When Friends pulled the rope on the bell atop Spring Friends Meeting, the ringing convened the Carolina Friends Emergency Consultation on March 25. And its session began with cheers & applause.
That’s because there was a major success to celebrate: the abrupt, inglorious end of the so-called “American Health Care Act” the day before.
Not only that, practically all of the 50-plus Friends and friends of Friends present had been active in the tidal wave of citizen resistance to AHCA, in ways large and small, loud and quiet, public and private; they deserved that big round of applause.
After more than four months of distress, anxiety & even despair over the dangerous turns taken in American public life, this ovation marked the overdue return of an optimistic mood: Resistance can work!
Now to be sure, as was pointed out, fighting the repeal of health care for 24 million people had been like climbing a mountain, an uphill slog on a wilderness path. Finally at the summit, in the clear air after an arduous climb, the exhilaration at the accomplishment was well-earned, yet modulated by the vista it now opened — that of many more mountains waiting to be crested in turn.
Undaunted, we began preparing for the next trek by canvassing the group to identify concerns and issues whose weight they were under. The list was long!
It spread across the front of the meetinghouse, and ranged from the Supreme Court to LGBTQ repression, erosion of public schooling, climate change, and lots more.
Indeed, one of the youngest present, Liam (lower right among the multi-generational team below), also had concerns to ring the bell about:
The session then heard from several resource people, representing a variety of groups and action perspectives, from the ACLU & NAACP & the National Black Justice Coalition, AFSC’s immigration work,
the ongoing peace witness of Quaker House near Fort Bragg, and more. The idea here was to begin to find openings, connections, and other like-minded Friends to join with.
The talk was lively and non-stop, even with breaks. The gathering moved almost seamlessly into broader issue discussion, with resource people as participants, to consider ways to keep moving and build cooperation and momentum.
The Consultation was not aimed at producing resolutions or a new organization, but to assist in encouraging and facilitating cooperation for continued resistance. Encouragement also seemed in plentiful supply, and we closed with some music, from Scott Holmes, who doubles as an aggressive lawyer fighting mass incarceration when he’s not writing songs. He’d written a new resistance song just for us.
Perhaps this model of locally-driven multi-issue and multi-group consultations would be of use to other Meetings. It is neither expensive nor complicated, and the organizing was done by a small cadre of volunteers, using social media as the main means of promotion.
And one of its most welcome outcomes, as these photos show, was a lift in spirits. We’ll all need more of those; there’s still much to ring the resistance bell about.