An Open Letter to My Senators

24 April 2017

Dear Senators Perdue and Isakson,

As I begin this letter several things occur to me. One is, I wonder what comment will be lifted from my many concerns by a staff person or intern so that I receive an automated reply to that particular ‘issue’ rather than to the content of the whole. Secondly, I fear my opinion doesn’t matter if I am not a member of your base. Part of me wants to tell you that I am a mother and grandmother, a senior, a pastor, and white, as if that makes my concerns more legitimate. I wonder if I add that I am also a feminist, a lesbian (NOT the same thing) and a progressive that somehow you could justify ignoring my concerns. However, for the moment, this is still a democracy and I am your constituent.

Perhaps my deepest concern is that we are moving away from being a democracy at a rapid pace. As I list the things that concern me I know I will still miss the scope and magnitude of the perils to our democracy. So here is my first question to you: are you so concerned with the political power of both your party and your elected position that you are willing to sacrifice the core tenants of our constitution? Your actions and lack of action make it hard for me to believe that you are not gleefully sacrificing our sacred principles. I say this because of your lack of concern over Russia’s interference with our election process. I say this because you are willing to kowtow to a dangerous and incompetent president. I say this because of your willingness to govern for the entitled on the backs of the disenfranchised.

Why is it that women, children, people of color, the elderly, the poor, the LGBT community, and others too varied to name suffer so that the richest among us and get richer? Why has industry been given permission to pollute our streams and rivers? All the agencies designed to protect us are being gutted. Shall I name a few? The EPA and the State Department come to mind, and our education system has been hijacked by the Incompetent. You know as sure as your heart beats that a vibrant democracy depends on a well-educated public. Is that what you are going for now? An easily led people? We are no longer the world leader in science and technology – or if we are it won’t be for long. Objective facts no longer factor in to determining policy. Science is dismissed in favor of faith statements. And why is it that you assume science exists in opposition to faith? Or are you pandering to the lowest common denominator? It is beyond my ability to comprehend.

I really want to know why it feels okay to reduce our access to healthcare. I want to know why a living wage is an anathema to you. I want to know if you are okay with this nation becoming an authoritarian kleptocracy. If you aren’t okay with it, what are you going to do about it? And if you are, how do you live with yourself?

Our democracy is one of the greatest social experiments ever conceived but I don’t recognize it any more. Do you?

Sincerely,

The Reverend Connie L. Tuttle

The Mystery of Hope

Words can make things that are truly unknowable seem like concrete certainties. Words get in our way of experience when we feel a need to compress and distort our experience to fit  into some preconceived, doctrinal box.

But what if we took away the words or the definitions? What if we spoke to one another about experience? Is our need for absolute certainty so great that we are willing to quash the uncertain truth that resides in us and replace it with doctrine?

We talk about resurrection as if it is something that happened once and will happen again instead of something that is always happening. We talk about it in future terms rather than very present reality. We talk about it as if it definable and measurable and dependent on our actions.

Writer Barbara Ehrenreich calls herself a ‘hardcore atheist’ but she also talks about a mystical experience she had as a teenager when she:                                                                     “saw the world—the mountains, the sky, the low scattered  buildings— suddenly flame into life.” There was no fire, but she saw “blazing everywhere.” She describes it as “a furious encounter with a living   substance that was coming through all things at once, too vast and violent   to hold on to, too heart-breakingly beautiful to let go of.”

She goes on to say she felt both shattered and completed. I love that. She describes my deepest experiences of Godde when I feel shattered and all that implies: frightened, unmoored, outside my ego as well as grounded, connected, and full.

That is how I experience resurrection. It is not a lack of certainty but a fullness of experience. I no longer have a deep need to explain or define resurrection. I only want to stand before the Mystery that gives hope and speaks the final word of love. I want to enter the Mystery that both shatters and completes me.  Join me there. We need the experience of resurrection for the facing of these times.


The Power of our Stories

Yesterday we said these words in our Seder meal:  “Laughter and tears life and death, good and evil – these are bound  irrevocably together. We bless them together for we know that with without death we would not fully value life. Without tears we would not fully value laughter. As we learn to maximize the good and valuable, let us  remember the evil we would reject, lest it creep, unrecognized, back into our presence.”

