Last night I heard the sad news: Ruth Bader Ginsburg—aka The Notorious R.B.G.—had died.
The first movement of my heart was shock and grief at the loss of a truly great human being. She fought the good fight for basic human rights for all, and was loved by people ranging from Antonin Scalia to Black rap artists. But my grief was quickly replaced by political calculations that drowned out my instinctive human response.
Then a voice rose up saying, “No! Stop. Return to the first movement of your heart and feel the deep humanity of this moment. There will be time for politics, but the seeds of salvation are found in allowing yourself to be purely human at a time when that’s what matters most. Allow your heart to break, and it will break open, not apart. If you don’t, you’ll become part of the problem.”
Now, twelve hours later, I’m grateful for that voice. The collapse of respect—even respect for death—is one of the underlying illnesses of American culture. Yes, the nearly 200,000 American deaths from COVID-19 have political implications. But first and foremost, each of them is a human loss, deeply and forever felt by family members and friends. That truth must come first, before we turn to the politics, or we will have lost all that truly matters, all chance of crafting a politics worthy of the human spirit.
[Excerpts from a statement (and not guilty plea) from one of those found guilty today and sentenced to a week in jail by the Supreme Court of BC as a result of his stand in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples resisting the Trans Mountain Pipeline]:
We were invited as people of prayer to join those who were lifting their hearts in ceremony on the frontlines. We were invited to ponder, in that contested space, what our commitments to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action mean — including Call #49 (the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery) and Call #48 (the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ). But we were also invited to act; to stand up in solidarity and support the peaceable struggle against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline through untreatied Tsleil-Waututh lands and waters.
And so I did.
I chose to act because at the center of the Christian faith lies the conviction that the Creator suffers with the oppressed; that God takes sides with the victims over-against the dominant powers; and that the people who see the issues of our day most clearly are those pushed to the sociopolitical margins.
I chose to act because my church has publicly rejected the legal fictions of Discovery and together with communities of faith across these lands, has committed itself to “a new relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, based on sharing, respect and the recognition of rights and responsibilities.”
– Steve Heinrichs, director of Indigenous-Settler Relations for Mennonite Church Canada. Click here
for complete statement including footnotes for the above.