Reflections on liberty of thought and action: themes for Independence Day weekend.

Peace is liberty in tranquility. — Marcus Tullius Cicero

Real change in the world will only come from a change of heart. — Dalai Lama

A hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people. — Maya Angelou

Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change. — Stephen Covey

Did I offer peace today?
Did I bring a smile to someone’s face?
Did I say words of healing?
Did I let go of my anger and resentment?
Did I forgive?
Did I love?
These are the real questions.
I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now
will bear many fruits,
here in this world and the life to come.
— Henri Nouwen


Song about freedom:

Questions to consider:

  • Whom do you know who feels that they don’t have equal access to opportunities and basic rights? Shelter? Food? Water? Education? Voting? Employment? Religion? Speech? Thought? Press and media? Love?
  • What is the difference between rights and privileges?
  • How do we balance individual freedoms and societal/constitutional freedoms?

Freedom of Action

There are two good things in life – freedom of thought and freedom of action. — W. Somerset Maugham

As individuals we can influence our own families. Our families can influence our communities and our communities can influence our nations. — Dalai Lama

Well, one works at it, certainly. Being free is as difficult and as perpetual — or rather fighting for one’s freedom, struggling towards being free, is like struggling to be a poet or a good Christian or a good jew or a good Moslem or a good Zen Buddhist. You work all day long and achieve some kind of level of success by nightfall, go to sleep and wake up in the next morning with the job still to be done. So you start all over again. — Maya Angelou

To be blessed with visions is not enough…we must live them! — High Eagle

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. — Martin Luther King Jr

Without freedom, creativity cannot flourish. The right to freedom is crucial to progress in any society; and the context is having a sense of global responsibility. — Dalai Lama

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. — Abraham Lincoln

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires. — Nelson Mandela

Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom. — Dalai Lama

I believe in Liberty for all men: the space to stretch their arms and their souls, the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends, enjoy the sunshine, and ride on the railroads, uncursed by color; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in a kingdom of beauty and love. — W. E. B. Du Bois

You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom. — Malcolm X

You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are. — Fred Rodgers

Our present idea of freedom is only the freedom to do as we please: to sell ourselves for a high salary, a home in the suburbs, and idle weekends. But that is a freedom dependent upon affluence, which is in turn dependent upon the rapid consumption of exhaustible supplies. The other kind of freedom is the freedom to take care of ourselves and of each other … the freedom of community life. — Wendell Berry

… it is not enough to love the earth, though that is a crucial first step. We also have to act on its behalf. — Ken Stone

I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated. — Malala Yousafzai

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same. — Ronald Reagan

Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation. — Coretta Scott King

The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom. — John Locke

Freedom of Thought & Speech

… surely we should at least attempt to put forward constructive ideas. One thing is for certain: given human beings’ love of truth, justice, peace, and freedom, creating a better, more compassionate world is a genuine possibility. The potential is there. — Dalai Lama

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds! — Bob Marley

The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free. Slowly, I was discovering myself. ― Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech; which is the right of every man as far as by it he does not hurt or control the right of another; and this is the only check it ought to suffer and the only bounds it ought to know.  — Benjamin Franklin
Discipline, I have learned, leads to freedom, and there is meaning in freedom. — Anne Lamott

Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be. —Wayne W. Dyer

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. — Virginia Woolf

One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying. — Jeanne d’Arc

Nobody can bring you peace but yourself. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace. — Mike Ditka

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. — Soren Kierkegaard

Freedom of Religion

You can’t pick and choose which types of freedom you want to defend. You must defend all of it or be against all of it. ― Scott Howard Phillips 

There is a difference between exercising religious beliefs and imposing them on others. Our Constitution fiercely protects the former and expressly prohibits the latter. ― Joseph Kennedy III 

The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. ― James Madison

Religion is like a pair of shoes … Find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes. ― George Carlin 

Ever since the Enlightenment era in the 17th and 18th Centuries—which, among other things, gave birth to the U.S. Constitution and the de facto motto E Pluribus Unum (out of the many, one)—interfaith tolerance has been sown into the fabric of Western society. The rules of one religion are not made into law for all citizens because of a simple social agreement. For you to believe what you want, you must allow me to do the same, even if we disagree. ― Gudjon Bergmann

… Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason … my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen. ― Martin Luther

Reflections on laughter as holy practice: themes from Luke and ministry of Christ

I commend mirth. — Ecclesiastes 8:15

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. — Phyllis Diller

A child’s laugh should be
the butterfly wing,
the ripple-maker,
for all the world.
There are many children crying —
we hear them echoing
from news media.
It is time to pray
the change of the world
in children’s laughter.
— Maren Tirabasi


Questions to consider:

  • Do you have favorite comics/comedians who are able to act in a prophetic way, stating uncomfortable truths, by using humor? What issues do they address?
  • Have you ever experienced or used ‘gallows humor’ as a form of coping in tough times?
  • In whose company do you relax enough to laugh? With whom do you let down your guard?
  • When was the last time you belly laughed?

