Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Musings of an American Minister After Election Day

We live in a pluralistic society, and therefore we all have different views, values, and philosophies. Diversity, of course, is a good thing! And since we have various opinions, experiences, and desires, we won't all agree on political issues. But the day after an historic election, I believe there are some things upon which we can agree.

History was made!
- Once it was clear that either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama would win their party's nomination, it also became clear that we would have either the first woman or the first African-American ever to head a major party ticket.
- If Senator McCain had won yesterday's election, we would have had the oldest person ever elected to a first term presidency; and we would have had the first woman vice-president. As it is, we had only the second woman vice-presidential candidate offered by a major political party, and the first of that particular party.
So, we knew that history was in the making this election year. No wonder there was so much excitement!

And, regardless which party or candidate we each supported, we can all take enormous pride in the following facts:
- A person of African descent (who spent some of his formative years in Asia and the Pacific), whose father was Kenyan, is now the president-elect of the United States! On January 20th, we will have the most multicultural president in our nation's history.
- Four decades ago, this country was divided on issues of racial equality and civil rights. Schools were then desegregated and progressive legislation was passed, and now, forty-some long years later, our 44th president will be a person of color.

We've come a long way. After a shameful and painful history of slavery, segregation, "Jim Crow," and systemic racism, the majority of voters raised their voices and judged a candidate not by his race or ethnicity, but on his promises, character, and integrity. We chose possibilities over prejudice. I believe our nation has experienced a moment of healing. It's been a long time coming, and there's more to do; but we have made progress.

So, while we long for peace in our world, and while we ache from a troubled economy, we can celebrate that the power of democracy is still very much alive in our midst, and that the divisions which have long troubled us are, in some measure, beginning to heal, or at least the opportunity for healing is very real.

This leads to my next point: So much more healing is needed! In this election, the word "Muslim" was used as an insult, as a word meant to provoke fear, as an attempt to demonize opponents. In a country where we celebrate the freedom of religion, such behavior was an outrage and certainly didn't reflect the "better angels of our nature." More healing is needed.

And whereas Senator McCain last night, and President Bush this morning, were very gracious and congratulatory of our new president-elect, the crowd to which Senator McCain spoke last night occasionally demonstrated less than gracious behavior (including "booing" when the winner of the election was named). More healing is needed.

And finally, this country elected by a wide margin a candidate who has worked hard to speak to issues of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation; and at the same, draconian anti-gay marriage and adoption measures were passed in four states. Liberty and justice for "more" have been achieved; but liberty and justice for "all" have not. More healing is needed.

So, members of all political parties in these UNITED States can be proud and hopeful today. And while we celebrate the hope and the progress that this election year has represented, where neither age, nor gender, nor race could disqualify anyone from the highest office in the land and where record voter turnout assured the on-going strength of our democracy, let us be aware of the healing that our nation and our world still needs. AIDS is still a threat. War continues to plague our planet. Global warming is a real concern. Poverty must be addressed. Universal health-care is becoming a universal value. And homophobia still infects our national consciousness. Let us celebrate our victories, but let us also resolve to remain diligent until religion, gender variance, sexual orientation, immigration status, and all other issues historically used to divide us are no longer barriers to equal opportunity and we can finally live up to our pledge of allegiance to a country that offers "liberty and justice for ALL."

Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

Monday, November 03, 2008

Prayer for Election Day

Reflection by Durrell Watkins
"…in planning your wants, plan that which you are sure will give to you and your fellow [human-beings] the greatest good here on earth." - It Works by RHJ

Tuesday, November 4th is Election Day in the United States. I try to be more "neutral" than is my nature these days when it comes to political matters. Of course, I have my favored candidates, philosophies, and my opinions on the issues. But as a religious leader I must be present to people who have a variety of opinions, views, and passions; and so I try to not be too polarizing by sharing too freely my personal, political views.

That having been said, I also have a responsibility as a citizen to vote my conscience, to encourage others to do the same, and to use whatever influence I may have to oppose injustice and oppression. It's a difficult balancing act, especially for one with a history of activism who remains passionate about many issues.

What I can do just hours before the polls open is encourage everyone who is eligible to vote who hasn't yet voted early to vote on Election Day! If you live in a state where discrimination is on the ballot, I urge you to consider opposing the codification of bigotry. I also urge you to vote your hopes rather than your fears, and to consider such issues as world peace, civil liberties, the environment, and the economy when making your final decisions. I also urge you to let nothing keep you from the polls.

Finally, I offer this prayer for Election Day:

For the workings of democracy, I give thanks.
For the possibilities that are before us, I give thanks.
For the indomitable human spirit and for the power of boundless hope, I give thanks.
For the Wisdom that is available to us, I give thanks.
May we now be motivated by Compassion and guided by Reason as we make our choices and exercise our freedoms.
May we elect competent leaders who will stand up for the rights of all people and who will work for peace, justice, and equality.
May this and every nation experience prosperity.
May the leaders we choose govern with grace and sound judgment.
And may the blessings of liberty, health, and goodwill be experienced within and among all nations. Amen.

Rev. Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.
Sunshine Cathedral
Fort Lauderdale

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hope For Tuesday

I'm no economist. I'm no military strategist. I'm neither a politician nor a diplomat. But I do consider myself in the Hope business! So, I am very concerned when those running for office try to attack the character of their opponents, the "patriotism" or even spirituality of their opponents, or who try to use fear to get votes ("Vote for me and my party or "they" will allow Lex Luthor and Darth Vadar and Cruella DeVil to take over the country, steal Santa Claus from us, and eat all sweet little puppies"). What I want, need, expect from leaders at any level is a message of hope. We need leaders who have hope, who celebrate hope, who inspire hope, and who offer hope. And so, my hope is that on Tuesday, HOPE wins. I hope that only candidates with a message of hope, and a plan to justify hope in the lives of ALL Americans are the ones who win congress, the White House, and state and local offices. We've had enough fear, and it hasn't served us well. We need hope, and I hope those who promote hope will be the ones to lead our country forward. Please vote for hope!