Monday, September 7, 2009

Sowing in Tears...Reflections on Van Jones' Resignation

Van Jones, who resigned as Special Advisor on Green Jobs over questions about past political involvements and his choice of vocabulary in describing Republicans, is the latest victim of what Beau Friedlander calls partison politics' policy of "mutually assured distraction"--where the welfare of the nation takes a back seat to the project of scoring cheap political points at any cost.

Jones wrote in his resignation letter:

On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide. I have been inundated with calls -- from across the political spectrum -- urging me to 'stay and fight.' But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future.

If the worst that has been told is to be believed about Jones' background, then he was at one time a "communist" and has made common cause with Maoists. But for several years he has been promoting constructive eco-friendly business initiatives and jobs programs that employ low-income people of various racial backgrounds to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels--arguably a practical step toward defusing one of the greatest factors leading to war and terrorism and instability in our world. So then, if indeed the darkest possible spin on his past is true, then it is a story of transition from ways of fighting injustice that give inordinate place to a natural and inevitable rage, to an older and wiser approach centered around win-win constructive engagement. Precisely if that is the case, then it is a story that should be celebrated, about a person to whom we should be listening.

But his assailants in conservative media--straight white males who have never seen life through lenses other than those of a complacent dominant culture--are selling a very different story, a story that contains two morals that could prove exceedingly poisonous for our nation and planet:

1) Nothing ever justified the rage, because everything is really OK.

2) Overcoming evil through persevering love is a strategy that doesn't work.

The same message lay at the root of conservative outrage over Sonia Sotomayor's having dared suggest that life experience as a Latina woman might make her more sensitive to the reality of injustice--an observation that I think has obvious validity. I think it is important to stress at this time that, while they may have won one battle (toppling Jones) and lost another (blocking Sotomayor), the venom of the underlying narrative must not be allowed to seep into hearts and minds and kill the spirit of those who would seek justice in love.

Conservative media organizations are after ratings, as conservative politicians seek to win the next elections--neither seem to care about the dangerous long-term backlash their actions could provoke, as they seek these short-term goals through cheap shots, instead of promoting healthy and substantive national dialogue over policies. Let us hope that defeats of worthy opportunities for constructive change in the Obama era do not lead people to give up on nonviolent win-win strategies, and turn to the despair and futility of violence.

And here is where I believe that Jesus and his death and resurrection--if understood in the context of the remarkably similar 1st Century political and social conflicts in which the story was originally told, and not in the moulded-to-white-suburban-ideology way it gets told today--give hope and strength to carry on....

"Human anger does not produce the kind of justice that God is after." (James 1:20)

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with love." (Romans 12:21)

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

"Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:3)

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy." (Psalm 126:5)

The grace Jones demonstrated in his resignation letter, and his willingness to put personal political advancement aside, suggest that he has no intention of giving up fighting the good fight of love.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Very well said Steve. I agree with your sentiments 100%.