welp. i’m still tired/emotionally drained from this whole learning-to-be-a-grown-up thing. (i don’t know exactly what i mean by that… perhaps something along the lines of rolling with the punches?)
i’ve been thinking a lot this week about the whole action vs. language thing that first i, then morgan and leslie, and finally atom weighed in upon. all three have really interesting, thoughtful, heartfelt responses to things that i’ve been haphazardly (exhaustedly) throwing up on my blog because of my whole blog-every-day-in-february thing. it’s funny: when i imagined myself blogging, prior to starting this blog, i don’t think i expected to receive the kind of support and pushback that i would get from my friends who follow along with me here. if i blow off steam in a way that’s less-than-mature, self-mocking, or illogical… y’all are calling me on it. i really appreciate that generous support that also challenges me to be more than who i feel like being at some particular moment.
i do think words–in the form of a vigil or not–contribute an action that is valuable and necessary, especially in a democracy. and, i’m proud of the words that i wrote, and that the group spoke them in our vigil. our voice overcame the buzz of the crowd and echoed up into the rotunda of the capitol building, as minnesota veterans, legislators, citizens, and advocates filed past us. yes, we were preaching to the choir, as leslie pointed out, but more than that: we were making a public, faith-centric statement about the value of human life and the government’s responsibility to protect human dignity when no one else will. THIS IS what i went to seminary for: to speak justice to improper power, to name indignity, and to challenge the world and people (and myself!) to live more responsibly, more respectfully of one another. i feel lucky to do this in the state where i grew up, and to do it on a local level, where change feels more concrete, and problems are on a smaller, more seemingly-manageable scale.
did the vigil help? cynicism about one’s ability to make change is rampant among those who fail to act in our massive democracy. my experience of going to d.c. to protest the probability of an iraq war in 2003 illustrated what i thought i learned: that the people’s voices are often ignored; that those in power will do what they want either way. but morgan pointed out that making our voices heard, or engaging in debate, does not always have the end goal of changing the other’s mind. registering one’s position is important. the u.s. may have invaded iraq regardless, but history will not forget that our population was divided on whether or not it was a good idea.
did the vigil help? was one person changed walking away from that experience? actually, i can answer that question: YES. i was changed. i found that having the courage to speak words of faith and of vision in the capitol rotunda changed the way i see myself as a citizen and as a person of faith. speaking out loud, in a small community of like-minded people, amidst a larger community amongst and around us, recommitted me to doing this work that i might now be claiming as my vocation. who knows, maybe someday soon i will actually gear up the courage to call it a CALL. (that’s very god-y language, there, folks. let’s get comfortable with the uncomfortable. oy.)
did the vigil help? was anyone BESIDES me moved by it, forward, in a direction that upholds the dignity of all people? god. how can i answer that question? what i can say is that it was part of a larger movement, and was a piece of a whole, in that one-body-many-parts kind of way. any one piece of a movement, apart from the others, might not amount to much. but put together? that can amount to real change.
so what contribution does a vigil have to real, meaningful social change? i’m thankful for my friend abby, with whom i spoke about this today over tea. when i told her what that crazy mean person emailed me about the civil war, slavery and “little vigils”, abby laughed, looked at me and said, “What! Has that person never heard of the Civil Rights Movement?!”
How did I not think of that?
big questions today. i’m too tired to address them in much depth, but i thought it might be nice to ask y’all what YOU think.
so i’ve been planning a vigil for tomorrow, for work. it’s this big action to protest some bum stuff going on in Minnesota. This means, we get to name, in a public space, things like this:
- “We reject the false notion that some must give their lives in order that others need not give from their pockets.”
- “We abhor the thought that a human’s worth might be designated in dollars.”
- “When so many human lives are endangered by a lack of access to health care, we fail to uphold human dignity.”
This is powerful stuff. Saying this in public, in a sacred, communal way: that is power. At least I think so.
But, someone disagreed with me today. And damn, sometimes I wish Minnesota Nice didn’t have such a firm grasp on me–or who knows, perhaps it is just civility that I have. But basically, I was told a vigil is worthless. No good. In particular: “The Civil War freed the slaves NOT little vigils.”
Now, as B pointed out to (a very frantic) me over dinner tonight, it is TRUE that this “little vigil” i am planning for tomorrow is not likely to change any minds. Just as even large rallies don’t change minds. (I protested the Iraq War in Washington D.C. with tens of thousands of other people before the war even began. It didn’t change that irreversible course of history.) But, as he also said, this doesn’t mean that we should not DO them.
I don’t know, i am just CONVINCED that LANGUAGE is essential to human life. furthermore, it is essential to a CIVIL and CIVIC human life. we humans have very few ways of communicating, other than the breath and vocal chords and tongued consonants and humming all jumbled up into organized words and grammatical structures and poetry. Language is imperfect, but it is ESSENTIAL to life, essential to lived experience, essential to communication, to moving forward. To say that language is not equal with action, that naming injustice is devoid of power, is untrue.
The old addage sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me of course comes to mind.
And yet: what changes a person’s mind more? Yes, the Civil War ended slavery. And it should have happened earlier; slavery should have never existed. But where did the political unrest come from, to fuel energy for a Civil War, had not the abolitionists, with all their little words, not paved the way?
Oh boy. I’ll hate reading this tomorrow… I’m sure my logic is flawed and I sound like I’m comparing myself to abolitionists. Uffda. All this is just me trying to say: PEOPLE ARE CRAZY AND MEAN.