“Just as there is a so-called art of waging war, there is also an art of waging peace. We need to declare peace now, with as much serious effort and intention as that with which a nation declares war.” – Marianne Williamson
The quote above comes from the book ” Healing the Soul of America ” by Marianne Williamson, which Betsy recently recommended to me. It was one of those moments in life that something is given to you at exactly the right moment. Personal tragedy and other instances of life’s unpredictability had severely distracted me from the civic duty that I had been an active participant in for most of my life. I could feel tensions rising around me in family and friend circles, I could see it happening in news headlines and my social media feeds and I could hear the clipped voices of people I loved and I knew loved each other discuss our current political and social climate, quickly followed by a verbal or unspoken rule to never speak of politics again. We hear it all the time now when visiting family or friends – “Whatever you do, don’t talk religion or politics!”
In this book, Williamson takes the fear out of these interactions, injects love into politics, encourages action as American citizens from all backgrounds and political stripes to engage in our democracy by focusing on fixing specific issues and systems rather than demonizing each other and the individuals involved. She writes, “We cannot be instruments of peace if we ourselves are full of emotional violence. We must resist injustice and criticize how systems operate, without personally attacking individuals within it. We will not achieve any higher-minded political goals until we transform the political process, and we cannot transform the political process without transforming ourselves.”
We need to find a way that is not right, not left, but forward together. We will never all agree, we all have our own perspectives based on our life experiences and what influences us each day. What we can do as citizens is go back to the basics, take a close look at our founding principles, ask tough questions and have conversations in environments that are facilitated specifically to make sure all voices are heard, all opinions listened to and all of this be done in a respectful and non-violent manner. This is what democracy is — it’s a good thang that there can exist explicit differences in opinion, that we can all share our perspective, and have the right to do so.
I was needing a way to re-engage in civic action, after working on myself and getting through some emotional upheaval in life. I am and was hungry for a safe place to roll up my sleeves again and bring together people of all perspectives, for I feel my strength is in coaching and facilitating. I’m lucky enough to now work at JRPC, where I have the opportunity to learn from the best – Betsy! – and to be given opportunities to work with the community on tough issues around peace and justice. With that being said, one of these opportunities I hope will involve you…this coming week!
We ask you to join us at JRPC this Monday evening, February 11th, at 5:30 pm for a community discussion inspired by this book and with a theme of the same name: “Healing the Soul of America”. We hope you will help to inject some love into the community by starting off Valentine’s Day week with this gathering. Champagne (or tea!) and fair trade chocolate will be served. Facilitated discussion around some pointed and tough questions about our role as American citizens will be the focus. We hope to see you there.
With love, Jenny Zaso, Director of Development and Outreach
P.S. You don’t need to have read the book to attend, but we do have copies!