Monday, January 19, 2009

Barack and the Bend Towards Justice

When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

"Let us realize that William Cullen Bryant is right: "Truth crushed to earth will rise again." Let us go out realizing that the Bible is right: "Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." This is our hope for the future, and with this faith we will be able to sing in some not too distant tomorrow with a cosmic past tense, "We have overcome, we have overcome, deep in my heart, I did believe we would overcome.

The remarks above from a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. given at the Tenth Anniversary Convention of the S.C.L.C. in Atlanta on August 16, 1967. Picture by Susan Walsh of the Associated Press from today's The Clarion-Ledger.

My take:

In 1619 the first blacks came to Virginia. Though they were not slaves, black slavery took root in the Piedmont and the gross injustice of the system has reverberated through our society ever since. The inauguration of Barack Obama creates a moment of redemption, a bending toward justice.

The tears that come unprompted every few minutes as I listen to the music and see the pageantry and activity surrounding the inauguration come not from naiveté, but rather from history. Growing up Native American and female gave me a perspective on history that limited the exaltation of all things in America as just and right in the present or the past. Coming of age seeing the smoky haze of the Detroit sky during the 1967 riots, absorbing the news of Martin Luther King’s assassination in spring 1968, followed by Bobby Kennedy’s violent death, clouded my vision of the future.

Two strains of thought vivified my hope. First, the ideals of our founding documents—the equality of all created ones, the purpose to create a more perfect union and to establish justice, and the myriad of ways, in spite of failures, these had been fulfilled.

Next, the prophetic voice of scripture. After all the sadness and cultural upheaval of the 60s, a study of the prophets of the Old Testament created in me a belief that there is a spiritual kingdom—a ruling of God in the hearts of men and women that demands just treatment and moves toward peace. Subjects of that spiritual kingdom must work to do justice on this earth as long as they live. They should be peacemakers of the most dangerous sort.

Barack Obama speaks with a prophetic voice. His life of the mind, his spiritual journey, and his character have drawn many to follow him.

A week or so ago, I saw on PBS a biography of Franklin Roosevelt. The tumult of his presidency, the failures and false starts, the horror of what transpired in the world at the time, made me think of how hard the Obama presidency will be. Yet, greatness prevailed in spite of all the setbacks.

The inauguration of Barack Obama marks a historic point in the arc of the moral universe.

May God bless Barack Obama with wisdom and strength to govern justly, to be a peacemaker in these tumultuous times.

May God grant that we, the people of the United States, carry out the great ideals and purpose of this country.

May God grant that we, the subjects of the kingdom of God, transcend all national identity and follow the arc of moral universe set by Him by doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.