Look Back and Learn

Look Back and Learn

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Many cultural traditions exercise a distinct practice of remembering as a way of learning from the lessons of the past.  For example, the people of Ghana share the tradition of Sankofa bird, described as a proverb, “Always remember the past, for therein lies the future; if forgotten, we are destined to repeat it.”  The Sankofa must maintain balance while retrieving an egg from her back, while flying forward with grace to face what is coming.

At this time of year we look back on what happened during the last twelve months; a personal practice of remembering.  Some of us have things that we would rather forget, or at least get over, to start afresh.  Others of us want to remember 2012 as a great year so we push forward with energetic momentum.  We use what we learned in 2012 to help us decide resolutions for 2013.  In other words, we hope to learn from our experiences to set a course for the future. 

As we consider our own 2012, we must think beyond ourselves toward community to become a society that is connected, caring and responsible.  There are too many issues to remember in 2012, so I will focus on three that exposed the aching distress of our country and our culture.  

Hostility engulfed this year’s election season; an election that cost over $6 billion.  The public discourse continues to be a mean-spirited debate attacking the character of candidates rather than the issues at hand.  Shouting matches and name calling have no place in a civilized democracy, but that is what we witnessed during this last year.  Rebuilding relationships with mutual respect and restoring civility to the public discourse is essential to a sound democracy that we so readily claim for future generations.

The unequal impact of the “fiscal cliff” on children and their families’ must be the center of our discussion about money and taxes.  Just three weeks ago, in this column, I talked about the cost of the election and the Thanksgiving weekend shopping frenzy.  If we are willing to spend this much, why can’t we share the cost of health care and so-called entitlement programs for our elders?  If we are willing, we can and should demand that our elected public officials do likewise.

During this month, in the midst of the holy season, a heart-breaking event brings us to tears.  We will remember the names and faces of the precious, innocent lives that were lost in a senseless and incomprehensible act of violence.  While related in this case, the issue of mental illness is distinct.  It is time to face our broken mental health system with long-term solutions; an issue that is close to many of us.  In the wake of this terrible tragedy, it is beyond time to engage civilized conversations about why we are allowed to have dangerous assault weapons in our homes and communities; one that equally touches every neighborhood in this country. 

Let us learn from the legend of the Sankofa.  Unless we remember the past, we are destined to repeat it.  Our task for 2013 is to maintain balance as we look back and learn, while we fly forward with grace to face what is coming. 

The United Church of Christ has 5,194 churches throughout the United States.  Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation.  UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.

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