A Quaker Fourth: the Great American Melting Potluck

Ok. It used to be a pot, and now I suppose it’s a lottery… We all got together and brought dishes from our various heritages for a brunch.






After brunch, the group set aside their plates for the more difficult discussion of social problems and what could be done to address them. There were representatives from Arab, Iranian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Agnostic, Latino, Military, European, and Native American communities, advocates from the Black Panther community, representatives from impoverished single parents raising disabled kids, from the green party, advocates for single payer health care, tax advocates, localists, nationalists and globalists. There were those who were strong advocates for economic reform, for the homeless, for the undocumented, and for those with literacy problems, for African communities who did not yet have schools, for those in prisons and on death row. There were, present, individuals who had lost children in Afghanistan, those from government, school teachers and writers, and those who were medically challenged as well. There was even an opportunity to discuss how to interact with nonhuman species who, without the ability to speak words, do not have the same laws that humans have when problems arise. As one individual stated: “listening is not just about staying quiet, it is also about paying attention.” We were all given a chance to speak and listen, and later to sing various songs together that advocated for peace.
The group seemed largely committed to nonviolent solutions, although some also felt that “Freedom is not free.” and that military solutions were simply a different, sometimes necessary, kind of conversation. Overall though, the feeling was expressed that it was important to be in front of the military, to be proactive in diffusing conflicts before they escalated into military conversations. It should be noted that most of those present were not only verbal advocates, but many also occupied leadership positions in social movements providing services to the communities for whom they advocated. Good company.


The conversation began with the thought that had the American Revolution happened nonviolently, it might have happened later, but that slavery also might not have persisted as long as it did. It was pointed out that those states that have a history of slavery are also the states with the highest execution rates, and those that are the strongest advocates for gun rights. The association among these positions seems to support the idea that a nonviolent approach is more respectful of life and human dignity in resolving conflicts. A retrospective counterargument to this point of view is the situation in India, where the caste system – an ancient oppressive class system – persists to this day in spite of India’s nonviolent independence from England. At the end of the day, I went out for the more conventional “flag waving-fireworks” display at the local park, but the event was postponed for another 3 weeks just after I got there due to the rain. A nice green thought that postponing violent revolutions might mean more rain that the community desperately needs. And nice to participate in discussions that won’t use patriotism as an excuse to gloss over rather than address social problems.

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