Bravo to both Bill Baar and Rev. Victoria Weinstein for their posts today about 1968. Their posts have made me wonder if what needs to happen is a re-framing of how we talk about it. For too long, discussion of 1968 in most UU circles only deals with outside actions beyond our control. That needs to change.
Rev. Nancy Bowen, my Hebrew Scriptures professor at ESR, authored a commentary on the book of Ezekiel that was published by Abingdon Press in early 2010. Her lens for looking at Ezekiel in particular and the Israelite exile in general was through PTSD research and theory. Maybe it would do us some good to look at ourselves as a movement through the same lens.
The 1960s were a hard decade in this country. Between the ongoing activities in the fight for civil rights, the escalation of conflict/battle in Southeast Asia, the beginnings of the gay rights movement and the second wave of the women’s movement on top of the assassination of both a President and a presidential candidate (not to mention the assassinations of MLK and Malcolm X), there has only been one other decade in which there was the same amount of upheaval–the 1860s. And I think if we look at those two decades as intimately related, there might be some hope in moving the association forward. I’ll write about the 1860s in another post, but for now, let’s look at the 1960s.
This country doesn’t deal with trauma well—maybe it’s because the US is a young country. And, as such, neither does the association. Less than 10 years after the formation of the association, the trauma that has haunted it ever since began; that’s right—the infamously and horribly misnamed “Black Empowerment Controversy.” Even with all of the work that Mark Morrison-Reed has done to help move forward the deep conversation that needs to happen about that period, it still is little recognized as being the formative event that has shaped our religious life together. In other words we ran, and continue to run, scared.
As a movement we are suffering from PTSD. And until we can honestly look at that period of time and take the lessons from it that we can get, we will continue to look at 1968 from the outside (politics and such) instead of doing the deep theological work that’s required to look inward.