December 2016: "We have a duty to win..."
“We have a duty to win…”
These words from Assata Shakur have been on my mind lately. We may be called to resist in the weeks and months ahead, just as we may be called both to listen and to speak up. But above all, I believe we have a duty to win – not just in the partisan sense of our side winning and the other side losing; I believe we have a duty to succeed in bringing our nation back to its core aspirational values of liberty and justice for all, and building a greater “We the People” that includes and values all of us.
To my mind, this is not just the message, but also the strategy for winning. Throughout history – from civil rights to marriage equality and many times before and since – the most successful movements have been not just those that have the right message, but those that succeed in building the power to implement that message by bringing more and more people from diverse backgrounds together.
For example, the North Carolina Moral Monday movement has been successful, not just because it has an astute historical analysis or a clear, values-based agenda – though it has both of those – but because it has built an intersectional coalition among poor whites and people of color, among people of faith and non-religious people of conscience, among activists and everyday parents, teachers, and workers. And the power of the movement is not just that it shows up Monday after Monday, but that it brings more and more people in every time it does.
In the same way, the upcoming and ongoing protests present a challenge and an opportunity: to not just show up, take a stand and go home, but to connect and enlist more and more people in the long-term cause of rebuilding our democracy. In other words, to organize.
So I would encourage everyone to get into the habit of engaging others in conversations about what you care about and why you feel called to act, and inviting them to join you in taking action. Some of us started to do this with the Sept 12 Moral Day of Action in Springfield, inviting others to join us for the first time.
And when you do show up, particularly for extended journeys like the upcoming Women’s March on Washington, make sure you come back with contact information for at least one person you didn’t already know – or better yet, five or ten people – and invite them to join (or create) a local coalition (everyone is welcome to join the UUANI email list or Facebook page and we’ll work to connect you locally), building a stronger and more organized movement so that we can keep on taking action in the communities where we live.
Sometimes elections are opportunities for engaging and organizing lots of people. Millions of people got involved in 2008 who had never been involved before (though unfortunately most of us didn’t stay involved after the election). This time we have a momentous opportunity to organize after the election; everywhere I go around the state I hear people wanting to step up and engage in ways they never have before.
The upcoming Women’s Marches are a tremendous opportunity to build a stronger movement for the long haul. Because it is for the long haul, not just for a day, that we have a duty to win. People’s lives and well-being, the well-being of our democracy, and the well-being of our planet, are depending on it.