Has Pharaoh crept back into power? In our day ‘pharaohs’ are the ones who live in luxury while families struggle to make ends meet. ‘Pharaohs’ are those who get tax cuts while the most vulnerable lose benefits like meals-on-wheels, childcare assistance, reproductive healthcare, social security, and disability benefits. ‘Pharaohs’ are the ones who wrangle power from the people and centralize it among friends and family.

Today I wonder how we can celebrate the journey to freedom when Pharaoh skulks around every corner working hard to corrode our freedoms. Pharaoh lives in the White House, in the Senate and House. Pharaoh now resides on the Supreme Court.

So how do we become free? We remember our history and tell those stores along with new stories as we begin again our journey to freedom. For those of us in the United States our stories are of our constitution and bill of rights, and stories of our march toward the liberation of all: the abolition movement, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the movement for LGBTQ rights, for immigrant rights. These are the stories we need to remember

How do we become free? We wake up for the hundredth morning and grope for words to describe what is wrong. We engage in small heroic acts of disobedience until our disparate voices come together into the cry of the people. We continue to move forward even though the way looks impossible and pharaoh nips at our heels.

We open our doors and make ourselves see the crimes of rape, violence, hatred, intolerance, prejudice, and the dehumanization of those called ‘other’ who are really our sisters and brothers and friends. And we care enough to act.

We have begun. We are marching and speaking and writing and calling and voting. We are wading into a sea and we are in it up to our necks. But our stories give up hope and tell us we will make a way through to the other side. So let’s keep telling our stories and singing our stories as we travel on the road to liberation. Let the children of today represented by the Children’s Choir of Boston sing a story for us and inspire us not to let anyone turn us ’round on this journey.

 

 

 

Am I Spiritual Enough?

This week I had the honor of having my blog  shared in an online group of fellow women clergy. I was excited until I reread what I had posted. Argh! Another political post where I talked about our nation’s need to repeat the part of our history that expresses the ideals upon which we are founded. It wasn’t bad. But was it spiritual? Did I share anything worthy of my clergy-sisters’ time and attention?

I wrestled with this a while. Some of my concerns were clearly ego. My online connection with other clergywomen is vitally important to me. What would they think? Even more important, am I spiritual enough for my cohorts in ministry?

I wondered if I am spiritual enough for myself. Here is what I rediscovered:

– spirituality has a million expressions

– whether I mention Godde or not, Godde is my ground of being (thanks, Tillich) When I act consciously I reflect my understanding of and relationship with the Divine.

– if I am not fighting injustice, concerned about ‘the least of these’ then I am not expressing my understanding, relationship, and experience of Godde.

– I would not be so passionately engaged in current politics if I didn’t name the evils of oppression, racism, classism, ableism, heterosexism, ageism, and the rape of the earth and sea and sky.

Because I am a Christian I will continue to speak and act out against the policies and actions of the current administration. I may not name Godde or Christ in each post, but I have reminded myself that I am following in a Way of peace and justice for humankind.

So I may not mention Godde. I may not thump on a Bible, defend a theological precept or church doctrine (actually I don’t do those things, anyway) but I will continue to live in such a way works for a world in which the hungry are fed, the homeless housed, the naked clothed, the oppressed set free, the prisoner liberated, and the earth protected.

It is good to trust that my clergy sisters know this. I am grateful my post was shared and I am even more grateful for the opportunity  to remind myself that I am spiritual enough.

The History We Need to Repeat

Echoing  in my brain is the warning that “if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it”. Is that what we are doing here? Repeating the doom of authoritarianism? Fascism? The ascendance of a keptocrasy? Stripping away the rights and dignity of the individual? Having a group in power that no longer represents interests of the citizenry? Maybe.

But  the history I want to repeat? The American Revolution. We’ve been here before. We have challenged an elite ruling class before. We championed the rights and well-being of the individual before. We  created a structure meant to protect us from authoritarianism before. We have a history of understanding ourselves as holding the torch of freedom as a light to the whole world.

