Re-gaining my bearings

When I last posted, I was feeling overwhelmed by – well – everything.

I’ve been working on finding some hope amid the chaos, with help from many people and their words.

My friend and spiritual companion Yvonne sent words of wisdom from Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Pat, another spiritual sister, posted a prayer from Julia Seymour. Sister Simone Campbell and NETWORK continue their call for peace and care for all people, especially those on the margins or at risk from violence and deprivation. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Professor Robert Reich continued their progressive statements that “promote the general welfare” as the U.S. Constitution states. I started reading Franciscan Richard Rohr’s Immortal Diamond.

Improvement in family situations has helped, too. My parents have made progress in their continuing recovery from health challenges. Our younger daughter completed orientation for grad school with classes beginning on Monday. Our son-in-law completed his PhD comprehensive exams, despite a computer dying at the worst possible time.

This morning, we sang Benedictine Delores Dufner’s  “Sing a New Church” which begins as a call for Christian unity but expands to envision peace and justice among nations and all peoples. It reminded me that, while many of my values come to me through the Catholic Christian tradition, at their core, they parallel those of all people of good will, whether or not they follow a spiritual practice.

The common thread is to concentrate on and uphold goodness, peace, love, and justice. These are much more common, much more the norm than their opposites. The violent, the intolerant, the exploitative are loud and try to control the conversation and other people, but we must not mistake that they are few in number. Obviously, it is not easy for those of good will around the world to subdue those bent on destruction and abuse of power, but we can and must prevail, each doing our part, however small, in our own lives.

Robert Reich’s “Inequality for All”

Yesterday, I took the opportunity to see the documentary Inequality for All with Robert Reich. (Information and trailer at inequalityforall.com.)

During the film, he is shown a number of times teaching a course on income inequality in the United States at University of California – Berkeley. Reich appears to be a great teacher. I was especially impressed with his ability to make the complexities of the topic understandable not only to his students in the filled-beyond-capacity lecture hall but also to a general movie-going audience who may be lacking in knowledge of economic theory. The documentary also includes the stories of individuals from across the income spectrum, making it easy to relate to your own situation and the conditions in your neighborhood, region, and around the country.

My husband and I graduated from college during the Reagan recession, which features in the income inequality graph as the start of the huge rise of inequality. Our daughters graduated from college in the aftermath of the 2007 meltdown, which was also a peak of income inequality, equalling that of 1928 before the 1929 market collapse. Reich’s graphs and explanations made sense not only as data and analysis but also in our lived experience of the economy and the concerns we have for our extended family’s future.

Like Robert Reich, I am shorter than average. The implications of being short appear throughout the film and are handled with humor and grace – the practicalities of driving a Mini and of carrying his own box to stand on at the lectern so he won’t disappear behind the microphone, his own gentle joking about his height, the visuals of Robert Reich and (the very tall) Alan Simpson hosting a television show together, what it is like to be picked on as a short child by taller classmates, and finding protectors. The most poignant moment in the film for me was Reich telling the story of one of these older friends who helped protect him, who was subsequently tortured and killed while engaging in civil rights activism in the South in the 1960s. Reich’s passion for social justice and for fighting against all forms of inequality are so evident in his decades of work and in his writings; I appreciated hearing him tell the story of the roots of that passion.

Because this is a documentary, it may be more difficult to find a screening, but I would urge people of every economic level to see this film and enter into the discussion of how the current situation intersects with our civic and moral values and our history and what our path forward as a nation and a society should be. Thank you, Robert Reich, for sharing your knowledge, passion, and vision with us!