I am a Sanctuary Person
I have not talked about it much. It is not something I like amplifying. It would not help me or anyone. Like so many, since November 8, my light has been flickering. I suppose I don’t like talking about things
which have no active solution. Shouting at the television, “BUT WHAT do we do about it?” is not constructive. We are in a loop of diagnosis. Office to office, specialist to specialist; we go saying well I don’t really care what it is, just get rid of it. It is growing. It is taking root. It is spilling out and
empowering the very people we had previously hoped were losing their influence.
Oh, it’s real. It is not fake. It is seeping into playgrounds. It is banning, separating, frightening and
shaming. It is tarnishing our Flag, our beacon of hope, our decency. Fecundity, motherhood,
reproductive autonomy are now memorialized from a revived science fiction novel as characters in
costume give witness in state houses. It is not “normalized.” It is abhorrent and leaves most of us feeling
A couple of years ago I was privileged to meet Nadya and Maria of Pussy Riot. We listened to them tell
of the terrible suffocation of the Russian regime. We sat in a posh art gallery in Hollywood feeling oh so
sorry for them and untouchable. Now I look to them with admiration and pray for us to have their
strength. How strange that we know the names of FBI Directors and ISA operatives. Words like assets
and recruiting spies are not on FXTV but on the evening news.
You would think after over 40 years of meditation and study, that the fundamentals of Buddhist practice
would have kept me afloat. It is exactly that seeming failure that made recovery feel impossible. I
wanted to reassemble. I wanted to get new lamps, fill them with new oil and begin anew as it seemed the old had disappeared, fallen to the trash heap, never to recover and serve again.
Occasionally, the spirit just takes over, makes the healthy decision which is a clear demonstration that it is still in there somewhere. It is still oiled and ready to go. It may be asleep but not dead. And so I got on
the freeway and hoped that sitting in the same space as Rev. Dr. Barber would do me some good. I have
written about him, watched him, love him and never heard him in person.
Going in, I felt that there was nothing I could do about the changed direction of government, about the
demolition of human rights, about the viral backlash. I felt that at age 68, the equality, the equity, the
balance I had invested everything in was vanishing. It was an unmanageable loss. In fact it was a
growing deadly virus, unleashed and unpredictable.
And so it began. He brought his axe and pick. He dug in.
As I asked the Long Beach City Council to become a Sanctuary City.
Last week I had the immeasurable good fortune to hear Rev Dr. William Barber speak.
He was here from North Carolina to receive an honorary doctorate from Occidental College.
He is one of the founders of Moral Mondays, The Forward Together Movement and Repairers of the
He lives and breathes on the acute intersection of social justice and examined Christianity.
He told us many things that night. He even got me to sing and clap. He is irresistible.
First he captured my mind with his deep understanding of how this moment in history predictably
unfurled. Then he nourished my soul with a call to care for the poor, disenfranchised and marginalized.
But most importantly, he lifted me from a spiritual dark despair by explaining that:
This is not democrats vs GOP
This is not rich vs poor
This is not thugs vs righteous people
This is a crisis
This is a moral crisis
This is a moral crisis that has been born over centuries and lives in systemic racism, classism and sexism.
Today we are called to mind the light.
Today we are called to be the light.
This is the ultimate call to be a moral society, a moral people, beginning by being a moral person.
This is the moment when we demand morality from ourselves and let that morality pour forward as a
beacon to light the way for others to find safety with us.
Being a sanctuary city is the very least we can do.
To be a Sanctuary City does not just mean protection of those at risk.
To be a Sanctuary City is not just a public statement that we can proudly bear.
To offer sanctuary to all who love freedom and liberty,
Opens our hearts,
Restores our souls,
It lifts our intentions and prayers above the law
And begins to repair our broken spirit.
Let us be a sanctuary city.
Let us be a sanctuary to one another.
Let us be a sanctuary to ourselves.
To start, I am a sanctuary person, you are safe with me.