We’ve screwed the pooch on some of that. Ever so slowly we became inured to the disconnect between congress and the people. We know something needs fixed and, God-help-us, enough people thought electing DJT was a good way to change things. The frightening truth is that his election merely intensifies the gulf between the haves and have-nots, maintains the status quo, pits citizen against citizen, and diminishes universal protections for the most vulnerable within our borders.

People, we know better. We know better than to let fear own us. We know the risks and the costs of freedom. And we need to stop being afraid of them. Freedom is risky.  We know that. We know what happens when power is centralized, co-opted, and abused. If not from our own history, then from the history of the world.

It is time  for us to own who we are and what we know.

If we are going to repeat history then let’s repeat our Revolution. We need to own it and carry it forward. We need to ride to raise the alarm. Every shareholder needs to make a stand and contribute to the cause. Just like our first revolution, there will be some who support the powers that be and a day will come when we have to make room for them to come back into the fold. But now let us focus on the work of freedom and muster both the will and commitment to be that straggly band of refusers who never give up. It is time value the idea of who we are enough to be it.

If we are doomed to repeat history then I don’t want to regret my part in it, do you? I will speak out and stand up to what is hateful, racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, vengeful, greedy, and self-aggrandizing. I am willing to stand, confront, work, get dirt under my fingernails, go to bed exhausted, wrestle with hopelessness, and get up and do it all over again. Like my ancestors before me. Are you willing to do the same?  Take a stand like your ancestors before you. We are an idea whose light will not be extinguished.

Let’s repeat that history.

For Those Who Love Dystopian Novels…

            ‘What ifs’ are fun jumping off points for novels and movies. Like what if the sea level rises and New York City is no longer habitable? What if an asteroid hits earth? What if the Nazis had won WWII? What if the worst happens? How would we act? Who would act? Who would survive? And ideas worth fighting for?

Please don’t call me extremist when I say we are on the verge of a dystopian present. What I mean by verge is that if something doesn’t change SOON we will be thrown into a future from which it will be nearly impossible to return. Not that I want to return to the past. I want for us to move forward on the ‘slow arc toward justice.’  We have jumped the tracks. The train is off the rails and hanging over a cliff. We are hovering over the precipice of world hunger, pandemic disease, war and totalitarianism.

Listen, I am not an alarmist. I know this because I have been friends with alarmists and understand from observation what an alarmist looks and feels like. If anything, I am an optimist and believe in humanity’s ability and will to overcome adversity and build a better world. That being said, I have also seen evil. As a youngster I visited Dachau and confronted the existence of evil. There is no other word for it.  I have seen the evil of which ordinary people are capable. In college and graduate school I studied the history of Nazi Germany because I needed to understand how a whole people can become complicit with evil.

I’m certainly not the first, nor will I be the last, to ring out the alarm but I am ringing it out now. Here is the big dystopia we are living in today:

– equal education for all citizens(or the pursuit of that) is in jeopardy

– religion takes an unprecedented role in political discourse and policy

– refusal to address climate changes makes us vulnerable to famine, war, and disease

– hatred of the different- race, gender, sexualities, religions, is encouraged  by the lack of will in the administration to address it as a serious problem and, indeed they profit from it in their political base.

– our democracy is being intentionally dismantled in service of a kleptocracy

-the current administration lines up our population in terms of ‘us vs. them’

I could go on but this is enough to predict a dystopian not-to-distant future being upon us. So here are my questions: In a conflict between good and evil, which side are you taking? Does your personal self-interest eclipse your interest of the greater good? Do you think because you are safe now – because you have the privilege of race, gender, class, etc – that you will not be touched?

We are entering a dystopian reality. It can happen here. Will you enable those in power or are you going to work your ass off to turn it around?

An Open Letter to the President..

Dear President Trump,

I am not sure why I am writing you. I have a lot of concerns I’d like to share. I want you to know how afraid I am. How angry I am. I want you to know the things I care about and the things that matter to me – and to many, many other citizens in this nation you now lead. But I’m not sure why I’m writing you because I have had no indication that you listen to anyone other than whoever is flattering you and in the room at any given moment. I don’t trust your capacity to care about anything but yourself. I don’t trust in your ability to think in abstracts or to argue rationally from different points of view. But I’m writing you anyway.

