We’re missing the rally today which makes me feel like I’m cheating on my movement. That probably sounds funny, but with something as all-consuming as this it really does feel like the movement is a member of the family. Still, my human family members, especially the young ones, are beginning to show a little bit of wear around the edges. They need some time with their Dad without also having to spend that time with several thousand other people. It figures, though, today is significantly warmer than any of the other days we were out there. A part of me will miss it, you can be sure.
Last week at the rally, towards the end of our day, we were marching in the packed street when several people started to push their way through and ask that people make room. This was the second time the crowds of people were asked to part (the first was for the tractors) and in both cases it was difficult. Do you realize how many of us there are? It took a bit of shuffling before there was enough room for the firefighters to get through. Flags, drums, bagpipes, banners, and…
Wait. Who was that? Was that Jesse Jackson? This is not the best picture. I had a fantastic picture, but then some guy’s hat got in the way so I had to go with this one. I wasn’t that far away, but there were so many people. Part of the difficulty I had was that by the time I reframed the shot to try and get a third one I miss him again because he has literally reached through the crowd, over three or four people, to shake the hands of my Dad and my husband. My Dad announced that he could go home now, his day complete.
It got me to thinking as I look into the faces of people like Jesse Jackson who sometimes looks so tired and the magnitude of it all seems so overwhelming. Can we really still be having these same conversations about race, and the rights of the worker, and the poor, and the sick, and the rights of women, and of immigrants. Why can’t we ever seem to make progress beyond this point? These days it seems like we’re having the same discussions we had fifty, sixty, one hundred years ago. Sure, there have been some improvements, but on the balance these days it feels like we’re on the cusp of going so far backward…in the name of freedom….Whose freedom, exactly?
To have worked so hard for what you believe in, for so long, and I can’t help but wonder how Jesse Jackson or any of the others from his generation did it. Nor how they continue on even when it seems like we’re marching backward. The solution offered by many people of faith seems to be that we’re supposed to fix our attention on somewhere, way off in the future.
For the impending collapse of our world is heralded as a blessing. The focus on heaven and some sort of holy retribution for all of the evil and by evil they mean me or those with me in the crowd. Even for those who skip the holy retribution, the focus is on somewhere off in the distance and sometime after death. All of that rings so hollow to me. If that’s the best that faith has to offer, then why bother exactly?
The other day, I was watching “The People Speak,” towards the end where Howard Zinn is wrapping up the video and he says:
When we look back at history, history was not just about war and injustice, but also was the story of people behaving in magnificent ways against great odds. And this was encouraging to me because the people up on top, the people who have the power, their power depends on the obedience of people below them and when people withdraw that obedience, well, when workers go out on strike, or when consumers boycott, or when soldiers refuse then the makers of war, the profiteers, the purveyors of greed, then they are helpless.
You can see the possibility that small acts multiplied by the millions can merge into great movements of social change. Well, that impels us to act. We don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future, if we live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that’s bad around us, that in itself is a marvelous victory.
And it reminded me that focus on the far off future of heaven is nothing but a distraction…an excuse. The ultimate excuse really as it allows people to put words in front of basic needs like food, or clean water, or sanitation, or the respect and decency our fellow human beings deserve. Instead, we focus on the esoteric and ignore the physicality of the struggle right in front of us.
And it reminded me that I don’t have to wait. I can continue to join with other people of faith in seeking God’s kingdom right here, and right now. Not in some holy war or spiritual struggle, but in bringing the Beatitude values to Wisconsin, my country, and the world. I’m not waiting.