Monday, June 27, 2011


OK, so I'm not, fundamentally, a pep rally type person.  Not for sports...I'd rather play.  Not at GA, either; I'd rather be talking to people, helping out, learning new things.  And only in a few cases, at rallies and demonstrations.  There's a time to take the the streets.    The "planned two years in advance" sort of demonstration that UU's do strike me as tickling our egos more than making change.

But that's just me.  Clearly lots of UU's, especially GA going UU's, like to put on a show of strength and make the local newspaper.   And I'm all for GA 2012 being a major display of yellow shirts.  But it is probably not going to be my kind of GA.

I was warming up to the idea until I went to the pep rally for GA 2012 at this year's GA.  I was actually on stage for most of it, because while I was on sabbatical, my colleague Angela Herrera started an immigration study and action campaign to lead up to GA 2012, and that was being showcased.  It was her honor, but she wanted me along, so went up with her.

And the message I got was that  we are going to go to Arizona next year and tell those Arizonans that their laws are bad, hateful, racist and inhumane.   Apparently we will be working with local partners to do that.  If we are not very careful...not all of the speakers at the pep rally were, the people of Arizona are going feel that we are calling them bad, racist, hateful, and inhumane.    Which will annoy them and make them glad when we go home.  

It was a pep rally, not a program meeting, but from those who spoke and the examples given, and the too-oft repeated words, "racist" and "hatred" make  me guess that my views on immigration, which start with the duty of governments to regulate their populations and labor forces in favor of the needs of their people, and my guesses about the only practical solutions to the complex problems that 200 years of terrible immigration policy have left us with, and my desire to learn so that we can be a part of the solution instead of just carping on other people's solutions....that that's not going to be welcome, possibly not even tolerated.

The  UUA website gives a much broader picture of plans for GA 2012, so it looks like there will be opportunities to learn, hear from experts, and think about the intersection of Social Justice and Faith.   But what I gather from the website and what I heard at the rally were disturbingly different and I'm afraid I'm inclined to imagine that the ethos of the rally will prevail.

Which means that we won't be pondering complexities or solutions as much as we will be railing against people whose solutions we don't like, and that a lot more passion than thoughtfulness, a lot more name-calling than relationship-building will be on tap.  It looks like we'll spend a lot more time feeling good about how good we are than we will be thinking about the sacrifices that we will make if anything like comprehensive immigration reform is ever on the list of political possibilities.

I'm keeping my calendar open and awaiting developments.


LeenKM said...

Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I was at GA (my first) but did not attend the rally because we were visiting family who live in Charlotte at the time. But I did attend several of the multiculturalism themed workshops. And something that came up repeatedly is, that we should not descend on Arizona to tell them how racist they are until we "clean our own house". Clearly, we have much work to do before our UU congregations are truly anti-racist, welcoming and multicultural! Your observations seem to indicate that this is yet another issue on which we UUs tend to presume agreement, but clearly more dialogue is needed! Thanks.

asarsit said...

Thank you for articulating what constitutes my own resistance to this idea since it was presented. It seems we are all missing something here...and you said it..."relationship building".

fausto said...

"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're [citizens of the Beloved Community]. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." --Matthew 5:43-48, "The Message" version by Eugene Peterson

ABT said...

First, the disclosure: I'm serving as part of the accountability team for GA 2012.

As far as I can tell there are very few thinking of GA 2012 as a time when there will be lots of large gatherings of yellow shirts.

Why? Because that is not what is needed, according to the people there in Arizona who invited us. Yes, they are asking us to be public and vocal about why we are there: To support the human rights and dignity of all people.

How will we do that? Some ideas that are in process: Turn the Convention Center into a "People's Place" that serves the needs of the local community. Maybe have health clinics, legal clinics, voting and citizenry registration opportunities, worship, singing, and lots of chances to learn about and be with the people most affected by Arizona's political environment--which is hostile to all "difference," while focusing that around migrants.

Anyway, the people planning know that we can't just swoop in with thousands of yellow shirts and hold demonstrations in the noonday sun. They are working to make GA 2012 a chance to learn about many ways of justice-making, participate in service, events, and LOTS of worship, and then prepare to go home and put new skills into action in our own communities.

