What Will This Fall’s Harvest Be?
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Within the next six months, we will determine the fate of democracy in the United States. This is not hyperbole. If our democracy dies, many people will die too – even more than COVID-19 has already killed. Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) are particularly at risk, many times more so than white people. What we each do now to defeat encroaching authoritarianism and build a more just and sustainable world matters, perhaps more than it ever has.
Lughnasadh, celebrated on August 1, honors the Celtic god Lugh, the Many-Skilled One. It’s a harvest festival, honoring the Earth’s abundance. Lughnasadh is also a time to prepare for the coming winter. Many of us can or freeze fruits, vegetables, and salmon and other meats to feed us in leaner times, when gardens and fields lie fallow and salmon have spawned and died. We also take stock of our ourselves and our communities. What have we learned in the last year, and how can we put that to use? What skills have we developed and strengthened, and how can we offer them to serve all? There is no time to waste.
The latest crises – the COVID pandemic and the anti-racist uprisings led by Black Lives Matter in the wake of recent police murders of George Floyd and other Black people – offer a huge opportunity for long-overdue systemic change. Nothing will go back to the way it was before January. We also face great danger: if Trump manages to get re-elected, or to seize power illegally if he loses, the US government will complete its transition to an authoritarian dictatorship, modeled on Putin’s Russia. How can we meet this moment?
Those of us who are white are undergoing a reckoning with our own, our families’, and our nation’s past and present shameful transgressions against BIPOC. We need to untangle unconscious patterns of dominance, see and tell the truth about oppressive behavior and systems in our families, lineages, and communities, and make a firm commitment, not to perfection, but to concrete action to make significant change happen. We can lean on each other as we do this work, listening to, learning about, and following the leadership of people of color. It’s not their job to teach, reassure, or exonerate us. Expecting that is just racism in a different form.
Inner healing and outer action go hand in hand. One is not meaningful without the other. We each have something important to contribute. There are many different ways to do so that make the best use of your personal skills, match your values and temperament, and accommodate any constraints you may have on time, resources, and physical ability.
If you need inspiration, read Rep. John Lewis’ last opinion piece, published in the New York Times on the day he was laid to rest. As he was dying, he took the time to write to us with power and hope. Here are some of his words:
“[Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.
“Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”
No one of conscience can sit on the sidelines. What do you plan to do before the election on Nov. 3 to save our democracy and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of lives?