Songs about laughter:

Holy Humor

Satire, or any sort of humor for that matter, is tough to do right.  … using humor as a prophetic, yet disarming, method for sharing with vulnerability, challenging the powerful, and tearing down idols. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses on this — from the prophets, to Chaucer, to Swift.  Jesus too was a brilliant humorist, with a penchant for hyperbole—planks in the eye, camels through the eyes of needles, straining gnats and swallowing camels. (I love that God seems to find camels especially comical.) — Rachel Held Evans

It is cheerful to God when you rejoice or laugh from the bottom of your heart. — Martin Luther King Jr

I developed a sense of humor to protect myself from abuse and jeering. I learned to roll with the punches. There’s nothing like humor to help you do that. There’s a line in Plan B that “laughter is carbonated holiness.” Always my salvation was laughter–laughing with friends, with girlfriends, laughing in the dark. The name of my first book was Hard Laughter, about trying to keep one’s sense of humor and one’s head above water in extreme crisis, which at that time was my father’s brain cancer. So I’m not sure how much humor the hardship has given me. But it turned out that when hardships came, the sense of humor of my friends, and of my own, saved the day.— Anne Lamott

The Bible is funny. But it’s not a gag type of funny like Lucille Ball. The humor we experience in the Bible is more of a meeting of the tragic and the absurd. It’s a can’t-stop-laughing-at-a-funeral-because-the-honest-weight-of-our-mortality-is-too-much type of funny. It’s the slightly self-effacing type of funny we get to when we’re willing to see how absurd we are. The Bible offers us an “ouch” type of funny, an honest funny. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

If Christ laughed a great deal, as the evidence shows, and if he is what he claimed to be, we cannot avoid the logical conclusion that there is laughter and gaiety in the heart of God. [and] There are numerous passages … which are practically incomprehensible when regarded as sober prose, but which are luminous once we become liberated from the gratuitous assumption that Christ never joked. … Once we realize that Christ was not always engaged in pious talk, we have made an enormous step on the road to understanding —Elton Trueblood

A master storyteller would never forsake humor as a means to reach an audience. Jesus, who spent much of his ministry breaking down barriers between people, knew that humor does exactly this. Humor disarms and unites; it sets people at ease and leaves them receptive to the speaker’s message. — Father Tim

The opposite is also true, of course: if Jesus wept, surely he laughed. — Jennifer Johnson

Having mentioned the problems in the Middle East, he turned to me and said, “And what is this about chosenness?”  I answered that Jews believed God chose them for a particular purpose, but it does not mean we are the only ones chosen; different peoples can be chosen for different things. He laughed, and said yes, it is true, Tibetans think they are chosen as well. It seems strange to say that a religious figure’s authority is dependent on his laugh. There is far more, but nonetheless His Holiness’ laugh is striking. Having met my share of religious leaders, I don’t think any of them is as un-self-conscious and as devoid of a sense of self-importance. Every now and then, if feeling particularly mischievous, he will stick his tongue out to emphasize the ludicrousness of it all. It reminded me of a comment by G.K. Chesterton, that angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. — David Wolpe (about the Dalai Lama)

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. — His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Laughter Is the Best Medicine (excerpt – full article) — Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
  Physical Benefits:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease

Mental Health Benefits:

  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and tension
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Strengthens resilience

Social Benefits:

  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

On Laughter

A smile starts on the lips, a grin spreads to the eyes, a chuckle comes from the belly; but a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles all around. — Carolyn Birmingham

And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh. — Friedrich Nietzsche

God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. — Voltaire

He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh. — Qu’ran

The moment of awakening may be marked by an outbursts of laughter, but this is not the laughter of someone who has won the lottery or some kind of victory. It is the laughter of one who, after searching for something for a long time, suddenly finds it in the pocket of his coat. — Thich Nhat Hanh

I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can. — Linda Ellerbee

Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy. — John Cleese

Juneteenth

Article shared from NH UCC’s Racial Justice Mission Group:

The Racial Justice Mission Group Invites the NH Conference ChurchesTo Celebrate Juneteenth

Our Purpose in Celebrating Juneteenth in New Hampshire is based upon our desire for greater visibility, education, and alliance in a state and geographic region that is historically perceived as demographically white. This misperception is perpetuated through the mainstream and local media; socially, culturally, and politically governed institutions; and lack of cultural awareness manifested in expressions of implicit bias. On Wednesday, June 19, 2019, Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill proclaiming an annual observance Juneteenth as an officially recognized state holiday. This act ended many decades of oversight. Juneteenth Commemorates the End of Slavery and the Beginning of a Journey into Freedom-It recalls how the states of Louisiana and Texas heard that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Slavery continued in those two states for more than two years after the proclamation was signed due to active resistance. News of Emancipation had not been fully shared until June 19, 1865. Hence this is the origin of the Juneteenth holiday which is still celebrated in many communities of African American descent. Americans, this is our collective history and a narrative that deserves to be shared. Remember that in NH, slaves were not legally freed until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, though many NH people fought on the side of the Union. NH was not a free state.  Continue reading.

