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The Shining Light of Hope


We live in a moment of the shining light of hope.

Joe Biden has taken over the White House. Kamala Harris has shattered the glass ceiling. Vaccines are beginning their work on COVD 19. Indigenous people are being heard. Black Lives Matter. Amanda Gorman has spoken. A new world is on the move.

We breathe a great sigh of relief. It is not the “normal” we have known, but a new sense of the rightness of things sweeps over us. Our spirits are enlivened, and the hovering darkness of despair disappears into the shadows.

However, let us not too quickly simply bask in the glory of the moment. We have been through an horrendous time and the world is now a very different place. The stark reality of a humanity- destroying anti-democratic dictatorship has spread from far distant countries to our own doorstep. The full power of a narcissistic despot has raged through the un-United States and spread its tentacles throughout the world: anti-truth, anti- fact. anti-science. “It is certain that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” (James Baldwin) We have experienced that in Trump.

Then we were struck by a pandemic beyond anything we have known for a hundred years. None of the small and large gatherings that are the breath of life can happen. Weddings, funerals, concerts, sports have all been on hold. Virtual is good but there is a special power in gathering together for notable events. Their absence leaves us bereft and alone. Two of my close friends died in recent days. One remembrance would have been a grand communion of church folk. The other would draw together the people of Tatamagouche Centre. There would have been great nourishment on these occasions of celebration and grief.

We liked to think that we are all in this together. And we are. It is a worldwide universal problem. But some are much more in danger than others. If you are black, or indigenous, any minority, or in a third-world country, your danger of catching, and dying, from the virus is much much higher than for those who are middle-class or upper class whites.

The depth of the centuries-long hatred of blacks and other minorities is becoming more and more exposed. We see it clearly in the United States but it is a reality in Truro and Canada and everywhere else. Hatred, discrimination, dehumanizing is a persistent reality. Where there has been slavery, torture and murder for generations it becomes embedded in the psyche of a people. It is the way life is. Maintaining it that way provides identity and meaning. Some will defend it at all costs.           

I’ve been losing sleep again, listening to “Ideas” in the middle of the night. One night recently they were talking about James Baldwin’s 1963 deep probing of American history and present reality in The Fire Next Time. I remember the book. I may even have read it. He exposes the hate and cruelty experienced by blacks at the hands of whites. What was true then is as true today. Trump has been the symbol for all those who want to cling to a patriarchal, sexist, racist, superior-feeling, black hating, soul destroying society. Many find their security in this belief. The divide from those who are open to human goodness and change is nearly absolute. There can be no real communication between the factions.

Yet there must be if we are to survive. Otherwise it is The Fire Next Time.

“The only way a nation can change is to face its own reality.” (Baldwin.) That’s what Trump avoided with all the power and symbolism he wielded. And it is true for every individual or organization of any kind. The church is becoming aware of its own dark side. Baldwin again. “Christianity has acted with appalling superiority and cruelty.” Indeed, “The price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.”

But awareness does not guarantee action. Most of us have gone quietly on saying how terrible it is and doing nothing. We (I) am all too comfortable in our (my) innocence and ignorance of the grim reality of the life of those oppressed. But the move is on. The age of innocence is over. The new world struggling to be born requires that we face our individual and collective ugly side and grow as a result.

We must forever broaden the basic goodness that lies within us and within all. We must learn to live without enemies, without anyone or group to blame for all that is not well in our lives. Love must reign.

We live in a moment of shining hope. Use it well.

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