Sunday, November 20, 2011
I'm curious about the protest scene here in DC. Certainly, there are protests often, but most of them are rather small. And because they're so commonplace, they don't seem to make much impact. And until today I hadn't really joined any of the crowds--although we had taken walks by the Occupy campsites and listened in on a few other small rallies.
Last February, we ended up as protest tourists in Madison, Wisconsin. We were stopping through for an event at my old church, and it just happened to be the first weekend of the massive protests at the capitol building. The energy there was amazing. There was so much joy and hope. But there was also a real sense of what was at stake. At church the next day I listened in as groups of teachers, working in several area districts, worried about whether their Unions would go on strike, whether they would follow, and how much they were willing to risk. There was real fear there, too. Folks were noticing that things were changing for the middle class.
I have yet to see that energy at any of the protests we've stopped by around Washington. This afternoon we walked, with our church, over to the White House for an interfaith (turned out to be Muslim, Jewish and Christian) prayer vigil regarding the budget super committee's upcoming deadline. This is big stuff--the cuts made by the committee this week will likely not only take away assistance from needy families right now, in the middle of a recession, but will also change how our country views its relationship to sustaining it's most vulnerable. The vigil was sponsored by the Faithful Budget Campaign, and these folks have been hard at work all summer and fall. Several of the leaders even ended up in jail for taking their prayers inside of the Capitol. Every speaker at the vigil was connected with a national organization that is working for poverty justice. Shoot, that picture up there? That's Dr. Bernice Reagan, of Sweet Honey in the Rock, who stopped by to sing her two cents. Wow. But the crowd was a moderate size--under 200 probably. There were twice as many tourists across the street snapping photos of the White House.
I'm glad we went, but I'm not sure I left with any more hope for the future. I suppose I brought home a reminder of the place of prayer in all of this. Prayer is for the times when the future is uncertain and the world seems set against justice. Prayer helps me remember that no matter the size of the rally, God does notice when people slip through the cracks--and when others work to make the cracks larger. And why bother going to a small vigil? Because knowing that there are a few others out there tonight praying helps, too.