Taking a Knee, Keeping Hope Alive

Issue 230

Reverend Billy Talen Nov 21, 2017

Dear Reverend Billy,

I can’t believe it’s been one year since Trump was elected. It feels like we fell through a collective wormhole into an alternate universe. The Women’s March in January was very encouraging, but since then the resistance seems to have petered out — at least it doesn’t feel like it has the same momentum it did in the beginning. Do you have any shreds of hope to offer?

— Burt, Greenpoint

Well, Burt, the date on your letter precedes the November 7 elections, the triumph of Jenny Durkan, an out lesbian, in the Seattle mayor’s race and of Danica Roem, a transgender person, who was elected to the House of Delegates in Virginia. Ravinder Bhalla is now the Sikh mayor of Hoboken.  Andrea Jenkins, the Minneapolis City Council-bound winner, is the first black transgender woman elected to public office in the United States. Maybe she can get the killer of Philando Castile into prison.

Point is: Many of the get-out-the-voters in this revolution attended their local Women’s March. They got the lesson taught by the millions of people with hand-made pussy caps on that January day: the future is all of us and the future is now.

These wins are a glorious first step, but the trouble is that they are Democrats. That party has a crisis going on. Is it the party of Wall Street bankers or is it the party of all of us? The big banks are financing climate change, gentrification and war. With your impatience, Burt, you’re saying that “the resistance seems to have petered out” just as this new generation is beginning to etch its way into office. It won’t be so easy to kick the offshore 1 percenters out of their posts, but this year’s elections were a start. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work, because we have a long way to go.

— Rev. Billy


Dear Reverend Billy,

My son took a knee the other day before his middle school basketball game. Personally, I don’t even know why they play the anthem to begin with but I’m a little bit concerned about the way some of the other parents reacted. Some of them actually scolded my son in front of me and I was more than a tad peeved that the coach didn’t stand up for my child. My son loves basketball and all his friends are on the team, but I’m concerned for his mental wellbeing. I saw that you took a knee at a protest at Trump Tower and thought you might have a suggestion.

— Shantel, Long Island 

Dear Shantel,

First of all, congratulations to your son. Did he take the knee all by himself? This bodes well for his future — he’s got what it takes! You raised him well, but then you seem to be saying in your letter that you needed the coach to defend your boy and that you couldn’t do it yourself.

Talk to the right-wingers. Look them in the eye. Your son is doing the patriotic thing. We need peaceful police at home and we must stop fighting racist wars abroad. Express yourself! That is how we show respect for our country!

When I took the knee with the Stop Shopping Choir at Trump Tower’s front door, we witnessed the guards — with body armor, machine guns and dogs — step to the side and let us face the building directly. We thanked them after our ritual, because they respected that we were Americans expressing ourselves, as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. This is the right that my father, now in his 90s, fought for when he put himself in harm’s way in WWII.  And in 2017, we are strengthening our rights every time that we use them to speak up or take the knee. 

— Rev. Billy


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