose aunt, uncle and eight-year-old cousin were murdered in Arkansas in 1996 by a white supremacist from the Spokane area, said, "One of the most powerful, generous gifts we can offer to one another is to listen. Thank you for listening to part of my family's history."
The people involved planned to use the money and guns they stole to set up a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest. She said that parallels issues going on here and now.
"To refuse to acknowledge the radical and hateful ideologies that are growing here in this area is dangerous and irresponsible," she said. "We cannot be effective allies or public servants, and we can't be true friends, neighbors, community members or persons of conscience if we aren't making the choice to accept the invitations we are offered to show up and learn, to sit in discomfort so we can understand the culture or beliefs of another person."
In closing, Monica challenged people to make the choice to listen well and determine where they can improve.
Ted Cummings, a rancher, spoke of his confusion when he observed the differences between how his mother and his father faced their deaths. His mother, secure in faith, died peacefully. His father "seemed troubled and anxious and almost confused about … how could he be an old man now when seemingly yesterday he was young, and he questioned the point of his life."
Ted found an answer in recalling how one of his two sons absolutely refused to believe there was a hidden dolphin in one "Magic Eye" picture in the newspaper. While everyone else in the family could see it, he could not.
"My son grew increasingly frustrated and finally gave up, declaring that the rest of us were making the appearance up and there was, in fact, no hidden dolphin anywhere in the colored rectangle," he said. "I believe that this inability to see a hidden picture or recognize a hidden commonality is what separates us today."
He spoke of the world filled with kindness, acts of service, unselfishness and everyday miracles, and full of beauty and mystery that he sees all the time, filling him with humility, hope, wonder and gratitude.
Ted said others can't see that world.
"I believe they choose to live in their world because they cannot see or conceive of a world where there is enough for everyone, where equality and justice and dignity are afforded to every person and all have employment, food, clean water and a safe home," he said, calling people to stand together, demonstrating belief in a better world to heal divisions everyone faces.
"The hidden picture of a better world might not be seen by all, but acts of love and service, while we are working toward that world, can be felt by all," he said.
Former State Senator John Smith, an evangelical Christian, said he had been part of the white supremacist movement, but had realized its violence and hate, so now seeks to encourage all Christians to denounce Christian Dominionism.
The vigil closed with ringing a bell, silence for grief and truth, and a benediction.
Choosing love over hate, finding common ground and a common humanity over setting up barriers of fear and divisiveness, are decisions that each one of us can make, allowing our communities and nation to live into the ideals of justice and peace.
Fig Tree Administrative Coordinator
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, September, 2019