Because all of this is so different it's hard to get enough decisions made to have specific details...but it is coming along. I can't say "this and this are definitely happening..." but I can say that I can imagine you, Christine, finding this GA amazingly rich and rewarding.

Sean Dennison
on the Accountability Team for GA 2012 as a member of TRUUsT

Amy said...

Sometimes we can't think of any way to take political action except to go to demonstrations. I agree that it would be counterproductive to just rally, especially if we line ourselves up against Arizonans (my dad is one of the many Arizonans who are appalled by these policies). I trust the planners will be much more creative and constructive than that--and reading Sean's comment, my faith is affirmed.

Kat Sinclair said...

Rev. Robinson,

With all due respect, the laws being created here in Arizona to specifically deny the humanity of undocumented people ARE racist. They are being created by Russell Pearce, a member of the Neo-Nazi party (literally), FAIR (a white supremacist group) and lobbyists from GeoGroup and CCA (private prison corporations). 1070 was the most famous, but we have over thirty laws here designed to oppress Mexicans and Mexican Americans (like a less famous one that says that parents without papers who apply for Medicaid for their citizen children will be reported to ICE). Nothing about these laws were designed to be a "solution" to the immigration problem. They were designed to make money for private prisons and grant Sheriff Arpaio the legal authority to conduct raids. Just the thoughts of a UU Arizonan.

curlykidz said...

I said as much on Twitter, and stand by it today. This is not the time not to call a spade a spade just because it's not comforting to hear it. The argument of legality is weak in the face of our government's hand in the conditions that drive migration.

Let's be honest with ourselves about what this is about. If we were really worried about securing our borders we'd fix our broken immigration system that has created a black market for human smuggling. We'd stop manufacturing weapons to be used in a war being fought over drugs being smuggled into the our country because WE BUY THEM.

This isn't about securing our borders, and Brewer said as much by admitting that they really had no idea if SB1070 was going to reduce border crossings. But the fact that THIRTY of the thirty six legislators that sponsored SB1070 got campaign contributions from the private prison lobby, sure says a lot.

Like Kat, I live in Arizona. This isn't some academic issue for me, and I ask that you keep that in mind if my language and tone seem strong. I have heard abhorrent stereotypes from the mouths of my children as a result of the constant propaganda they are battered with by local media, heard horrible comments from the mouths of their friends. I have seen friends and community members targeted by this legislation. How can I claim to love my neighbor, much less be an ally, if I remain silent while they are unjustly incarcerated, however briefly, and in one case, hospitalized?

In my experience, people who are experiencing discrimination know a lot more about it than those of us who don't. I understand that you, Rev. Robinson, want to solve problems and find solutions, but we can't get there if we're more worried about hurting the feelings of white people by calling legislation what it is (racist) than we are focused on standing up with the communities it targets.

Christine Robinson said...

Just a reminder...I didn't say that there were no racists in Arizona. I said that going to Arizona and calling people racists will not advance the cause of sensible immigration reform or even a kinder, gentler Arizona.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't on the stage or the audience, but I was watching the streaming video. I recall hearing legislation referred to as racist, but I don't recall hearing anyone suggest that UU's come to Arizona and call people racist.

I think that if people come to GA2012 with the idea that they are coming here solely to create a kinder, gentler Arizona, they may not have a full grasp of what's going on throughout the country. There is potential for public witness on an even greater scale than we saw from all over the country (and not just UU's) on July 29 that might make people question the soundbites and headlines they're deluged with. I wear a pin and don't carry ID, which affords me some great opportunities to engage in dialogue with people who are sympathetic towards those trying to make a better life but stuck at "the law is the law." I've seen hearts turned and I know it's possible, so I hope that there will be opportunities for people to be witnesses for social justice. But what I truly hope people come to GA2012 with is an open heart and willingness to learn. I hope they leave with the information and inspiration to go back to their own communities and partner with local community based orginizations to improve conditions for migrants and immigrants alike, and fight similar legislation such as that which as been introdued in UT, FL, AL, GA, etc... written by the same hate group (classified as such by the SPLC) that wrote SB1070.

Porque todos somos Arizona. Because we are all Arizona.