Bending Toward Justice
On November 9, the day after the election, a young Facebook friend wrote “I am really really hurting and I am really really scared. I don’t know if any of you can offer reassurance right now, and say that things can be okay, but if so, please speak up.” I did not share his feelings but his naked expression of fear prompted me to explain why:
As I edge toward 70, I have the advantage of a long political life. For me, this is far from the darkest of times. I was raised in a nation imprinted by Joe McCarthy. At 13, I saw the president I adored shot down. Freedom Riders were assassinated in the South. I was tear-gassed by police with drawn weapons in Washington, New Haven and Boston. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy were killed. The Nixon administration declared many Americans “enemies.” Ronald Reagan’s cabinet threatened to roll back decades of environmental progress. Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America declared war on environmental law.
And yet, despite the parade of bullies, our environmental statutes are intact; anti-discrimination laws have redefined the workplace and politics; marriage equality is the law of the land. From a nation of poll taxes and literacy tests, an African American president was handily elected twice. Women have been ascending to high office, enough for one to become a presidential candidate, and win the popular vote.
There is much left to do. But if American history has taught us anything, it is that the reign of political demogogues is short-lived. Eleven presidents have left office in my lifetime. I am still here. Reverend King’s creed stands and there is no reason to abandon it now: “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Our work continues uninterrupted. History is on our side.