We walk together: reflections of the Women’s March

Leading up to the Women’s March on Washington last week, I noticed a lot of #WhyIMarch and also #WhyImNotMarching social media posts. Because the spirit, style and mission of the event—seemingly driven by language of “reproductive rights” (a new expression I’ve not yet come to terms with)—didn’t resonate with me, I found my own feelings and conclusions undecided.

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Adam and Eli marching (photo courtesy of Amy Nee-Walker)

What attracted me was the immediate, massive response of women (and men) coming together to respond in an assertive but nonviolent way with their bodies (not just Tweeting and tagging). The ambiguity of the platform appealed to me too but also gave me pause for possible interpretation as inclusivity: many people feel wronged for different reasons and it’s necessary to create a space where all can come together and voice their concern; not in a series of separate events but in unity.

It’s not uncommon for the term unity to be mistaken as synonymous with sameness. In fact, unity requires diversity: many different people, beliefs and ideas coming together to form “a complex whole.” Unity is not clean and neat, it’s messy and complicated. (Something we readers of Messy Jesus Business should appreciate!) What finally tipped the scales for me was the presence of my family members, with varying political and religious views, joining their voices across the country. In the spirit of sisterhood and unity, I asked some of them to share their reflections of the march.

Grace, who lives in Ohio and shared her home with a family of four (while in between jobs, after the birth of her second child), knows well what it means to practice hospitality:

I entered the Women’s March in D.C. as a skeptical outsider, wanting to observe and understand even though I felt like I didn’t quite belong. I wanted to stand up for dignity: for the right to dignity for women, Muslims, immigrants—all those who have been demeaned and treated as “less than” in the rhetoric of our new president. As a Christian I take to heart the command given in Leviticus to welcome and love the stranger (Leviticus 19:33-34).

Yet because I believe dignity of life extends to the unborn, the newly formed life, I kept questioning if there was a place for someone like me—pro-women, pro-equal rights, pro-intelligent sexual education, pro-supportive and affordable health care for women and pro-life—in this march. I had a desire to stand in solidarity with my fellow women and men in a historic moment but based on the official platform of the march I felt in many ways my presence wasn’t wanted.

As I struggled I came to recognize that to remove oneself from a discussion because you disagree is to render your voice obsolete. What part can we play in inspiring change and perpetuating truth when we refuse to begin the conversation? Conversing is not to speak at someone; to spew statistics, Scripture, opinion, or fact and then write them off when they disagree. A conversation involves listening, giving and receiving. So I sought to observe and understand the varied reasons so many people felt they could stay silent no longer and among these many voices I heard and saw things that made my heart say, “Yes, I see you, I know how you are feeling. I feel the same way.”

Ann Marie is a mother of three and long-time advocate for human rights who attended the march in Los Angeles wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt:

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Placas-Nee girls marching (photo courtesy of Amy Nee-Walker)

BLACK LIVES MATTER means our neighbors live lives in which they are told they matter less than us, and we need to do something about it. At the very least we must recognize it’s true, it’s happening and it’s their experience instead of foolishly insisting “but we ALL MATTER.” Yes, WE ALL MATTER. That’s the point. We need to change society—that they matter the same as us— till it rings true.

I took my two daughters, five and nine years old, to the march in L.A. because while we each have a voice now, we may not always. I may not fear for my immediate way of life or that of my blond-haired, blue-eyed children. We are safe and comfortable in so many ways. We haven’t been attacked because of our religion, our skin color, our parents’ country of origin. We may not have been threatened by Trump and his campaign promises, but our neighbors and fellow Americans have. So we went to speak out and lend our voices to theirs.

Allison traveled to D.C. along with her husband (my brother), both compelled by dismay that a man with such obvious disdain for women, Muslims, people of color and the environment is the new president:

It felt like a momentous day just from the bodies present, the singing, the buzz of electricity. And amidst all this excitement, one thing stood out to me the most.

We had been standing in the crowd for a couple of hours when a cry started. “Karen! Karen!” My husband and I joked “You’re in a crowd of 500,000 people and you’re trying to find Karen? Good luck.” Then we heard Karen’s son had been separated from her. A little boy lost his mom. We joined in the “Karen” shouts until she was found. Then we saw a group of women encircling a young boy, spreading the sea of people with their bodies, shouting “We’ve got a lost kid!” The women marched him backwards until he was reunited with his mom.

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Amy and Penny marching (photo courtesy of Amy Nee-Walker)

I keep thinking about the way those women protected Karen’s son, a child none of them knew. The way ripples of “Karen!” flooded the human logjam. The way everyone worked together to solve a problem. The way I’d been skeptical and my quick change of heart when I realized a child was in need. The way we all thought of our own children getting lost and needing help. That moment was a microcosm of the world in which we march.  If we all shout “Karen!” loud and long enough, Karen or peace or human rights or equality can be found. We have the power to move ourselves with the best interest of our children in mind through the masses; to push ourselves to the front, and to let our leaders know that we will not let even one of us be lost, trampled, forgotten. We walk together. I have your back.

