By Bill Mefford
As we thankfully get closer to the end of this truly bizarre election season both campaigns are issuing their final pitch to voters. In what might be the greatest suspension of reality, donald trump is closing his divisive and offensive campaign with an out-of-left-field note of hope. But just as God spoke to Balaam through his donkey in the Old Testament, maybe God can even use donald trump to speak to us.
I know, that’s a stretch, but here is what trump said. “I have a message for all the doubters…America’s future belongs to the dreamers, not the cynics and not the critics." I would of course hasten to edit this and say that the future of not just the U.S. belongs to the dreamers, it is the future of all of creation. Yeah, I finally can agree with donald trump on something: the future belongs to the dreamers.
Now, while trump’s dream involves walls, racial profiling, the objectification of women, systematic discrimination against Muslims, and special tax relief for the very rich (among other horrible “policy” proposals), I think you know the kind of dreams I am talking about here. They are the opposite of donald’s.
Some of the dreamers who hold and shape the future are, well, DREAMers. DREAM Act students have, since 2010 shaped the way we as a country think of the issue of immigration. In 2010, DREAM Act students – undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and who know only the United States as their home – launched a campaign called “Undocumented and Unafraid.” It was during this campaign that DREAMers boldly came out of the shadows and proclaimed themselves to the world as undocumented, refusing to be cowered by the anger and fear being cast on them by a racist society and the state-sponsored terror directed towards all immigrants. Their unflinching courage ignited the immigrants’ rights movement and they haven’t backed down since. The future does indeed belong to them.
The future also belongs to dreamers like the Iowa clergy in 2015. Last January, at the beginning of the congressional term, Iowa Senator and Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley stood on the Senate floor and promised that he would never allow sentencing reform legislation to proceed through his committee. All of us working to end mass incarceration were deeply disappointed and worried that what we were hoping and working for would never happen. But Iowa clergy had other things in mind. Through a clergy sign-on letter, numerous call-in days, an op-ed by Iowa bishops, social media actions directed towards Senator Grassley, in-district meetings with Grassley’s staff, and a conference call between Senator Grassley and the clergy who signed the letter who shared with him why passing sentencing reform legislation was important for the people in their congregations – through all of these coordinated efforts Senator Grassley not only allowed sentencing reform legislation to proceed through his committee, he actually convened a bipartisan group of Senate offices and personally saw to its committee passage. Yes, the future does not belong to the cynics and critics who did not believe Grassley could be moved after he made such a bold prediction. The future belongs to the dreamers.
The future belongs to the dreamers like the activists in Washington State in 2014 who, despite a massive influx of money from the NRA and other organizations who advocate for an unlimited access to guns, put together their own coalition and launched a campaign that saw the first-ever passed referendum by a state’s voters making universal background checks on all gun purchases the law of the state. It was incredible. The future does belong to the dreamers, but the dreams have to be those which benefit all of creation.
One of the reasons why Fig Tree Revolution has come together is because we are a collection of progressive dreamers believing that change can and will happen, but only from the ground up, not top down. We are trainers, activists, farmers, students, pastors, lay people, writers, and yes, dreamers, working alongside those marginalized by the systems and structures of our day – even the institutional church – because we believe that change does not happen from the middle, but from the fringes. Some of us have experienced privilege, all of us have known ostracism in some form. All of us are called to change our local context and our world, and we believe that change can and will happen only as we work together, encouraging one another, learning from one another, and moving together through organic networks so that our local work can have national and international impact.
One of those networks that links us, inspires us, encourages us, and unleashes us is, I hope, Fig Tree Revolution.
So yes, I totally agree with donald trump on one thing: the future belongs to the dreamers. See? God can still speak through unexpected means; God can even speak through an ass.