My guest today is Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine and co-chair of The Network of Spiritual Progressives [NSP]. Welcome to OpEdNews, Michael. NSP is hosting a national interfaith conference in June. Can you tell our readers about the network and the conference?
Rabbi Michael Lerner
We are convening a conference in Washington D.C. June 11-14 co-sponsored by The Nation magazine, Common Cause, Code Pink, Peace Action, the Washington Peace Center, Progressive Democrats of America, OpEdNews, the Institute for Policy Studies, Yes! magazine and many more--because liberals and progressives need a new strategy in the Obama years. This conference is a way that activists and those working for social change can come together to participate on the ground floor of shaping that strategy. We'll also be having a demonstration at the White House on June 13 as part of this conference.
What's the basic premise of the conference, Michael?
Progressives who expected to be participating in the process of shaping the national discourse after the election of Obama have found themselves deeply disappointed and experiencing themselves as far less impactful than they had hoped to be during an Obama presidency.
The 2008 election revealed the great yearning of a majority of Americans for a world based on peace, social justice, generosity, environmental sanity, and recognition that our well-being is tied to the well-being of everyone else on the planet. To the extent that Obama and Congressional Democrats have failed to fight for a world based on those principles, and have at times moved in the opposite direction, they have opened up a chasm of despair, thereby creating the space for a racist and potentially quasi-fascist movement led by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party reactionaries.
What is the challenge American progressives face today?
We progressives find ourselves in a very complicated and difficult position. Remembering how the Left in Germany in the Weimar Republic of the late 1920s and early 1930s spent their time critiquing each other rather than uniting to fight the growing Nazi movement, we cannot make the same mistake. Progressives have to protect the liberals and centrists from the anger that their policies have generated, because we don't want the quasi-fascists to take their place in positions of power. But we must also put forward an alternative that really embodies the best in liberal and progressive though and that might speak to people in a deeper way than the liberals have been doing.
This is our historic challenge--we must present a politics that can speak to Americans' deepest needs, push liberals in the direction of adopting the ideas and discourse of a sophisticated progressive vision, and yet at the same time not demean the liberals or leave them to be demolished by the Right. We cannot defend their decisions to give priority to saving the banks and the wealthy, escalating the wars of the capitalist global Empire, abandoning their promises on human rights and civil liberties, giving only lip-service to the immediate survival needs of the planet by reducing carbon emissions, or the other ways in which they have failed America--yet do all this in a way that does not further intensify the despair and retreat from politics that has happened as so many who supported Obama find themselves feeling abandoned by him and the Democrats. That's why it's time for secular progressives to come together with spiritual and religious progressives to try to develop strategies together.
What about the spiritual aspect of your group?