Thinking about the time I had off in July and August, I can divide it into to two parts: before and after I started worrying about the delta variant surge. As soon as the delta variant started rapidly spreading here, it put a damper on everything. It was becoming clear this would slow the process opening back up (at Emerson and in the wider world), and that we might not ever be fully rid of Covid-19. After more than a year of being cautious about how quickly we would be able to get through the pandemic, By May and June I had finally started to let myself feel optimistic. Now, like so many of us, I have gone back to worrying about Covid, especially those kids, like my daughter, who are returning to school unvaccinated, or those with weakened immune systems. After navigating such a hard year, I wasn’t really prepared to be back here dealing with this again.And then this past week came… the earthquake in Haiti, the Taliban taking over Afghanistan again, and the wildfires burning across the West. We humans now have the technological capacity to learn about all of these crises and tragedies anywhere in the world, but we don’t always have the spiritual capacity to handle the emotional toll that takes on us.
There is so much trauma we are facing now, both individual trauma and collective trauma. We can witness it manifesting in in ourselves and in society, in feelings of sadness, of fear and anger. And that is normal and understandable considering what we have been through and are still going through.
I expect that much of this coming year and beyond will be about processing and working through that trauma. And I’ll have more to say about that from the pulpit September.
But it starts with acknowledging that it is reasonable to feel whatever we are feeling. We have been stretched in ways we could not have anticipated or often cope. And so we need to take care of ourselves. And that begins with treating ourselves with as much warmth and empathy and compassion as we can, and then extending it outward.
Yesterday Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as this country’s next President and Vice President. And I know that many of us are so relieved to have a new president, to not have to follow politics so closely and show up over and over to protest the latest outrage or injustice. But friends, now is not the time to get complacent—there’s too much on the line.
We cannot expect to elect Joe Biden and just hope he’ll be a great president. We need put the kind of pressure on Joe Biden that makes presidents great. If you look at our history: there would be no Lincoln if not for the abolitionists pushing him, no FDR if not for the labor movement pushing him, and no Lyndon Johnson if not for the civil rights movement pushing him.
We face huge challenges in the coming years: the ongoing struggle for racial justice, in the face of resurgent white supremacy; the existential threat of climate change; extreme economic inequality and homelessness; voting rights; militarism; religious bigotry; xenophobia; transphobia; and, of course, this pandemic, which has been especially devastating for Black and brown folks in this country, who are contracting and dying from this virus at greater rates and being hit harder by the economic fallout.
To meet these massive challenges we need a powerful, multi-faceted movement for justice with revolutionary love at its core. And all of us have our part to play in it. So, in the words of Dr. King: “let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world.”
Because all of us are needed.