The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Tuesday, January 11. You can sign-up for these emails here.
Like you, I am overwhelmed with sadness as we try to make sense out of the senseless violence in Tucson. And like you, my head is filled with painful emotions and unanswered questions: What, if anything, will America take away from this tragedy? Might we hope to emerge from this as a country changed for the better?
Many of the headlines have me hopeful:
“An opportunity for nonpartisan groups.”
“Three Steps to a More Civil Congress?”
“Tell us: Have you adjusted your tone?”
It is clear the nation is ready to examine the tone and rhetoric of our political debate, and the consequences of it. And at this moment, we who stand on the side of love are uniquely positioned to drive this discussion.
Now, more than ever, our messages of welcome for all people, respect and inclusion, diversity and community, interfaith dialogue, and equality are being called forth. At this crucial moment in time, we must urge our leaders to join us in committing to respectful discourse.
This campaign remains focused on the exact opposite of vitriol. The events of this last weekend highlight the importance of our message of respect and inclusion. Many people are pointing fingers at political targets, and it is not unreasonable for us to hope that controversial media personalities who capitalize on the language of division will temper their rhetoric.
But if the public discourse in this country is to remain civil, it is essential that our elected leaders use this moment to reflect on the power of their words and actions, and to take concrete steps towards a better frame for political debate. To seek bi-partisanship. To end name-calling. To respect the opinions of those with whom they disagree. And, most importantly, to not scapegoat individuals simply because of who they are, their country of origin, their sexual orientation or gender identity, their religious beliefs or lack thereof.
As your first act of civic engagement in honor of National Standing on the Side of Love Day, thank your congressperson for their public service, and ask them to stand on the side of love by denouncing vitriolic language in the public discourse and committing to a more respectful, cooperative, political climate.
As we prepare for National Standing on the Side of Love Day, February 14th and the days surrounding take on new meaning for us. All too often, Americans fail to see civic engagement as courageous love we should honor. But every citizen is standing on the side of love when they actively participate in political discourse to improve our society, whether they are advocates for justice, precinct captains, poll watchers, congressional staffers, or office holders like Rep. Giffords.
Now more than ever, our communities need to hear our posititive National Standing on the Side of Love Day messages honoring courageous love and unsung heroes.
As we remember and honor the individuals who lost their lives in this tragedy, and pray for Rep. Giffords and other victims of the shooting, let us make sure the calls for civility do not subside.
There is no making sense out of the senseless. But there is always the comfort that comes when we share our messages of peace, hope, and love.
Standing on the Side of Love
On the 3rd day of my high school life the twin towers fell in New York and at 14 years old and I had no idea that that one teacher’s response to that tragedy would shape how I grew and who I grew into. On September 12th in our 4th period class my teacher sat us down and told us she had something important we needed to talk about. She talked to us about religious freedom, and not confusing a religion with a terrorist organization; the importance of not stereotyping or jumping to conclusions, or placing blame.
Ever since that day over 9 years ago I have kept her words in my mind whenever a tragedy of any caliber strikes. Yesterday when I first saw the news that congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been shot my first thought was “I wonder if the blame game has started yet.” It had – people were already all over the internet talking about who had done this and why they had done this and who should be blamed. Giffords was not even at the hospital yet and already people had theories ranging far and wide about the shooter.
I sat at my keyboard and typed out the first thing that came to mind as my facebook status: Now is when we must stand in love and solidarity, and not let ourselves be dragged down by hateful rhetoric.
The hateful words, the want for payback, the mean spiritedness? None of those will do anything positive, or help us be the change, or encourage others to respond with positive and encouraging words. This was a tragedy, yes, and anger is an expected emotion, but when the anger that we are experiencing triumphs over our drive and desire to stand on the side of love with those who have been harmed is when we should stop, observe, and adjust.
