Link Arms and Sing

November 12, 2016

It’s a hard time for us in America. We’re having a bad dream that we can’t wake up from: Donald Trump and all he stands for is about to take power. We’re scared, disheartened, and angry. We imagine the worst and we may be right. If Trump carries through with what he says he wants to do, and Congress lets him, we can say goodbye to global climate accords, coral reefs, polar bears, the Iran nuclear treaty, eleven million inhabitants of the country, gun control, healthcare, civil rights, and civility itself.

singing1My daughter Aura wrote to me that she wished her children were younger so they wouldn’t understand, but they’ve heard their parents talking and they know something unhealthy is happening. I remember having that feeling of dread when I was my grandchildren’s age, coming home from elementary school and finding my mother shouting at the little TV set where McCarthy’s Un-American Activities Committee was persecuting people who were just like my father and mother. “Are you now or have you ever been a communist?” That man said it over and over. His voice scared me. But I was proud of my parents because they cared so much that people treat each other in a good way.

This has been going on for a long time — the old distrust and fears of our species pouring into the hearts of our children. What dread did the children feel who were born just ten years before me in the war-torn countries of World War II, when they heard their parents whispering about the events swirling around them? It’s the legacy of fear bequeathed to the generations.

So what we can do? What can we do for the children?

There was a phrase we used years ago in nonviolent direct action trainings when things got tense: link arms and sing. Linking arms makes it difficult for those trying to fragment us to do so — in our unity is our strength. And this means more than just physically linking arms. It means recognizing our oneness with each other and even with those trying to overwhelm us and what we stand for. When we act from the spirit of oneness, our actions are always compassionate.

That’s what “singing” means. Not only singing songs, though music always helps, but making sure our voices and our actions express what matters most to us. Sing out our love, sing out what matters to us, sing into the hearts of the oppressors. Jesus did that. Dr. King did that. The woman who put the flower in the barrel of the National Guardsman’s gun did that. The man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square did that.

The bravery of these people was rooted in their love. But while their actions and words were compassionate and non-violent, there was also a fierceness to them. They took a stand. “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights,” is how the song went. My mother shouted at the TV! As a child I felt the power of that, and it, too, made me proud.

When our children witness the strong gentleness of our coming together in oneness, and when they hear our passionate songs, their dread will diminish. They’ll hold our hands and sing too.