Wednesday, September 7, 2011


On September 6 an inspired audience sat in the Greene Space at WNYC, as Valarie Kaur and fellow panelists Hussein Rashid, Ari Wallach and Beth Zemsky laid out a foundation for a hopeful new social movement for the 21st century. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re already pumped, primed, and part of it … Certainly the 9/11 Walks project embodies it … Auburn Seminary, hosting of the event, took the brave step of naming it something: “Groundswell.” Kaur is the project director as it is conceived by Auburn.

The event was an opportunity for the audience, mostly from the “progressive left,” to learn how to make something of “collective intentional action,” as Zemsky, a social change strategy expert explained. It was a chance to c

onsciously frame a conversation for the future that goes beyond “rights” and “tolerance” to an age of welcome and partnership. It is a time for turning “campaigns” into lasting aspirational world views. It is also a time to include faith.

“Our generation, the Millennials,” said Kaur, “doesn’t see ourselves as black or white, Asian or American, Muslim or Sikh, straight or gay.” (I, who am of another generation with more years here deeply appreciate that sentiment, yet I wonder, who DO they see? We all see someone. Is it possible simply to see character and qualities like honesty, honor, intelligence and humility?)

I went to the microphone at the appointed time, and spoke of the 9/11 Walks. ”We are one way to connect with another person. we are decentralized. We ask people to ‘see no strangers,’” I said, referencing key points made by Hussein, Wallach, and Kaur respectively. ”And we are motivated by the enlightened longings and bold visions expressed here tonight. But we’re responding to one thing more that hasn’t been mentioned. Fear. An underlying fear of another, the other, existing today that makes all of our efforts essential. Fear of Muslims, fear of “crusaders,” fear of terrorists, fear of drones and fighters jets, fear of cyberattack, fear of occupation, fear of physical and cultural annihilation, fear of flying, fear of worshipping false idols, false leaders, and false pretenses. We, the 9/11 Walks, are taking our small steps as an act of hope and courage to make a mark of kindness on the face of fear. What else do YOU see as possible. What else can people do, what else can we do to face and diminish fear?”

One good answer was to make sure to tell your story to another and to hear the other’s tale, too. That makes the other person multi-dimensional.

Another good answer was to keep hope and your aspirational world view front and center.

What do YOU think we can do? We are already on this Walk together … Share what you think.

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