Let us join hands with people around the country who were affected by the tragic shootings of January 8th, whether they were directly involved in some way or involved simply in the fact that they are people who hate to see violence and hatred directed at other people. Let us remember that hate speech will never cancel out hate speech, and violence will never cancel out violence. May our love inspire love and our encouragement inspire encouragement and may we see a new day rise where hatred is met, full force, with love.
I think my teacher would agree.More >
Sun Principe is the Social Justice Director at the UU Congregation of Phoenix
The candle light vigil last night at the State Capital was a beautiful event.
Our local UUCP & Valley UU Standing on the Side of Love group was approached repeatedly.
“Hi. Where is your group from?” They asked as we walked around and after we sang.
Cameras flashed at the light blazing from the small altar in front of the Capitol. A photograph of Judge Roll sat among the candles.
A woman dressed in a long black coat walked up to the altar and sang “Ave Maria”.
Strangers met and were gracious to one another.
“There is more love…somewhere…there is more love…somewhere…I’m gonna keep on…till I find it…There is more love…somewhere….”
The soft voices lifted up and into the cool night air. Somehow, so did the spirit of Judge Roll.
Thank you Sir for giving your life to the cause of Justice in our State.
We promise you..there is more love somewhere.
Standing on the Side of Love with you in Phoenix.More >
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Thursday, January 6. You can sign-up for these emails here.
Dan Furmansky is Campaign Manager of the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign.
National Standing on the Side of Love Day is coming up, do you know what your plans are this year? On February 14th, and the days surrounding, we re-imagine Valentine’s Day as a holiday for love and acceptance for everyone. This year we celebrate the unsung heroes in our communities.
We are surrounded by individuals who lead by example and support the most vulnerable and marginalized amongst us every day. This is a wonderful opportunity to uplift their stories.
I am also excited to announce that this year The Fund for UU Social Responsibility has set aside $25,000 to be made available as matching grants of $500-$1,500 to UU congregations participating in the Standing on the Side of Love campaign. If you have a grander idea than your budget allows, these grants can help you recognize the work of a leader in your community. Click here to find out more and apply for a grant for your event: http://www.uua.org/giving/fundingprogram/102184.shtml.
Thanks in advance for making this National Standing on the Side of Love Day and the days surrounding something special that underscores just what our whole movement is about. If you would like, I am glad to talk with you and toss around ideas for your own Standing on the Side of Love Day event recognizing courageous love. Just drop me a line by replying to this email.
Standing on the Side of Love
P.S. In case you missed it, below is the email I sent just before Christmas that provides one example of a personal hero who has demonstrated courageous love.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Standing on the Side of Love Campaign
Subject: Who will you honor for their courageous love?
Last year, Standing on the Side of Love re-imagined Valentine’s Day as National Standing on the Side of Love Day — a holiday of love and acceptance for everyone. Together, we brought our campaign to life, and we found creative ways to stand on the side of love with those who are all too often marginalized as “the other” in society.
National Standing on the Side of Love Day is a chance to uplift others; strengthen and support local partnerships; and join together, in joy and in purpose, with those who support the universal values of love and acceptance for all people.
This coming Valentine’s Day 2011 — our 2nd Annual “National Standing on the Side of Love Day” – the Standing on the Side of Love campaign wants to take the opportunity to recognize the courageous love in our lives and in our communities.
As I sat down to write you this message, an email came through to me from my friend, Steve Melov, letting me know that his mother, Bernice, passed away at the age of 92. I cried upon hearing the news. Bernice was a very special woman, and I adored her. She was also the embodiment of courageous love.
Throughout her 70’s and 80’s, Bernice Melov witnessed, learned, taught and mentored as a national office volunteer for Parents, Friends & Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Later on, Bernice and Steve were super-volunteers at Equality Maryland, the state’s LGBT civil rights group. When I served as Executive Director of the organization, Bernice showed up in the office week after week to help with whatever was most needed.
Every year, Bernice would join us in Annapolis to testify before the Maryland legislature for marriage equality. A 90-year-old woman in a wheelchair is someone who automatically commands the ears of those around her, and Bernice more than deserved the deferential attention. She spoke with great conviction, wisdom, heart, and maternal love.
