Before you get into reading the blog post, here is VEJ's 2019 Report and 2020 Outlook. If you've been part of us in the past or you're thinking about being part of us in the future, please read it to get a good grasp on what VEJ is all about and how we're doing our work.
As you guessed from the headline, this is a blog post about the year we are about to end and the year we are about to start.
By "we" I mean you and me and us and everyone you know and don't know.
We're all in this together.
President John F. Kennedy said: "In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."
He said these words in a speech about the threat of nuclear war. He called upon his listeners to think twice about their attitudes toward America's enemy: The Soviet Union. President Kennedy dismissed those who held the belief that the Russians were immoral people beyond hope of being any good. He reminded his listeners that it would take the people of the Soviet Union--just as much as it would take the people of the United States--to keep the world from destroying itself with nuclear weapons. In the quote above, he reminded his listeners of the humanity common to both Americans and Soviets.
In sum, Kennedy was saying: We're all in this together.
This morning on the walk to school, my seven-year old told me he was going to play a prank on a girl in his first grade class.
I asked him if she is a friend of his and if this is the kind of thing they do as friends.
He said: "No. She's mean to me."
"So, you're going to be mean back? Is that your plan?" I asked.
He paused for a long time. Then he said, sheepishly: "Dad, she's really beautiful."
I asked him if he ever told her she is pretty. To be honest, as a 44-year old male living and working in the #MeToo world, I wasn't sure this was the right thing to say. But, a dad has to grasp for teachable moments where he can get them.
He said: "No."
Then I asked him: "Daniel, who chooses for you whether you're kind or not kind to someone else? Who makes that choice?"
He started in on an excuse.
I backed up and asked: "Daniel, have you ever given this girl a reason to be mean to you? How do you treat her? How do act whenever she's around?"
He admitted that the girl is a good student who pays attention in class. My son has his share of getting in trouble for cutting up. He's a class clown. I asked Daniel if maybe this girl didn't like him because she was trying to do her schoolwork while he and his buddies were trying to get out of doing theirs.
He admitted that could be the case.
Then I said to him: "Daniel, the only person who can choose how you act and feel and think is you. Nobody can make you choose to be mean to them by being mean to you first. You always have the power to choose friendship and kindness. And, you know what? If you choose to be friendly and kind--even when someone is mean to you--I bet you most people will end up being friends with you. They'll want to help you and support you the way you help and support them."
We've been talking a lot about attitudes and choices lately and I think he kind of got it. We made a plan: He should pay this girl a compliment. Maybe he could tell her he likes the way she does her work in class.
It's a start.
Friends, I'm not going to choose to go along with the meanness in our country and in our world right now. I'm not going to choose to see people who disagree with me or who oppose me as bad people or stupid people.
And that goes for VEJ, too, as long as I'm leading us.
We're going to see people as people. We're going to choose to treat them as human beings who are just as frustrated and hopeful and scared as we may be.
Because it's the right thing to do.
And because climate change is at least as big a threat to humanity as nuclear war. And if you believe President Kennedy when he said it would take Americans and Russians working together to avoid a nuclear apocalypse, then you have to believe it will take people from every walk of life to avoid a climate apocalypse.
So, our 2020 theme at VEJ is going to be We're All In This Together.
VEJ is going to work to create common ground and safe spaces for people to come together from all walks of life. We're going to offer information (training) and inspiration (real-life stories) that show how people from different backgrounds can work together for Earth justice. As the year goes on, we hope to have more nitty-gritty conversations that bring together people who, at first might seem like opponents, but may turn out to be allies in the Earth justice movement.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room. Yes, this direction and this theme are our response to the political climate in the United States.
I'm going to put it in black and white for the record: We are not going to be part of the noise pollution coming from the national elections in 2020. For one, as a 501c3, VEJ can neither campaign for, nor endorse, any political figure, party, or platform. We are an apolitical organization by law.
However, we will not act like the election is not happening. My hunch is that most people in this country will be discouraged, disgusted, exhausted, and feeling a loss of hope. I believe that about people on both sides of the political divide.
So, we want to offer another way. A better way. We want to not only show that it is possible for people to come together for Earth justice, but that some of the best Earth justice work can come from allies who used to think of each other as opponents. We want to give people the know-how, the relationships, and the tools they need to put it into practice in their own communities and lives.
This is what I mean when I call VEJ a "pebble in the pond."
Look, we have a choice to react or respond.
React, and we get more of the same. React, and we ensure that Earth justice will be as elusive as ever as we isolate ourselves more and more.
But if we respond--that is, we lead in compassion, grace, humility, kindness, and love for all--we have a chance. We have a chance to gather around us a plurality of people who are able, ready, and willing to work together for Earth justice.
We're all in this together.
I believe this. Do you?