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Reflections, Connections, and Grief: Reactions to the U.S. Presidential Election

ChaliceIn the days following the American Presidential Election, Unitarians and Universalists across Canada were reeling with the reality that had materialized to our South, where hateful, racist rhetoric seems to have resonated with a large segment of the population. Unitarians gathered, both at local congregations and online via Zoom to come together in community and to share the thoughts and emotions stirred up by this divisive event.

The CUC National Voice Team sent a letter of love and support to our Unitarian siblings in the US – you can read it here.

As well, we offer some words, prayers, and ponderings below for your further reflection as the political realities of our world sink in, and we turn to our Unitarian vision for hope and inspiration. The CUC National Voice Team sent a letter of love and support to our Unitarian siblings in the US – you can read it here.

Strategies for Responding to Difficult Circumstances

From Rev. Steven Epperson, Vancouver Unitarian Church

After the election, I invited members of the congregation and friends to meet together Saturday night for a post-election potluck and conversation. Three times as many people as I had anticipated showed up that evening. It was obvious that we needed to gather.

Here are some thoughts borrowed from Bruce Levine that my partner shared with our Stateside families:

Though dark thoughts, feelings and tears are reasonable responses to difficult circumstances and horrible news, there are other strategies we can bring forward:

  • a thoughtful detachment in order to see, understand and to bear witness
  • a dark sense of humor
  • collective resistance & cooperation
  • kindness to fellow sufferers
  • and savor those moments of respite that come by focusing on the beauties of nature, and on our children and grandchildren.

Go well, all the best, Steven Epperson

After the US Election 2016

By Rev. Diane Rollert, Unitarian Church of Montreal

I find myself at a loss for words.
So much ink spilled,
so many characters typed on the screen,
each word feeling like an assault.

Where do I begin to express my pain,
my disappointment,
my shame?
All I can think to do
is pray.
Not a prayer that calls out
to a childish image of God,
but a prayer that wants to start a conversation
with the universe.

Forgive us, for we know not what we do.

I am an American
living on Canadian soil,
far away from my home.
But this is my country now,
a blessing,
a privilege,
a deep wound
that is open and bleeds
for the people I have left behind,
for the world,
for the children who fear
their parents will be taken away,
for the loss of religious freedom,
for the refugees who will find no harbour,
for the sick who will die for lack of care,
for the open season on women’s bodies,
for the racial divide that will only deepen,
for the rise in guns and gay bashing,
for the families who voted for relief
but will find no sustenance,
for this earth that will be forgotten
and left to overheat,
because science has lost out
to showmanship,
for all the things I haven’t included
that will hurt
because I failed to name them.

Oh my mother —
Surely you would be turning in your grave,
if your ashes had not been scattered.
You fought so long
for civil rights,
for workers’ rights,
for women’s rights.
If you could,
you would be crying out
for something better
than this…
…anything but this…

The day before,
you would have been proud
to cast your vote for the first woman.
You would have cried with joy.
And the next day…
the next day…
you would have cried with heartache
to see anger, fear
and hatred
win.

You would have cried with me.

Oh my mother —
Perhaps it’s better you didn’t live
to see this day.
I’m still crying out to you.
Bring me to the place of courage
that enabled you to stand in picket lines
in subzero weather,
your thick lined boots
planted firmly in the snow,
your face
reddened by the cold,
your gaze firm in its resolve
to never give up.

This is what we have,
the courage of the past,
the courage of the present,
the martyrs of the future.
This is what I have,
my faith,
in the worth and dignity
of every person,
in sanctity of this earth,
in the constance of love
even as the winds of hate blow.

I tell myself again and again,
I will not let fear consume me,
I will not let fear consume me…
…but each time it does,
Oh my mother —
I call upon your strength.

I hear your quiet voice reminding me,
Listen to those in pain
and remember,
the march is always long,
but you’ll get there,
if only in your heart.
Then you pass it on.

Oh my mother —
Don’t fail me now.

Amen.

A Bolder Love

By Rev. Shawn Newton, First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto

Much has been made of the many Americans now seriously considering a move north in the wake of the U.S. election. For those who do seek a new life in Canada, they will soon realize we have many problems of our own. They will come to see we have much work to do in order to fulfill our promise as a country—work that is, I believe, all the more important in this changing world.

Commentators in the media have pointed out recently that Canada is moving in the opposite direction from the other major western democracies—on government investment in infrastructure, on immigration, on refugees, on celebrating diversity. A recent article in The Walrus even called Canada “the last country on earth to believe in multiculturalism.” Being singled out in this way presents a vital and powerful opportunity for Canada in this global moment. Now more than ever is an opportunity to lean in to the promise of this country, to make real our commitment to multiculturalism, to nurture the sacred human hope that we can learn to overcome our fears of difference, and, instead, celebrate the unique experience and gifts of every person. To stand on guard for Canada, to my mind, means doing what we can to protect this unprecedented experiment in building human community. It means doing the hard work of reconciliation with the Indigenous Peoples of this land. It means taking steps to ensure the wellbeing of all. It means recognizing we share a common destiny on this planet. It means, in this time of tumult, keeping alive for the rest of the world a compelling model of what a compassionate society can be.

It is, I believe, a happy coincidence that these aspirations are rooted so firmly in the bedrock principles of Unitarianism. As liberal religious communities in Canada, we occupy a privileged place to help our country realize its promise. But we will only be effective in taking up this challenge if we are actively putting our own principles into action. If we are building bridges instead of walls. If we are bringing more love and justice into this world—the one right here, right now—by practising compassion, by working toward greater understanding, by moving hearts (including our own) toward acceptance and encouragement of one another. In short, by doing all we can— to borrow an image from our Universalist heritage—to love the hell out of this world. May we so boldly love.

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