I am writing like I am marching. And calling my senators and representatives. And demanding town hall meetings. Why am I doing this? Writing to you might not change anything, but all of us doing all these things together will. And because I think you and many who have been hired by the electorate have it all wrong. Being elected is not a sacred anointing. It is the collective body hiring a temp. You are not king or god or even patriarch. You are a flawed human being with a very large job to do and, frankly, you are doing it poorly.

The thing I am finding the most difficult to understand about you and about the GOP agenda in general is your obvious disregard for the health and wellbeing of the nation. Here are some questions I would really like an answer to:

How will reducing our access to healthcare make us better able to compete in the world market?

If you are going to privatize healthcare, why are you against raising the minimum wage to a living wage so that people have an outside chance of affording it?

How will privatizing education bring up the entire population, making us a better workforce and a better place to live, a better community, and a better able to innovate?

How will demonizing portions of the population bring us together as a nation? And how does that demonization reflect our values?

How does raping our environment protect our children, our food sources, our future? Is breathing clean air at all important to you? How about drinking uncontaminated water?

How is it that you only value the amazing gift of our public lands and national parks as unexploited business opportunities?

How is it that the forward movement of human rights and dignity, whose inception was the centerpiece of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, be refuted in favor of anti-Semitic, anti-people of color, anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-disabled, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee factions that are a gross minority in this country? Why are you giving voice to hatred and division?

I want to know. Most of all I want to know how to stop you. I’m pretty sure you won’t tell me that but I’m pretty sure that I will. Me and millions of my friends. Because whether or not you to listen to me, the voting booth does. I only pray it is while we can still recognize ourselves.

Sincerely,

The Rev. Connie Tuttle

 

 

 

It’s So Bad I Have to Laugh

 

 

Today I want to thank Steven Colbert,  Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart, Garrison Keeler, the entire cast of Saturday Night Live, editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovitch,  and comics around the world who give us laughter in the face of tragedy.

Garrison Keillor’s Trumpian Interpretation Of Psalm 23 Is Spot-On Perfect

I am a news junkie. I am involved up to my eyeballs in the resistance – and that is exactly where I want to be and what I want to be doing. And it gets overwhelming, I sometimes get discouraged and wonder if my little bit matters. (It does! And so does Sally’s little bit and Chuck’s little bit and your little bit …and all our little bits together make a big ole’ strong movement of persistent, passionate, compassionate, warriors who are standing against walls and bans, misinformation and deregulation, and against Trump and his ilk’s basic inhumanity based on race or gender or nationality or religion or gender identity.

Watch: The Trump Song, a parody of The Village People’s YMCA

But let’s face it – we are taking on a lot and, by necessity, engaging on multiple fronts. The enormity of the work before us is daunting. However, we all get it: this is work that must be done! So we dig in and call and write and march and go door to door and donate our time and money to push back against the tide of greed and hate.

Pretty muchImage via Mike Luckovich AJC

Posted by The Other 98% on Thursday, December 1, 2016

I wake up in the morning and read the newest barbarism, the newest message of hate, the newest abomination done in our name, and instead of crying or raging or wanting to throw in the towel, I turn on Steven Colbert or SNL or find a clip on Facebook that let’s me laugh and groan at the absurdity of it all. Sometimes they fuels my anger (in a good way) and I am up for the day. Sometimes they give a release valve for my anger and I am able to be more effective. And sometimes they just let’s me know I am not alone, that others are calling out the disgrace, and that others see the absurdity of what is going on.

So thanks for the laughs. And thanks for sharing my horror. And thanks for sharing your strength of conviction. Because sometimes it is just so bad that I have to laugh.

I Thought I Was A Good Citizen

images-15           The first time I voted I lived in California. It was 1972, during the Viet Nam War and Nixon was running against McGovern. I took my then toddler with me, dressed in a white leotard with a red zipper and a red, star-shaped pull. Over that she wore a red, white and blue striped skirt with the word ‘VOTE’ circling the circumference from waist to hem. I was just twenty and thrilled to be a part of the democratic process. Since then I have voted every time the polls opened.