Full letter and links to Facebook events and additional resources. https://www.nhcucc.org/uploads/documents/weekly-news-documents/Juneteenth_2020.pdf

Upcoming events and information focused on education, engagement, and mourning: some for COVID and many for racial justice responses.

Some additional educational resources and regional/national events and correspondence focused either on lamentation for COVID or mourning and engagement around racial justice. Use what you find helpful, and please set aside those notices that you find out of alignment with your approach to these events. What is happening in this nation is complicated, and cannot be simplified into absolutes, binary/dualistic categories, or declarations that make us only “either/or”, “good/bad”, “right/wrong”, “in/out”. These can only be viewed and used as starting points for deeper and more comprehensive engagement in our own community.

From our local grammar school, some excellent resources:

  • Sesame Street Town Hall on Racism for families to watch together to begin or support the conversation in your home.

Additional links families (and adults) may find useful, per school leaders:


The NH Council of Churches has written letters and recommended next steps regarding racial justice responses to deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery,. See below.

The NH UCC offers this Theological Roundtable on Racial Justicehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iczYc42Y1Rw&feature=youtu.be. 

  • This video features reflections shared by The Rev. Gordon Rankin, Conference Minister, New Hampshire Conference, United Church of Christ (NHCUCC); and members of the NHCUCC Racial Justice Mission Group, Kira Morehouse, Member and Delegate, Brookside Congregational Church U.C.C., Manchester; Rev. John Gregory-Davis, Co-pastor, Meriden Congregational Church; Rev. Renee’ Rouse, Pastor, Northwood Congregational Church; Harriet Ward, Member, Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Brentwood-Kingston; and Rev. Dr. Dawn Berry, Member, First Congregational Church, UCC, Hopkinton, and Chair, Racial Justice Mission Group.

Other interfaith and Christian organizations have planned national and regional memorial observances for COVID and in remembrance of recent deaths of African American citizens:

  • Sunday, June 7 @ 10am – A National Eulogy and Interfaith Service of Mourning for those who have Died of COVID. The service will be co-led by Revs. Barber and Theoharis and Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Imam Omar Suleiman and Valerie Kaur.
  • Sunday, June 7 @ 2-4pm – Boston Black Memorial for George, Breonna and Ahmaud. See link for details.
  • Monday, June 8 @ 3:30pm –  Peaceful Rally at Schuler Park, North Conway, NH. Details not available, learned of this via colleagues, so not sure of organizer identity or specific focus of rally, assuming a racial justice theme.
  • Monday, June 8 – National Day of Fasting and Focus planned by Poor People’s Campaign.
    • Noon EST/ 9am PST – “We Won’t Be Silent” Virtual Art Buildat  to be together and heal together through art-making, share messages of justice and get prepared for the day of action. Register here.
    • 5-5:30pm – Time of Silence and Liturgy with Dr. William Barber. The Day of Fasting and Focus will culminate at 5pm when we are asking people to stop where you are for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in silence. Event on Facebook.

Local RACIAL JUSTICE RESPONSES and in-depth RESOURCES

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. — James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Addressing events surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and resultant nationwide/global protests and demonstrations. Acknowledging the need for racial justice initiatives in our own hometowns as well as regionally and nationally.

Immediate Responses: RACIAL JUSTICE

  • Courageous Conversations: Racial Justice – 6-week dialogue series to be co-facilitated by Jackson Community Church and Jackson Public Library via Zoom on Wednesdays (June 17-July 22). Morning and afternoon sessions will be offered. RSVP to jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org if you’re interested in participating in the morning or afternoon sessions. We will share links as plans progress.
  • Additional programming is under consideration with the support of local advocates, the library, the church and other organizations. We will keep you posted.
  • Local organizers and educators:
    • NH Listens: Carsey School of Public Policy
    • World Fellowship Center also organizes and educates in the valley. More info.
    • Reading lists available through local librayr coop: In an effort to provide further materials, the coop libraries (Jackson, Cook, Madison and Conway) have shared lists for adults, teens and children within our joint KOHA catalog on books across our collections on race, racism and anti-racism.  There is also a list pertaining specifically to children’s books at the Jackson Library on these vital topics.  Numerous online resources are also available.   Dr. Nicole A. Cooke, the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair at the University of South Carolina, has created a list of Anti-Racism Resources for all ages and the National Museum of African American History & Culture has a page called Talking About Race.  While our statewide inter-library loan system remains on hold, if there are other books or informational resources you are looking for, we would like to hear from you so that we can best provide you with the materials you need. You can email us at staff@jacksonlibrary.org, send us a chat, or leave a voice message at 603-383-9731.