Bernice Melov was an ordinary person who used her extraordinary power to shine the light on injustice. Through her words and deeds, she reached beyond her immediate circle, and even beyond her own comfort zone, to create societal change. She exemplified the values of inclusion, diversity, community, and equality. This is the courageous love that we should seek to uplift this coming National Standing on the Side of Love Day.
All around us, there are Bernice Melovs who embody courageous love. They fight to bring their same-sex boyfriend or girlfriend to their prom. They risk deportation to come out as undocumented and push for the DREAM Act. They are administrators and teachers who advocate zero tolerance policies around bullying. And they are citizens who actively and passionately engage in poll watching to ensure minority voting rights.
Indeed, the list of unsung heroes who embody courageous love is long.
On Valentine’s Day 2011, Bernice Melov will be at the forefront of my mind, and I will find ways to honor her for her courageous love. This National Standing on the Side of Love Day, who do you want to honor for their courageous love?
Wishing you health, happiness, and bountiful love during this holiday season and New Year,
Standing on the Side of LoveMore >
Positive news from the Magnolia State!
The AP reports that in the 2011-12 school year, Mississippi will become the first state to require that a civil rights/human rights curriculum be taught throughout all grades in its public school systems:
Civil rights is typically a part of social studies programs in the nation’s public schools. State officials believe Mississippi is the first state to require civil rights studies throughout all grades in its public school systems. To ensure civil rights are taught in the schools, the state has made the subject part of an assessment test students must pass for graduation.
“To not know history is to repeat it. And to learn the good things about Mississippi and America and the bad things about Mississippi and America is important for every Mississippian,” [Gov. Haley] Barbour said when asked about the curriculum during an interview with The Associated Press in December.
This is particularly good news coming from a state with a notorious legacy of brutal racism, and the highest proportion of African Americans in the nation.
According to the Jackson Free Press, Susan Glisson, Chair of the Mississippi Civil Rights Education Commission, says the curriculum is designed to be more empowering for students:
“So much of the way civil-rights history has been taught before is based on the “savior” narrative, the idea that some amazing charismatic leader has to come in and help you save your community,” Glisson said.
“That’s just not accurate civil-rights history. The Civil Rights Movement was accomplished by ordinary citizens…we can learn from them how to accomplish social change on our own. That’s what this kind of good teaching will do: show students how they can change their communities for the better.”
Whether the curriculum content connects the dots between other struggles for human rights remains to be seen, but some civil rights leaders are hopeful:
Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, said the curriculum will help students better understand current political issues.
“In many cases, what we see today concerning the treatment of undocumented workers is very reminiscent of the treatment of African Americans during and before the Civil Rights Movement,” Johnson said.
Undoubtedly, the curriculum will be a positive step in helping students understand the history of oppression of African Americans, and the birth of civil rights movements. The curriculum could borrow a lesson or two from the UUA’s anti-racism programs, which dig deep into the power dynamics of racism, and the various ways racism manifests itself.
If the dialogue spurred by the new curriculum promotes understanding of other anti-oppression movements, all the better for immigrants and LGBT people.
Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a network of business groups that favors more legal immigration, has listed Mississippi as one of the states that could pass an Arizona/SB 1070 style law in the coming year.
For LGBT individuals, a friendlier climate is also sorely needed. In 2004, Mississippi voters approved a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage by a vote of 86% to 14% — the largest margin in any state. The state’s sodomy law had to be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, and there is still no state law banning discrimination against LGBT people. In 2010, the whole country took notice when a Mississippi federal court intervened and ruled that school officials violated a lesbian student’s First Amendment rights when it canceled the high school prom rather than let her attend with her girlfriend.
Regardless of how Mississippi’s new civil rights curriculum affects the socio-political climate for immigrants, LGBT people and others in the coming years, Mississippi has taken a tremendous step. Mississippians should be proud of the state’s new educational model, which will hopefully be adopted by other states across the country.