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I stayed informed. I marched for civil rights, women’s rights, against the death penalty. I gave money to causes I supported. Very occasionally I wrote letters to my representatives. I thought I was a good citizen. After the past three+ months I can now report that I was an under-involved citizen who assumed the democratic process, values, and structures could and would maintain themselves. I assumed that our courts and voting booths facilitated the ‘arc toward justice’ that Martin talked about. Since November 9th I have learned otherwise.

We are living in different times. The future of our democracy and the future of our republic depends on me. And you. And you. And you. And you. It has always depended on us but I, at least, didn’t have any idea to what extent. I don’t believe I am overstating it to say we are living terrifying times. We cannot assume that our very ideals of freedom, human rights, inclusion, shared power, and political discourse are shared or valued so If those ideals are to continue to define and shape us as a nation it is up to us to make it so.

I am learning new ways to be a good citizen. Being informed is no longer enough. If I want to be a good citizen I must act on the information. What bills are coming before the state and federal legislatures? Where do I stand on them? Who represents me? How do I let them know? I have my state and national representatives’ and senators’ numbers programmed into my phone. Their email addresses are in my contacts. Their snail mail addresses are saved in a doc that I can print out on cardstock. (I use postcards instead of lettered mail because letters have to be vetted for ricin, etc. so postcards get to them more quickly). I demand town hall meetings and then show up. I attend state level committee meetings on issues I support or oppose. This is my new normal. I invite you to find and embrace your new normal.


People wonder if it makes a difference. All those small acts. All that time. The  only things that will make a difference is that we actively participate in our democracy, without ceasing. We had become complacent and complacency is no longer an option. Not everyone has the time to go to meetings during work hours or that are held hours away but if you can, DO. Everyone can work to stay informed. Everyone can commit to vote. Everyone can spend 10-30 minutes a day making their voices heard. And none of us can afford not to be good citizens. The future of the republic depends on us.

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Finding Your Rhythm

images-14Last week I, my sister, and my beloved Harry-the-dog went to the beach. Harry and I took some alone time on an isolated beach near Santa Rosa, Florida. When we reached the shore I let him off the leash and he pounded along the white sands before turning and leaping into the crystal green ocean. He swam out a few feet to catch a small wave that would push him gently back to shore. And then he would do it again. Over and over and over with unremitting joy. We spent the entire afternoon like this, the only exception when he chased shore birds keening overhead with his full-throated bark, tail lashing in delight. The beauty of the sand, the crystal ocean, the keening of birds, the hiss of waves, the warmth of the sun, the joy of my dog friend. It doesn’t get better than this.

But it could be gone too soon. The ocean polluted by plastic and toxic waste. The beaches overtaken by big-money developers paving paradise, the endangered species protected near the shore could become extinct, and only the wealthy could have access to our nation’s natural treasures – if they choose to leave them untouched, if oil rigs don’t malfunction and turn the pristine waters of the Gulf into yet another deadly slick.

These are but a few reasons I will take in all the goodness  of my down time to energize  my commitment to work for a better America and against the self-serving, irrational policies of the current administration.

If I should get tired of marching, I’ll remember Harry romping on the beach.

If I should get tired of making phone calls, writing letters, emails, and postcards, I will recall the public lands that are a part of our legacy as a nation.

If I should get tired of showing up at my representative’s offices to demand representation, I’ll plug into the energy of knowing who we can be, who we have tried to be, and refuse to let go.

I posted on facebook last week that I was a little tired and overwhelmed (already!!) and reminded myself and others of the importance of self-care. I am here to testify today that self-care renews us for the fight. It gives us a rhythm, like the ceaseless rhythm of the waves. The rhythm we need so that we can keep on keeping on for as long as it takes. This is not an either/or proposition. This is how we sustain our actions until we turn the tide. This is how we reset the buttons of our public discourse not only during this challenge to our very institutions of freedom, but for all the years to come. As citizens, we must be vigilant and involved on levels our generation has not seen.

So find your rhythm. Connect with your source. Prepare for the long-haul. We cannot afford to burn out.

 

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