I just can’t seem to shake the “queasies.” I just made that word up to describe my lingering feeling this evening that Covid, political disturbance, war, racism, immigration and all our other challenges these days tend to leave me - well, queasy. I won’t go as far as saying they make me nauseous, but the fuller definition of queasy is to be "slightly nervous or worried about something,” and that certainly fits.
Like many of you, perhaps, I began December feeling somewhat confident that the swirl of disturbing events was abating - or at least I wanted to pretend they were. The mid-term elections showed our people could muster positive political will. The House report on the January 6 insurrection provided us with a sterling example that our nation could muster the capacity to seek and name truth after so many years of lies. It was all pretty encouraging.
But here we are in early January. The tensions around the multiple votes for the speaker of the House and the unfortunate drama of it all this past week brought back memories of all those months of political uncertainty during the last presidential election cycle. No matter how many efforts to explain what we saw on our TV screens or read about it, there is really no adequate explanation for the why of it all and what it all means for the next two years of House governance. As much as I would like to envision something positive coming out of the government’s dysfunction, I am unable to do so right now. I had a sense the Biden administration was making progress on a number of fronts, but now that seems sadly blunted.
Add to that the continuing terrible devastation and terror of the war in the Ukraine, the sights of so many hundreds of refugees being held in limbo or rejected at our border, the apparently millions of people with some version of serious Covid in China, and even the chaotic impact of the weather and airline dysfunction that caused the deep disappointments for so many family vacation plans last month are all reminders that our world is still very unsettled and likely to continue to be so. I feel a little like the dog in the image above wondering if and when it will be safe again.
So now I have to once again muster at least a bit of a positive response. First of all, I need to acknowledge my fears and anxieties are justified. I again have to recognize our democracy is threatened, and I am especially concerned for all those who depend on a stable and responsible government for their safety and welfare, especially the poor and marginalized. This isn’t primarily about political dysfunction and uncertainty, then, as it is about whether our government will support or hinder our responsibility to care of each other. And then if our government fails its duty, will we as a compassionate society be able to offer compensatory support in some way?
This coming week we will again commemorate and celebrate one of the high water marks of our American democratic experiment, the life and ministry of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights and peace and justice movement he led through his practice of nonviolence. I know his story well enough to acknowledge he also had his periods of “queasiness” with uncertainty and fatigue as he struggled with the powerful forces of hate and prejudice and the indifference of so many of us initially. His courage and vision, however, his commitment to the poor and racial equality, and especially his courage to offer a prophetic voice that God will not long tolerate the wastefulness of war and neglect of the poor, lives on. MLK’s example, his "nonviolent gene” of a commitment to love even his enemies and dare to dream of the ascendance of “a beloved community" will need to provide the beacon of hope and assurance I am seeking in the coming years and months. I invite you to take time this coming Monday to join me in pondering the profound influence of MLK’s ministry as we continue his struggle for peace and justice and the maintenance of a responsive and responsible government..