Lately, one of the hymns we sing in Unitarian Universalist services has been going through my head: “We are a Gentle, Angry People.”
The lyric from which the title is drawn reminds us to always confront injustice with nonviolent resistance.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have not felt particularly gentle.
I have felt plenty angry, though, incensed by short-sightedness, hubris, obfuscation and willful ignorance. I’m pissed off at people who won’t look past conventional wisdom or take a calculated risk to solve a seemingly intractable problem.
People who should know better. People who are supposed to be on my side.
I feel like I want to go upside some heads with a frying pan. There’s no gentle way to do that.
All this anger I’m experiencing centers on an issue to which I have devoted considerable effort.
I’ve long seen money’s influence on our political system as the root of all evil, or a lot of it, anyway. About three years ago, I decided to start doing something about it when I ran across a link to Wolf-PAC, a national organization that approaches campaign finance reform from an unconventional angle. When I contacted Wolf-PAC, they put me in touch with Get Money Out (GMOM), a Maryland group with whom Wolf-PAC collaborates. I’ve been part of GMOM ever since.
Some Supreme Court decisions of recent years — the most notorious being Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission — have thrown gasoline on the fire of corruption that is engulfing our democracy. The precedents these cases have established leave a constitutional amendment as our only hope of getting meaningful regulation of the raising and spending of money for political purposes.
Amending the U.S. Constitution is (as it should be) a really tall order. It’s going to take a lot of persistence and millions of people-hours. And all those people need to be pulling together. Unfortunately, that’s not happening right now. In fact, one prominent national organization — which shall remain nameless, but with whom Wolf-PAC and GMOM ostensibly share a common cause — is actively sabotaging other organizations working toward the same goal it purports to hold.
This sabotage of our all-volunteer group by an established and esteemed Washington fixture, one which raises millions of dollars annually, is what’s got me madder than a wet hen. Anyone invested in a cause expects to encounter resistance, but not from a supposed ally. And when that ally uses its national platform to undo what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s difficult to not give in to despair and bitterness.
People sometimes turn to their respective religious communities to bask in their own righteousness. Unitarian Universalist congregants sometimes do that too, of course, myself included. It’s a weakness inherent in human nature.
But any UU congregation worth its salt won’t let us get away with that for long. Our fellow congregants and clergy are there to remind us to walk the walk. In our congregational covenant at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia, we explicitly promise to, among other things, “challenge each other to live our values.”
It seems like a paradox, but I think many of us find comfort in the knowledge that our faith will never allow us to become completely comfortable, will always compel us to examine and re-examine our beliefs, our actions, and the interplay between the two.
I can’t stop being angry, nor should I. Anger over injustice propels us toward solutions. But we need to use it constructively. That can be difficult, especially when you’ve got a redhead’s temper, as I do. But I have to wage that inner struggle in order to live my values.
I value making an effort toward a more just and peaceful world. I can’t do that if I’m bound up by cynicism, hopelessness and spite.
I must continue to confront the wrongs in the world in my own small way, and with, in Lincoln’s words, malice toward none and charity for all.
P.S. If you feel you could use a better basic understanding of the money-in-politics issue, check out this video. In under six minutes, it brings the situation into focus in a marvelously engaging way.