LETTER FROM GIL to the many people I met in Montana on the Fair is Fair Tour. Friends I am writing this from Atlantic City, NJ where I am the part-time Pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church. My heart, mind and spirit are still resonating with the "highs" that I experienced while in Big Sky country.
I am more convinced than ever that the "Fair is Fair" theme is descriptive of what Montana is in the process of becoming, if you in the state take seriously your history, your Constitution and your potential. I believe "fairness", as simplistic as it may seem, can be the foundation of our future.
"Un-fairness" was the experience of my African ancestors as they were enslaved. So was my experience in my native south as I was segregated becausee of my race. This Sunday my sermon topic is; "The Bible and Gender, Race, Homosexuality, and Economics." "Fairness" for women, blacks/Native Americans, homosexuals and the poor and rich would erase the stereotyping, the put-downs, the unholy tension that is descriptive of this moment in history.
I applaud the ACLU of Montana in their efforts to achieve fairness for same gender couples. I also applaud national ACLU as they have raised quesions about the legitimacy of the assasination of American citizens, even as they are involved with Terrorist organizations. The ACLU is a "gift" to the nation as they challenge us with their objectivity, even as we may dissent.
I ask you and all of Montana to support Truth in Progress as well as the ACLU of Montana, as we both seek to enable Montana to discover its unique role for the nation in the 21st century.
p.s. Below is the poem that I shared with groups across the state.
THE POWER OF ONE by Dr. Cheryl Sawyer*
As the soot and dirt and ash rained down, We became one color. As we carried each other down the stairs of the burning building, We became one class. As we lit candles of waiting and hope, We became one generation. As the firefighters and police officers fought their way into the inferno, We became one gender. As we fell to our knees in prayer for strength, We became one faith. As we whispered or shouted words of encouragement, We spoke one language. As we gave our blood in lines a mile long, We became one body. As we mourned the great loss, We became one family. As we cried tears of grief and loss, We became one soul. As we retell with pride of the sacrifices of heroes, We became one people.
We are One color One class One generation One gender One faith One language One bod y One family One soul One people
We are The Power of One We are United We are America
*(Dr. Cheryl Sawyer is a mom and a college professor who teaches students learning to become school counselors or licensed professional counselors. She teaches at the University of Houston, Texas, Clear Lake School of Education)
I have just realized that I will not see you on your 7th birthday because I will be in Montana with my Truth in Progess colleague and friend Marilyn Bennett. You met her when I was receiving an award from a group called Church Within A Church. I, with Marilyn will be visiting some of the towns/cities in Montana to talk about the topic, "Fair Is Fair".
Since I will not be with you on September the 23rd to help you celebrate your 7th birthday, I hope to be in contact with you from Montana. Here are the names of the places I will be visiting in Montana, listed in alphabetical order; Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Those are interesting and different names aren't they? I will make an effort to send you a card or something from each of the places I will be visiting.
Ashley, you and I know something about the meanng of "fair is fair". Remember when you and I were playing Chinese Checkers and you "lucked up" and beat me, and I pretended that you did not play fair? You reminded me that at the beginning of the game, I did something that you did not think was fair, and you told me. "Papa Cane, that's not fair." I thought about it and realized you were right and I was wrong.
Marilyn and I and a person from an organization named the American Civil Liberties Union are going to talk to people about something that is important to all of us "fairness". Ashley I told you that in every religion there is some form of the Golden Rule; "Do unto others as you would have others do to you." Sometime we as adults treat other people different from the way we want to be treated.
I believe Ashley that as Marilyn and I talk to people about fairness, the people in Montana that we listen to and talk to, will agree that "fair is fair", and in the USA with all of our differences, we believe in fairness.
Your grandfather, "Papa Cane", aka Gil Caldwell (When I show people my cane, they will know why you call me, Papa Cane)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This is the first in a series of letters that Gil is writing in anticipation of his trip to Montana for the FAIR IS FAIR TOUR, co-sponspored with the ACLU of Montana, to promote same-sex relationship recognition. You can read more about the Fair is Fair Campaign here.
Would you share all or portions of this with the persons, groups and communities I wlll meet during my visit to Montana on the Fair is Fair Tour? I look forward to my visit because during the launching of Truth in Progress in Helena, I discovered that a "bonding" took place between me and the people and environment of Montana that will never be broken. This week we lost through death a great singer/composer in Nick Ashford. The words in his song, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" describe my attatchment to the state; "Ain't no mountain high enough. Ain't no valley low enough. Ain't no river wide enough....," to keep me from Montana.
However full disclosure compels me to add that the earthquake that rattled our apartment and the coming of Hurricane Irene this week, to the east coast makes my visit to Montana become an escape to a Paradise free of earthquakes and hurricanes. I hope it is ok to bring my sense of humor with me?
This is an important week for me and all of the nation; the dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial. I believe that most Americans believe that the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin King was as "American as apple pie." I first met Martin Luther King in 1958 at Boston University and in that first meeting I realized that his love of country was authentic, and his modesty was "for real." I have written that the size of his sculpture on the Mall is a symbolic expression of the fact that the journey of the USA from slavery and racial segregation to this moment, is an expression of American "exceptionalism." It is our sense of "becoming" what we are not yet, that is at the heart of my love for this nation. Thus, the King Memorial portrays the "bigness" that is America.
There is a story in the Bible that strangely comes to mind as I prepare to come West in September. At one point, one of the Disciples speaks to another Disciple about "Jesus of Nazareth." The Disciple who hears this, responds; "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" The first Disciple then says, "Come and see."
I, as a non-resident may be viewed as an "outsider" as I listen, talk, laugh, maybe cry, during my visit with you. But remember that "outsiders" bring with them "fresh eyes, ears, hearts and hopes." When I first visited Montana, I believe I saw, heard, felt and hoped some things that may have become so commonplace to you that you dismiss them. There is a reason that Marilyn and I are "sister and brother, white and black, lesbian and straight, west and east," who birthed and based Truth in Progress in Montana. As I visit with you, I believe that reason will become self-evident.
Finally, I come to you as one who seeks to be a "wounded healer." Most of us have been wounded by others for a variety of reasons. Some persons and some systems have hurt us because of our race, gender, sexual orientation, economic and educational poverty, religion, politics, same sex partnered relationship, physical characteristics, etc, etc., etc. I look forward to talking to you about the "solidarity of our woundedness" and how we who have been hurt for a multiplicty of reasons, can discover healing for ourselves as we seek to enable the healing of others.
Gil Caldwell, Marilyn's "Elder Brother", writing from New Jersey, but looking forward to being in Montana