I consider myself a fairly good and successful lobbyist. The key to any of my success has been to acknowledge and practice the importance of building relationships with allies and with the elected officials on both sides of an issue who are responsible to enact the relevant legislation. Successful advocacy, whether with members of our family, co-workers, members of the public, or elected officials is essentially a matter of establishing mutual respect and trust that makes it possible to work through differences and find common ground. I call this relationality, defined as “the state or condition of being relational.”
I am thinking of relationality this evening because so much is happening these days, both to disrupt but also to build a new frame of relationship that allow and encourage us to work together for the common good. Building relationships, especially across lines of differences, is a goal, not just so we are “nice” to one another, but because we all need respectful relationships in our families, workplaces and in local and national politics so we can work together. I know this may sound like a pretty bland, vanilla concept, but for me relationality is the rock on which I stand socially and politically, and I call upon others to give relationship building the priority of their social, political and spiritual lives, even - or maybe especially- across our differences.
The dynamics of these past two weeks have tested relationships - racial differences, police and protesters, political leadership and public opinion, and the struggle to know what new patterns of relationship we must adopt. We are forcefully compelled as a nation -and each of us individually - to deal with our past and current racism which is the opposite, of course, of respectful relationships. The justified anger, the police violence in the streets, Trump’s instigation of divisiveness, demands for police accountability, and radical demands for both dismantling racism and whole police departments, are all within a context of the need for deep systemic changes of policies and individual ideas and practices that can best come about by building stronger relationships among ourselves and our real or perceived adversaries.
In spite of the chaos, our nation is also experiencing a powerful new dawn of possibility for radical, positive change as we come to grips with the powerful call for change regarding racism (and I would hope we will gain momentum for the demands of attending to climate issues and immigration, among others, as well.) I spent the better part of my morning today listening to a televised national convention sponsored by the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.* I was especially moved by Rev. William Barber’s sermon because he so eloquently led us to an inspired vision of a united nation that honors a new reality that turns from the current plight and neglect of the poor to a nation of reallocated resources and economic justice that serve all our people. Rev. Barber has taken on Martin Luther King Jr.’s prophetic voice and his intentions fifty years ago to launch a Poor People’s Campaign that faltered because of his assassination and the lack of strong leadership, among other reasons. Whether or not such a movement could have been successful back then, the impetus of the Black Lives Matter! and the national demonstrations against racism and police violence gives Rev. Barber’s vision great power and possibility for great changes to begin, at least, to occur, and the election cycle of the coming months will be the platform from which crucial changes in support of a truly more egalitarian, democratic, and just economic system can emerge.
The bottom line is that we are all a relational entity. The moral question is what kind of relationality we choose. Speaking on behalf of myself and other white people, he coming months will continue to challenge us to decide how we deal with wealth disparity, how well we become better aware of our often unintentional and naive forms of “power over” that define the core of racism, and how willing we are, individually and as a nation, to make sacrificial changes and confront our difficult, reluctant release of white privilege.
The combination of the rawness of the violence of racism and the compelling call for a new set of national relationships spoken of by Rev. Barben are a source of encouragement and hope.
n addition to the citation for listening to the Poor People’s Campaign program below, I am also attaching a minute on dismantling racism written out of worship from our Whidbey Island Friends Meeting this past week that I believe worth sharing.
*The pre-recorded program of the PPC will be rebroadcast tomorrow, Sunday, June 21st at 6 pm eastern. Be sure to listen to Rev. Barber’s sermon at the very end of the three hour program.
In case you couldn't participate this morning, join us at 6pm!
TUNE IN AT JUNE2020.ORG