the next several months, on issue after issue, let us do what
Americans have always done, and built a better world for our
children and grandchildren.”
George W. Bush, State of the Union address, Feb. 3, 2005
the past few years I managed to watch the State of the Union
address by cooking-baking therapy. The cookies gave me a built-in
chance to get up, leave the room, take a breather and return
while the next batch baked.
Baking won’t be an option tonight.
Right now it’s Tuesday afternoon and the truth is, I’m a little
nervous. I’ve got “The State of Our Values” Organizer’s Toolkit
on my desk in front of me.
Tonight at Grace Lutheran, the church I serve, we’re inviting
concerned citizens in to watch the State of the Union address.
But before President Bush speaks, we’re going take some time
to discuss what we feel are our nation’s most urgent priorities,
the priorities we hope to see President Bush address.
We will watch the address together and afterward discuss what
did—and what did not—get said.
State of Our Values” is the brainchild of Jim Wallis, author
of God’s Politics, and editor of the progressive faith
and political journal, Sojourners. It’s part of a national
grassroots campaign to encourage people to gather together
to listen to the president and discuss whether or not they
feel his administration is addressing the urgent needs of
The cover letter in the Organizer’s Toolkit poses these questions:
“Will the President proclaim his vision for reducing or ending
poverty in our time? Will he advance moral budget priorities?
What about a plan for peace abroad and in our neighborhoods?
What about restoring honest government?”
By the time you read this we’ll know whether or not he did.
But frankly, I don’t think we can look forward to these as
our president’s most pressing action items.
The Organizer’s Toolkit’s cover letter goes on: “As people
of faith who believe in justice and compassion, we must ensure
that our moral values are represented and our prophetic voices
And that’s the whole point of “The State of Our Values.” It’s
mutual support for those of us who feel that the president’s
priorities and the needs of our nation and our world are at
Those of us who believe that need each other’s support. We
need a safe place for conversation, discussion, venting.
Because honestly, these are pretty dark days.
The war, the wiretapping, the grand-standing about “staying
the course”—these are old news items. The new ones include
Tuesday’s confirmation of Samuel Alito as new Supreme Court
justice, replacing Sandra Day O’Connor. It wasn’t surprising
news; it just wasn’t good news.
Then there was Sunday’s story about the Bush administration’s
alleged gag order on James E. Hansen, longtime director of
NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It seems Hansen,
a leading authority on earth’s climate, has been publicly
and ardently speaking out about the danger from heat-trapping
emissions and toxic by- products from burning fossil fuels.
Those scientists whose views fall in with government’s policy
on climate issue are not suffering the same kinds of restrictions
about public speaking as Hansen.
Plus, the House of Representative is faced with a budget that
cuts vital services to children, low-income families, the
elderly and disabled.
I’m a little nervous that when I watch the State of the Union
as part of our “State of Our Values” event, I’ll want awfully
much to be able to go into the kitchen for little baking breaks.
I’ve grown accustomed to being a solo viewer, shuttling between
kitchen and living room, feeling helpless, feeling frustrated,
feeling sad. Some things even fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies
can’t make better, and the Bush administration is one of them.
But this year when I’m watching I will be with a group of
concerned and probably like-minded people. That’s got to make
some kind of a difference in how this whole experience feels.
In fact, that’s got to make some kind of a difference in what
follows after the address, as well.
There’s a great little poem—more of a manifesto—by Marge Piercy
called “The Low Road” about the power of joined minds and
hearts, joined commitments to compassion and justice. In it
Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.
But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army. . .
A dozen make a demonstration,
A hundred fill a hall
A thousand have solidarity and your own
newsletter. . .
And it goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and you know who you mean and each
day you mean one more.