|Whole Foods workers and supporters try to present petition to management (me on the left)|
On this election day, I feel compelled to write even though – especially though – I have been absent from this blog for too long.
Like everyone else, I have been struggling to get through each day in the pandemic that now seems to stretch out on the long horizon. I have it easier than many; I didn’t have a job to lose though I lost significant income from my investments. But I do have investments so I am fine. I have a spacious house with a garden which has been my salvation. I’ve been able to do some camping and hiking with friends. The weather here in Portland, Oregon has been glorious this fall; that helps a lot.
But the election and the falling leaves leave me with a sense of impending doom. What if…what if…what if. And then I careen to hope that the election will turn out the way I want. And then I settle down into acceptance of what is. As surely the leaves will fall and winter will come, I will adapt and survive the Portland rainy season, and we as a nation will survive whatever comes in the election and its aftermath.
I don’t say that this will be easy; the year certainly hasn’t been easy. We struggle with the pandemic and economic fallout, and just when we thought that was so bad, the wildfires burned our neighbors’ homes and the forest, and the air quality dangerously went off the charts and we couldn’t even go outside at all.
Meanwhile, protests in Portland went on daily, descending into property damage and looting and a shooting death and subsequent police killing of the shooter. And elsewhere black people keep getting killed by police on a regular basis. Now, we gear up for potential violence with the election and days to come.
I decry the violence but wonder why our faith leaders have been so silent. Only one or two have come out publicly and called for nonviolence. They skirt the issue as a “distraction” from the message of police and white nationalist violence.
As a minister steeped in the legacy and methodology of Martin Luther King, Jr., I believe nonviolence is the only way to achieve the kind of world we want. How does it make sense to say that it is wrong for police to kill a black person, but it is OK if someone we don’t like gets shot? How is it OK to destroy property and use violent language if it is for a “good cause?” Yes, these are tactics, and yes, I don’t agree with them.
Speaking of tactics, it is funny for me to look back on how I have adapted to all of this. I had my go-to fantasy man going into the pandemic, but he has taken on a super-hero glow in the pandemic, wise and always willing to listen to my tale of woe. There when I need you baby! Then there are the national pandemic sex symbols who seem to appeal to a lot of women, not just me – Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Fauci. Especially Dr. Fauci. Who knew there was a 79 year old hottie out there who had so much knowledge, wisdom and compassion? And of course he gets death threats and threats of being fired for his trouble, as though he is personally responsible for the pandemic.
But even in the midst of all of this, I have managed to adapt and even grow some. I drink coffee only rarely now; my blood pressure is down without medication. I cook from the Everyday DASH Diet cookbook, getting used to low-sodium dishes and being conscious of the sodium in take-out and packaged foods. I have made little improvements all around the house, and my garden has never looked better, almost weed-free and mulched with manure compost ready for new growth in the spring.
My ministry goes on through Zoom with the occasional socially distanced witness for workers’ rights. In June I went to Yakima, Washington to support striking fruit packing workers, some of whom are now forming a union. Last Saturday I went to the Pearl District Whole Foods store where workers tried to present a signed petition to the store manager, asking for more than one store-mandated shirt to be provided. Whole Foods, owned by Amazon, has mandated that workers wear only these shirts on the job, but is too cheap to provide them with more than one! The store manager told us to wait outside, which we did for 30 minutes with him a no-show. So we went back in. He refused to accept the petition, telling the workers that he would speak to them individually when they were on the clock. Then he chastised us for being inside the store! And so goes the volley of worker-management interactions….
The sun is coming up as I write this and the trees and shrubs are glorious in their shades of yellow, orange and red. We’ll survive whatever comes if we stay connected by love and compassion. That is why I am so grateful for my faith community, friends, family, community organizations, essential workers and level-headed politicians and leaders who are trying to move us toward more justice and equality.
Four years ago my dear friend Jan died the day after the election. That truly was a dark time for me. She’s with me now, along with my dad and my “cloud of witnesses” - deceased loved ones. I am grateful that I never feel totally alone because of them and my connection to spirit. I offer you these words to take courage today, and all the days to come.
Love and blessings, Connie
Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister writes:
In all my years of traveling around the world, one thing has been present in every region, everywhere. One thing has stood out and convinced me of the certain triumph of the great human gamble on equality and justice.
Everywhere there are people who, despite finding themselves mired in periods of national [disruption] or personal marginalization refuse to give up the thought of a better future or give in to the allurements of a deteriorating present. They never lose hope that the values they learned in the best of times or the courage it takes to reclaim their world from the worst of times are worth the commitment of their lives. These people, the best of ourselves, are legion and they are everywhere.
It is the unwavering faith, the open hearts, and the piercing courage of people from every level of every society that carries us through every major social breakdown to the emergence again of the humanization of humanity. In every region, everywhere, they are the unsung but mighty voices of community, high-mindedness, and deep resolve. They are the prophets of each era who prod the rest of the world into seeing newly what it means to be fully alive, personally, nationally, and spiritually. . . .
We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.
- Cesar Chavez
Copyright 2020 Constance B. Yost. All rights reserved.