To the young people from an elder who never gave up

By Peter Childs

I went to the “March For Our Lives” in Arcata yesterday and it was one of the most hopeful things I’ve seen in some time.  Here are a few thoughts that are in my mind as a result:

I am one of the elders (of whom there were many at that gathering) who did NOT sit by or actively participate in the steady worsening of nearly every important activity in human affairs over the past half century.  We watched in horror as this nation steadily devolved into a caricature of the “shining city on a hill” that we were taught it could and should be.  We worked hard to do what we could to stop the ruin of our democracy, our society, our standing in international affairs, and our environment and believe me, it’s been an uphill fight.

Nearly impossible as it is to wrap our heads around, things have been allowed to deteriorate to the point where the task in hand is not just (!) to keep our schools safe from weekly bloodbaths; it is literally to save the world.  Human affairs have been brought to the point where, unless we wake up and devote ourselves to doing what must be done, life as we know it will soon no longer be possible on our planet (for just one of nearly infinite examples, the U.N. recently reported that at present rates of depletion the world’s topsoil will be GONE IN SIXTY YEARS; think about that).

So what is it that “must be done”?  How can we possibly deal with such an overwhelming complex of problems?  I don’t know.  I can’t say whether or not there is still enough time to get this boat to shore before we go over the waterfall, but we certainly have to try; we have to assume that we have time.  Here are a few ideas that half a century of activism suggests to me:

  1. Work together with an understanding of the common interest that unites us (starting now with simple survival).   And when I say ‘together” I mean with an inclusivity that takes in all of us; every one of us, even the worst malefactors.  We don’t hate the infant for burning down the house if we gave it the matches to play with (which is exactly what we’ve done with our elected representatives) but now we must take the matches away and elect real adults instead of infants.   When they got their act together, the little Lilliputians found that they had the power to tie up big Gulliver, and so do we.
  2. Work with love as the most important standard by which to judge our actions.   Love is invisible but very real, just like electricity.  There is no more powerful reality than love; it is at the very heart of That Which Created All Things.  We can hate the deed (outrage is perfectly appropriate in outrageous circumstances) but we must hold love in our hearts for the doer of the deed; we are all in this thing together and we share a common destiny (the actual journey that we’re on is infinitely larger and more wonderful than what is contained between the parentheses of birth and death in a human body).  Donald Trump, for one glaring example, is really just a lost little boy, desperately searching for the love that he never got (read his family history).  Love the infant but guard the matches, and provide a healthy environment for the infant to grow.
  3. Never give up.  Never, no matter what.  It’s too easy to give in to despair when things get this bad. Right is right and Wrong is wrong; we know that it is wrong to let our democracy, our economy, our environment, or human affairs in general be ruined by ignorant hands that grasp power and then abuse that power so dreadfully.  But we must remember; when you get right down to it, it’s our fault.  We granted them that power; now we must take it away.  Never mind that they control the Administration, Congress, and the Courts (just think “Citizens United”); never mind the fact that most of the media blandly accept their doings; never mind the fact that we’re now so close to the waterfall that it may not be possible to reach the shore (I once had a dream that we actually did go right off that waterfall; we immediately turned into birds and flew joyously away).  Never mind anything that would turn us from the path that we know we must follow; just follow the path.  Together.  In Love.
  4. We must stay awake.  We must link arms and fill the streets.  We must do everything we can think of within the basic parameters of non-violence and love, and we must pour it on.  We must not stop until we have actually drained the swamp, because if and when we do that, we will find that we have opened the door to a whole new and wonderful world.   Dear young people, I pray that when you reach my age you and your then-young people will look out upon that world.
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