A Form of Political Protest

We wake up this morning to more dreadful news.  Riots and attacks in Libya, Yeman, Egypt.  Good people dead.  Intolerance and ignorance exploding everywhere.

I am prone, as I have said before, to the droops.  The world gets me down.  Some days more than others, and these days cruelty, selfishness, intolerance, ignorance and self-righteousness abound.  An election year in America is enough to make one want to go back to bed and hide under the covers until it’s all over — and that’s without dreadful things like the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other staffers happening.

People I quite like reveal themselves to have world views diametrically opposed to my own, and apparently many think I am a deluded nut. I find this shocking although I don’t know why I should.  Of course not everyone believes the same thing, but somehow I always think people I like believe, as I do, that one should take care of one’s suffering neighbor, without distinction.  I always think people with whom I’ve become friendly believe, as I do, that there is no such thing as “Us vs Them” — there is just us: a world of people struggling to do we best they can, often in the most difficult of circumstances.  (Which is the theme of my latest novel, OUR DAILY BREAD.) Especially disturbing is when sentiments to the contrary are revealed by those who claim to be people of faith.

Then, too, so much misinformation and propaganda spews forth under the guise of ‘news’ that I’m surprised anyone thinks they really know what’s going on in the world.

Social media does not help me maintain what I occasionally fear is a delusion — that we are in this together and that we really do want the best for each other.  People post things on Facebook and Twitter that make me gasp.  Racially intolerant cartoons.  Religiously intolerant manifestos.  Diatribes of ignorance and narrow-mindedness.

Libyans protesting the violence in Libya.

And yet, amidst the self-serving political rhetoric and the vitriol, every once in a while something happens to confirm my faith in people.  This morning someone sent me a link to photos of Libyans holding signs apologizing to the United States for the attack, and saying this is not representative of their feelings.  These people, many of them women, are taking a risk standing like this in public.  I think they are brave.  I wish more people the world over were as brave. I wonder if I would be.

Sister Simone Campbell waves as she steps off the bus in Ames, Iowa, June 18, 2012 (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

And then, there are “Nuns on the Bus” — a bus filled with Catholic nuns traveling from the Midwest to Washington, D.C. to spotlight social justice issues and protest the House Republican budget.  A producer for Bill Moyers, Andy Fredericks, traveled with them and provided regular updates and videos. You can read more about them by clicking here.

Such things restore my hope.  It’s tempting to let the droops get the best of me, but doing so is not useful, it is not helpful, it contributes nothing.  The epigram to my novel,  THE RADIANT CITY (about a war-scarred journalist in Paris) was something Rector Ernest Hunt once said:  “Cynicism is the last refuge of the broken-hearted.”  If that is so, then optimism, and an insistence on focusing on kindness and compassion and tolerance is perhaps the best form of political protest.

Care to join me, and the Libyans in the photo, and the nuns on the bus?



  1. Linda C. Wisniewski on September 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Take heart, my friend. It may not happen in our lifetime, but … “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one. . . . But from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.” – Theodore Parker, Unitarian minister, 1853, also quoted by Martin Luther King Jr and printed (paraphrased) on a rug in Pres. Obama’s oval office.

    BTW, I’ve decided to act on the belief that it bends toward love as well. And yes, writing is an act of hope.

    • Lauren B. Davis on September 13, 2012 at 2:27 pm

      Agreed, Linda, although judging from some of the responses I’ve had on Twitter . .. well, let’s just say it seems like a REALLY long arc.

      • Susan Ronn on September 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm

        Beautiful essay, as ever. I’ve been so shattered by the hostility, I’ve taken to posting cat videos on FB. Twitter? I just stare at my home page. I can hear the shouting — and I haven’t even joined in yet! I wish those nuns would let me ride with them …

        • Lauren B. Davis on September 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm

          Maybe we should get our own bus. I know a nun, Susan!

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