Last week at church, Rev. Wendy, our Unity minister came up to me with a serious and worried look on her face. She hadn’t seen me for a few weeks and knew I’d be concerned about the executive order banning Muslims and all the chaos at the airports. “How are you?’ she asked, taking my hand and leaning into me.
I paused for a moment and responded in a way that surprised even me. “I feel like I should write Trump a thank you letter for being such an incredible Muse. I’ve never felt so creative in my life. Having him as president has kicked me into high gear.”
She looked baffled, then asked if I’d send her some words on that subject. “I need some more info to really get my mind around that one,” she said. I agreed to think on it and email her the results. We hugged and I left. All week I’ve been pondering the contradiction.
A muse is a person who is a source of artistic inspiration, an instigator of creative action. As it turns out, practically everything Trump says and does causes a creative combustion inside of me. It’s like Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When his orders feel destructive, I start to create. When his words are dark, mine light up like fire. When he speaks of walls, borders dissolve in my mind. When he says “they,” I imagine “we.”
This isn’t the first time it’s happened like that, that outside darkness leads to inner light. In 1982 when the nuclear arms race was at its height, I started saving for a one-woman peace pilgrimage around the world. A year later, when President Reagan rolled out his Strategic Defense Initiative, soon nicknamed “Star Wars,” I was in Nagasaki and Hiroshima meeting with survivors of the first and second nuclear attack.
I interviewed several of these people, known as hibakusha, which means literally “explosion-affected people.” Their organs have been irradiated. They have terrible burns and deformities. Many lost their entire families in the bombing and firestorm that followed. Japan has recognized 650,000 of them.
When Trump talks about Japan and South Korea developing nuclear weapons of their own so we don‘t have to keep defending them, his words are kindling to my imagination. I’m horrified at the thought of a nuclear war. I think back on the Ribbon Project, started by Justine Merritt in 1982. She too had been in Hiroshima and seen the damage. A committed activist, she came up with the idea of wrapping ribbons around the Pentagon and wrote about it in her Christmas card that year. The idea spread like wildfire. By 1985, people all over the world had produced 29,000 fabric pieces that represented what they would hate to lose in a nuclear war.
On August 4, thousands of us met in Washington, D.C. to tie them together. Altogether, we created a ribbon 18 miles long that encircled the Pentagon, crossed the Potomac, passed the Lincoln Memorial, filled the National Mall and made its way around the U. S. Capitol Building. There was a great surge in the power of the people that day.
Trump’s ideas about nuclear weapons felt ruthless and irresponsible when I heard them. But again, a counter idea occurred, a Muse intervention. Suddenly I’m thinking of a Pillowcase Project. A grassroots people’s project that will bring us together and give us a way to give voice to our values.
It’s much like the Ribbon Project, only focusing on what we commit to protect and defend. Pillowcases are connected to our dreams and our awakenings. They are common, inexpensive, a blank canvas, and a standard size—so how perfect that we use them as a vehicle to express our visions. How easy is it to string up a clothesline and hang out our hopes in all their bright colors? Reality begins to take shape as we express our thoughts, share them with others and release the power of our own desire. This could be a stepping stone to a new reality.
I invited fifty people to meet and explore the idea. Within an hour, the group decided to make it happen. We put a date on the calendar and soon the first group of many will be gathering around sewing machines, work benches and ironing boards to create our “cases for the common good.” Thank you, Donald Trump, for suggesting something too horrific not to resist. What a Muse you’ve been.
People from several states have picked up the idea and are now working on their projects. It is possible that we will hang clotheslines and display our thousands of pillowcases in Washington at a national event three years from now. It is possible we will call it 20/20 Vision and we will let the nation see the future we envision. Or it may happen that we stay local and hang our pillowcases in public parks to rally for the good of all. That will be determined by the collective wisdom of the people who are involved.
As a gay activist, I am also concerned about the anti-LGBT views expressed by people in the Trump administration. Mike Pence supports an amendment keeping gays from being married, a stance he defends as an “enforcement of God’s idea,” not discrimination. Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon said during a radio interview, “…the women that would lead this country would be feminine, they would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England.” Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Trump, expressed outrage that PBS aired a program with a lesbian couple, claiming it was not a matter of “right versus left, but right versus wrong.”
Again, a visitation from the Muse. “Send your book Born Gay to LGBTQ organizations around the country. Offer it for free on your website. Offer a free workshop at the LGBT Center for gay and transgender teens.” Done. Done. Done. Breathe hatred in, breathe love out. Thank you, Donald Trump, for stirring my imagination. Thank you for causing my Muse to jump out of hibernation.
Thank you for all the reasons you give me to upload my videos, post my poetry, write about creating a living faith for the multitudes who are leaving judgmental religions behind. Your divisiveness deepens my appreciation for the oneness that connects us. With each dark headline that crosses my path, a light comes to guide me in the opposite direction.
I am yin to your yang, east to your west—as far away from your notions as anyone can get. And as long as you are acting in the public domain, I will be your equal and opposite reaction. You have awakened the creative spirit of so many Americans. You are instigating deep prayer, fervent hope, prophetic action among those who resist your divisive actions. You are rousing the masses from a time of drowsiness and igniting our imaginations as we co-create communities of kindness and compassion.
We are the artists at life, the creators of culture, and we will prevail. This is what we celebrate: we are the leaven of this land, and we are on the rise.
- .” http://time.com/4406337/mike-pence-gay-rights-lgbt-religious-freedom/
- free download of Born Gay, https://janphillips.com/shop/