Last week was full of political engagement. Not the public, in your face activism of my former years, but the quieter activism of my later years. On Tuesday, I met with my Member of Parliament and discussed several areas of mutual concern regarding the future of Canada and the need to attend to the voices of those who are marginalized within our nation, including the warning cries emanating from our fragile ecosystems. The next day I mailed off letters to the Prime Minister, the leaders of the opposition parties, and other parliamentarians outlining my hope that the Federal Government would decide not to go ahead with the Northern Gateway Pipeline despite the Environmental Review Panel’s endorsement of it if 209 pre-conditions are met. In my mind, the risks of shipping oil down the British Columbian Coast, through treacherous and turbulent oceanic waters, is simply too great to offset the economic benefits. Then, on Thursday, I spend the entire day participating in a symposium at the Center for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. Topics covered during the symposium included: the Indian Residential Schools, the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act, the Japanese Canadian Internment during WWII, the Social and Legal Exclusion of LGBTQ Canadians, the Komagatu Maru Incident, and the Canadian treatment of Jewish Holocaust Refugees. Each and every one of these events of Canadian history needs to be more fully heard, understood, and reconciled within our national consciousness if we are to continue to build a society free of racism, discrimination and injustice. The most memorable line that I heard from the day was “we need to move towards the place where our history no longer invades our present but informs our future”. Finally, throughout the week I spent time walking and praying over these moments of engagement, trying to stay attentive and focused to each so that my engagement might serve to bring about the greater ‘good’ that seeks to live in our world.
Yes, these are some of the ways of quiet political engagement. They are very different from the loud and public displays of engagement of my youth. The days of protest, picketing, and denouncing have given away to speaking, writing, and organizing. Quiet and loud engagements are both legitimate ways. Neither is better than the other. Knowing when to use quiet engagement and when to use loud engagement requires knowing what is appropriate for the issue at hand and for the times. And, of course, part of this is recognizing the limits of my own energy as well as my gifts. As I grow older, I have a little better appreciation of both my gifts and my limits. I think now I am a little bit slower in my engagement than I was years ago. But, I don’t think I’m any less effective. In fact, I think now I am a little more focused and strategic than before and that I may be just as effective, perhaps even more, than when I was younger.
But, who really knows if the engagement is effective? I believe in political engagement with a listening heart, but there is plenty of evidence that little has changed in our world due to such engagement. Still, I do not lose hope. There are many others who share the work. Like my local Member of Parliament, the parliamentarian I wrote, and the people who took part in the symposium on reconciling differences within our nation. The greater ‘good’ that needs to be continually born in our world requires the hearts and minds and hands of many, many people. And there are many such people all around, each living and walking with their own light. Walking, praying and engaging with others and with our common light simply gives me hope. And hope is a beautiful thing.