As for me, I carried a sign my husband Ted and I had quickly assembled the morning of the march. Trying to decide upon words we could confidently stand behind and uphold, we settled on those of the prophet, Micah: “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.” I’ve carried these words—as a challenge and a guide—for most of my life. They indicate the spirit with which my husband and I resist the rhetoric and actions of Trump, who embodies the exact antithesis of justice, mercy and humility.

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Photo courtesy of Amy Nee-Walker

The march was one opportunity to join our voices against what was only rhetoric and obscure proposals but which, over the course of last week, became executive orders and inhumane threats. I raise my voice again—sturdy on the foundation of the millions around the world with whom I stood in solidarity last Saturday (and all the more so, those who have been dedicating their lives to truth and compassion long before) to speak a resounding NO:

NO to banning people from this country because of their religion or nationality!

NO to dishonoring treaties and desecrating sacred lands!

NO to militarizing police and marginalizing people of color!

NO to torture!

And with Hebrew Scripture and teachings of Jesus prodding me forward, I dare to proclaim a determined, hopeful YES:

YES to welcoming foreigners and sharing with those in need!

YES to reverence and care for marvelous Earth and the creatures inhabiting her!

YES to defying oppressive powers and violence!

YES to recognizing that real security comes through accepting our individual vulnerability, embracing collective connectedness and choosing to care for one another!

ABOUT THE RABBLE ROUSER

Nee-Walker FamilyAmy Nee-Walker grew up in the middle of a large and lovely family in Central Florida. Living into questions about truth and love has led her to the Catholic Worker, the Catholic Church, her incredible husband, two audacious, adorable children, and (for the time being) a home in the hills of Appalachia.

 

passing things around in the USA

Brace yourself. This video may make you laugh or cringe.

This sampling got me thinking about the general values of our country.  I remembered that a couple years ago there was some fascinating debate about whether the USA is really a Christian nation.  In the current climate of political unrest, I believe it is a conversation worth repeating.  What are the main principles and values that guide this country?

My historical analysis notices webs of influence created by our Puritan roots.  Our founding fathers- and mothers- were guided by Christian ideals.  Certainly us Christians are very vocal and influential in the political arena.  And, it seems hard to be “successful” in our country if you’re not Christian.

Yet, writer Jon Meacham suggests that “As crucial as religion has been and is to the life of the nation, America’s unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience.”

Are we okay with people freely following their conscience to dangerous addictions, just as long as they don’t harm others and are having fun?

Thanks! And, God bless the United States of America- and the whole world! Amen!

loving over the divide

Sorry, friends, Stephen Colbert’s video’s can’t be embedded in the same way as YouTube videos, but I really hope you’ll watch this video and share your thoughts.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Glenn Beck Attacks Social Justice – James Martin
www.colbertnation.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:267673
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

Here are my thoughts:  It’s hilarious because it is so right on.  I actually used that video when I introduced Catholic Social Teaching principles to my Peace and Justice students this year. We had to watch it a few times because we were all laughing so hard that we couldn’t hear everything.

Christianity is so messy for so many reasons. One of the reasons it’s messy is because we’re all very divided about the best methods of practice and the meaning of the message.  What if Glenn Beck is right and social justice is a code for communist Christianity? (That’s just confusing!)  What if Fr. James Martin is wrong and Jesus wasn’t really poor “because his father was loaded.”

One of my advent posts created some controversy because we didn’t all believe that Jesus was a poor man.  Why not?  Why is it uncomfortable to think about Jesus as poor? What if he really was just a middle class man of his era?  What if the emphasis of Christianity is supposed to be spirituality and not justice?  (I believe it’s always a combination.)

What is the definition of poverty? What is the definition of justice?

Brothers and Sisters, we must return to our Christian roots.  The point of all of this is love not squabble!  My students – and many young people – are watching the way Christian adults behave and becoming very confused.  “Sister, if Christianity is supposed to be all about Love, then why are Christians so mean to each other?”  What am I supposed to say?  I sigh and see the Beatitudes and the Great Commandment hanging on my classroom wall. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

The current climate of our country begs us to love each other in healing sorts of ways.  Slander was screamed all over the internet while President Obama gave his bold State of the Union speech.  Yet his words remind us that democracy is about peace and basic respect.

“It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years.  The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs.  And that’s a good thing.  That’s what a robust democracy demands.  That’s what helps set us apart as a nation. But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater -– something more consequential than party or political preference. We are part of the American family.  We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different from those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.” – President Obama

Indeed the tragedy in Tucson shook our nation.  What if it also alerted Christians about the danger of divisions in the Christian church?  Crowds continue to pray for Representative Giffords’ healing and wipe away tears of disbelief.  Meanwhile, the Blessed Holy Spirit blows through tension between us and builds bridges of Christ-like compassion.  Converted to Love, I hope we can walk toward one another on that bridge where hot dialogue happens.

Young people need a church that they want to be part of, one that gives them passion and faith.  My students need to be eager to share the Love that they find in their churches on the violent streets because they know it is True.

I need to be willing to model what Christian Love and unity could look like for the people who pay attention to me, even when I am really mad.  I pray that I can have an open heart and mind to all people of faith.  I pray for ability to love someone who says my passion- social justice- is wrong.  I pray that I have the strength to lovingly walk across the divide, right into the arms of my enemies.

God help us; God bless us; God unite us. Amen.

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cobalt/4580219355/