Below is a brief essay contest. The submissions are due by Sunday, September 8th, 2019.
The prize is $10.00 to be donated in your name to your favorite charity.
As ethical concerns should be of interest to all Quakers, here follows a description of the essay request:
On Sunday, August 18, 2019, our Meeting faced a moral dilemma. In 500 words or less, propose a better solution than that which was experienced.
The situation involved the Meeting being held outdoors, on the lawn, with no shade. Chairs were arranged in a circle. At times it was overcast. At other times it was more sunny and it was always very hot. Perhaps a third of the way or so into the Meeting one woman went to her car and came back with four umbrellas. She took one herself and gave another to her partner.
She then put the other two flat on the ground in the center of the circle.
Finally, after several minutes, someone picked up one of the other two umbrellas laying on the ground and gave it to the most senior member of the circle of about 26 people, which included a wide variety of ages, down to a very young infant.
Here's the moral dilemma. For perhaps the final half hour, the last umbrella remained on the ground in the center of the circle when it clearly could have brought welcome shade to any of the members of the circle. If such inaction by Meeting members was not the best approach in this situation, what would have been better? Was the constraint of silence an inhibiter to a better response to the situation? Is caring for the well being of all a drawback sufficient to prevent caring for any one in this case?
I look forward to your written responses.
Post your comments below.
Someone posed a concern in meeting on Sunday about "racial violence" and "what drives people to commit acts of racial violence?"
I studied biology in college and earned a bachelors of science in biology. In one microbiology class the professor talked about germ lines. Cells that are the progenitors of long lines of cells. Maybe you've heard of one very famous stolen line of cells from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. Cells taken from her in the 1950's are still in use today in labs, decades later, studied for cancer research. Her cancer cells just keep reproducing.
We have a germ line in the US no one seriously wants to talk about. Lincoln was shot in the head over it, Johnson normalized terrorism in the south after reconstruction because of it, Nixon used dog whistle politics to win an election over it, and Daniel Patrick Moynehan called it "the Negro problem" in his white paper on poverty in the black community. Today we have a president that has stirred up fear in many and used it overtly for political gain over it.
What is it? You guessed right. Racism.
This nasty undercurrent in our national affairs is not new. We've just never dealt with it. It is our uniquely national disease that will need, like a festered wound, to be opened, treated, and dealt with until it heals. For now it just festers and might threaten our very existence.
In biology, to deal with infection or cancer you can't just kill it. Invariably, in the absence of a strong immune system an infection or cancer will return. A toxic ideology must be treated like an infection or cancer. Yes, it must be treated and stamped out, but it also has to be replaced with a new way of thinking, a better mental construct, an internal compass that steers us away from the germ line of a toxic idea.
I learned recently that there are entire groups that worship the kill ratio of the Las Vegas shooter. They aspire to that kind of thing.
If there was the political will we could run racists out of office, pass gun laws, and round up violent people with guns, but that would just push the whole business underground. For every true racist who will go so far as to kill a person of another race, there are 100 who are secret racists. People who won't say and do overtly racist things, but will tell you about the scum that live in a certain part of town. We need to do more. We need to engage in the kind of national dialog (one that Obama avoided) that will ask the hard questions, open the wounds, and let the festering pus out. Something akin to a National Truth & Reconciliation Commission. One that might last years. One that would address everything from the Jamestown Colony right up to Nazi's in the streets of Charlottesville, VA.
Why would we take the time to convene a truth & reconciliation commission? For the same reasons we held a Constitutional Convention. To form a more perfect union.
The great promises of our constitution: equal under the law ... and ... life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are just hollow words if they are not attached to an experience by the majority of Americans that we actually are equal ... and ... we do have a fair shot at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we don't do this we risk becoming a caricature of democracy. Our fake president will then preside over a fake Bill of Rights and a fake constitution. The great promise of America will be not only go unrealized, but if we don't deal with our past and act soon we will, eventually, witness our own demise.
Liberty is a fragile experiment.
Fear and ignorance are driving all this hate and it has to be brought out in the open where the fear, suspicion, anger, and hurt can be dealt with.
Queries I continue to consider about racism, white power, white privilege and white supremacy are:
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