Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Sr. Betsy Van Deusen Reports from Nuns on the Bus

By: Sr. Betsy Van Deusen

Sr. Betsy Van Deusen, second from left, with the other "Nuns On the Bus."
(Photo Courtesy of NETWORK)
The Tax Justice Truth Tour on the Road to Mar-a-Lago began on October 8 in Santa Monica, California with ten sisters, a staff of eight and Glenn the bus driver in a 45 feet long, 13 feet high and a little wider than a passenger car. It was "wrapped" in bright colors with the route map on either side. Sr. Simone Campbell, the Executive Director of NETWORK rode the bus all the way to Mar-A-Lago where the trek ended November 2. Twenty-one states, 54 events in 27 days.

The purpose of the tour was to listen to the stories of real people and share those with representatives, to educate about the Tax Law of 2017 and to visit legislative offices. One of the oft-heard phrases was, "Reasonable Revenue for Responsible Programs," — we need enough revenue to take care of our communities, all the people as well as services that improve the quality of life for all - infrastructure, schools, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, to name a few.

I rode the bus from Cleveland, OH to Washington D.C., October 21-26. What an adventure and privilege and birthday gift as well. There were nine sisters on the Bus from different congregations. We began each morning with 15 minutes of silent prayer, shared our reflection or thoughts and then headed off for the Bus. One morning I happened to look down at my room card that said, "Passion moves us Forward." Yes, I thought I should keep that one! Another morning the song, "Who will Speak?" by Marty Haugen was shared. The refrain is, "Who will speak if you don't, who will speak if you don't, who will speak so their voice will be heard, oh, who will speak if you don't?" This was the challenge for the week for me and certainly is each day.

We visited in-district offices of Representatives and then had a rally to report on the meeting with local constituents. What was most surprising for me was that constituents reported time and again that their representatives would not meet with them. We had one meeting with an aide in an office who said that the reason the representative did not meet was because he is painfully shy!

We had several site visits but the one that stands out was First Friends in NJ, a program for asylees and detainees. Ali asked us not to listen to his broken English but to listen to his broken heart. It underscores the critical need for immigration policy here. We also did a number of Town Hall Meetings for Justice with the goal to educate people on the implications for all of us of the Tax Law of 2017.  This law is not good for 80 percent of the people so we need to vote in people who will listen to us and change it! The most frequently heard solution was VOTE! And get your friends and families to as well!

[Sr. Betsy Van Deusen is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet-Albany]