Monday, November 14, 2016

Our pain will be far less than their pain

At the end of last week and through the weekend I got a few emails inviting me to an event today. After a busy weekend I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go.

That busy weekend included the opera I saw on Saturday and a Trumpet Summit concert by Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings. It featured compositions for up to 8 trumpets. On some pieces a few trumpeters sat out and we heard a brass quintet or a couple trumpets and organ. There was also a tympanist on a couple pieces. All that noise in a lofty stone church made for a glorious concert.

Back to today’s event. It was a press conference called by Michigan United. Their banners say such things as “Justice and Dignity for All” and “Put People and Planet First.” The emails I received were from my church friends because the event was held at Central United Methodist Church, at Grand Circus Park in downtown Detroit. This church has a long history of civil rights activism. The welcoming pastor told us that Martin Luther King spoke from the pulpit two weeks before being murdered. In addition, Rev. Ed Rowe, Pastor Emeritus of Central and Co-Chair of the Detroit chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, has linked up with Michigan United.

I took my notebook intending to take notes of what was said. But as we got started, Ryan Bates, head of Michigan United said democracy is not a spectator sport and called us up to the front for pictures. Well, kinda. We were to serve as backdrop for the speakers while the TV cameras rolled.

Because I didn’t take notes I don’t have a list of the organizations or individual speakers that took part. Bates was the first speaker. He said the purpose of the press conference was to show that a variety of organizations and clergy were opposed to Trump’s policies. His son, now four months old was born prematurely. Under Obamacare that is no longer considered a pre-existing condition, a reason to deny health insurance. And when Obamacare is repealed?

The next speaker, who I think is Latina, spoke of an incident at her daughter’s school in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit. Students in the cafeteria started chanting, “Build the Wall!” The chant grew in volume and participants. The daughter caught part of it on her phone and sent it to her mother. Both are scared. The daughter is now facing harassment for her part in publicizing the event. Or maybe because she is Latina.

Some of the other speakers: An undocumented gay man is the head (I think) of an organization that provides legal help to those facing deportations. A Muslim woman is part of an Arab organization providing similar services. The local vice president of the United Auto Workers said we cannot respond to hate with hate. Our response is love.

Rev. Ed Rowe, of course, spoke. He explained that we had racism all bottled up. Then Trump shook the bottle and popped the cork. Now we have an opportunity to not just bottle up racism, but to deal with it. That got me thinking that perhaps my church, which is multiracial, perhaps should study and then teach others about racism.

Rowe called for a return to offering sanctuary to those who need it. He reminded us that when we impose ourselves between those who need sanctuary and their oppressors we might get hurt in some way. But our pain will be far less than what is endured by those seeking sanctuary.

The last speaker was a local Imam. Yes, that united. The whole event was about 50 minutes with TV cameras running the whole time. There was at least Channel 7 and Channel 2 (the local Fox affiliate). I talked to another attendee who said he wondered how the stations would condense a 50 minute event into a 3 minute news spot. I said that if they cover it at all is good. Just knowing such an event happened is important.

In addition to the TV stations the event was recorded by Wayne State University (I don’t know whether students or staff). That should be publicly available in a few days. The Michigan United site included a link to a tweet that has a picture of the event. I’m not in the frame.

Shortly after I got there another social justice United Methodist asked me if I knew the new significance of the safety pin. I said I had seen a bit of it, but didn’t know what it was about. He told me that people, especially white people, are wearing safety pins as a way of saying to those who aren’t white or Christian that when you approach us you will be safe.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go because I still feel a bit overwhelmed with taking care of Dad’s house and preparing it for sale. But the nasty guy forced the issue. If I’m to respond to him I need to do it as part of a group. And it looks like I can lend my voice to this group. I don’t yet know frequent their events will be and how many I will be able to attend.

With me in the background I feel like I’m committed. If the national situation does get really bad this is evidence I’ve attended at least one protest of the nasty guy.

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