NH JUNETEENTH EVENTS: Facebook Page (all events collated at this site)

Become more informed about yourself:

Dive deep through other available resources. Some recommendations on different topics.

Starting-point to talk about race:


The NH Council of Churches has written letters and recommended next steps regarding racial justice responses to deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery,. See below.

The NH UCC offers this Theological Roundtable on Racial Justicehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iczYc42Y1Rw&feature=youtu.be. 

  • This video features reflections shared by The Rev. Gordon Rankin, Conference Minister, New Hampshire Conference, United Church of Christ (NHCUCC); and members of the NHCUCC Racial Justice Mission Group, Kira Morehouse, Member and Delegate, Brookside Congregational Church U.C.C., Manchester; Rev. John Gregory-Davis, Co-pastor, Meriden Congregational Church; Rev. Renee’ Rouse, Pastor, Northwood Congregational Church; Harriet Ward, Member, Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Brentwood-Kingston; and Rev. Dr. Dawn Berry, Member, First Congregational Church, UCC, Hopkinton, and Chair, Racial Justice Mission Group.

Recommended reading: Collected lists for different ages

  • NY Times: These Books Can Help You Explain Racism and Protest to Your Kids
  • USA TodayBooks to Learn More About Anti-Racism
  • Embrace Race: 31 Books for Children about Race, Racism, and Resistance
  • Most lists will include these and many other books to get you started:
    • Fiction: The Hate U Giveby Angie Thomas
    • Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
    • How to Be an Antiracistby Ibram X. Kendi
    • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
    • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
    • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
    • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Learning about the social construct of ‘whiteness’ & race:

  • Scene On Radio presents Seeing White. A series on the history of whiteness as social construct in America.
  • People Talk about White Fragility with Dr. Robin DeAngelo (from White Fragility: Why Its Hard for White People to Talk About Racism)
  • Watch PBS Frontline episodeA Class Divided about Jane Elliot’s 3rd-grade class in Iowa, and the exercise she used to teach them about prejudice, discrimination and implicit bias, by segregating blue-eyed and brown-eyed children.

History and experience of race in America:

Justice System, Policing, and Mass Incarceration:

Activism & Being an Ally:

Movies:

  • Netflix: 13th directed by Ava DuVernay offers documentary summarizing events and experiences since the 13th amendment was passed
  • Amazon Prime: I Am Not Your Negro features links between Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements through the work and words of James Baldwin, featuring the lives of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, and Medgar Evers
  • Disney: Zootopia by addresses racism and prejudice through animated animal narrative. Discussion guide to go with this film.
  • The Hate U Give on Hulu based on the book by Angie Thomas is about a black woman’s struggle to speak out when she witnesses the death of an unarmed friend killed by local police. Book discussion guide.

Churches and faith community resources:

Public policy bodies that are exploring and shaping equity initiatives and conversations in New Hampshire:

Other Organizations.
This list provided through a Jackson resident who is active on racial justice advocacy groups. “I invite you to join me in standing in solidarity with others who are organizing across the USA and the world for racial and social justice …”

  • NH UCC Racial Justice Mission Team: website. Sign up for their emails with recommendations on programming and engagement. The Purpose of the Racial Justice Mission Group is to awaken the NH Conference to issues of racial justice and equality within our churches, state, and country. We are called to be: LEARNERS in a community of mutual accountability studying the impact white privilege and the history of slavery has on racism; INTERRUPTERS of the continued cycle of racism; and  ALLIES with People of Color in challenging race-based injustice in the areas of criminal justice, environmental degradation, economic deprivation, and exclusion from full participation in our communities of faith.
  • White Mountain Action Network is organizing awareness and activism events. You can find them on Facebook or request to be added to their mailing list via white.mtn.action.network@gmail.com.
  • Black Lives Matter / North Conway Edition: See Facebook for organizer / contact info.
  • Poor People’s Campaign: Facebook | Website
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People / NAACP
  • Black Lives Matter: Seeks to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes by combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy.”
  • Girls for a Change: Supports Black girls and other girls of color and inspires them to visualize their bright futures and potential through discovery, development, and social change innovation in their communities.
  • Sistersong: Strengthens and amplifies the collective voices of indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive justice by eradicating reproductive oppression and securing human rights.
  • The Essie Justice Group: Nonprofit organization of women with incarcerated loved ones taking on the rampant injustices created by mass incarceration.
  • Higher Heights: Building a national infrastructure to harness Black women’s political power and leadership potential.
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