“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
– attributed to 19th c. minister, Rev. Theodore Parker, popularized by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a commencement address to Wesleyan University, 1964
Take your sandals from your feet, America. We’ve climbed the mountain, and stand on the holy ground of progressivism. Feel the heat of rigorous, enforceable gun laws. See the burning triumph of love over intolerance in the fight for marriage equality. Hear your own meek voices rising to a crescendo on immigration reform, fair wages and feeding the hungry.
The call has gone out. Though rainmaker lobbyists and extreme ideologues have unleashed a hell storm of fire on sanity and common sense, our republic will not be consumed. Tell the stiff necked in Congress, more beholden to what is good for their careers than what is good for the country, to let our government go, that it may worship the reality of a functional America.
After more than thirty years in the wilderness of anti-union, anti-government and anti-social welfare policy, welcome back to the mountain top. Before us lies the promised land. This is not the time for humility or discretion because who we continue to be as a country is what is at stake, not just for the Joseph Campbell sized myth with which we regard ourselves, but also the story we write for our place in the world.
The Bush Doctrine of freedom spreading and democracy growing has failed to produce favorable outcomes in the Middle East and South Asia because we have been unable to come together ourselves, to sustain the example of cooperative democracy we demonstrated in the middle of the Twentieth Century. “When people used to talk about [America as an] indispensable nation,” former State Department adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Vali Nasr, told Jon Stewart, last week, “they were talking about a country which had a vision and had the ability to get everybody together, and was the only country that could get people to find peaceful, economic, diplomatic ways of solving [global problems].”
We lead with the stick, not only abroad as “an invading, occupying force,” as Dr. Nasr described it on The Daily Show, but we have also adopted the fist in the way we approach domestic policy. We vilified “welfare queens” and lost the “War on Poverty.” We initiated a “War on Drugs” and a “War on Crime,” and created a privatized prison industrial complex, where the commercial need to fill more beds too often tilts justice’s scales. Congress ignores international treaties that seek to regulate military weapons trafficking because they mistakenly think it allows other nations to rewrite the Bill of Rights.
Meanwhile, we have members of Congress who think following some of the other first ten amendments to the Constitution is being too “politically correct,” and they’re calling for infiltrating the Muslim community to watch for terrorists because, as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told Politico, after the Boston bombings, “It’s coming from people within the Muslim community by the terrorists coming from that community, just like the mafia comes from Italian communities.”
Other Congressmen apparently are under the impression that advising marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – a US citizen – of his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, withholds that right from him, somehow. “We had, I think, legal reasons and follow-up investigative reasons to drag this out a little bit longer,” Rep Dan Coats (R-IN) told CNN’s Candy Crowley, Sunday, “We could have done that.” Yes, we could have, but his lawyers will certainly argue that anything he said before he was Mirandized, with regard to the events two weeks ago, is inadmissible because it was not about public safety, but gathering evidence to be used against him.
This is the way we want our country run – through fairness, with everyone equal in the eyes of the law, and everyone given an opportunity to succeed, even if it requires some help from our government. Twice, the people have sent President Obama up the mountain to bring down the law, and twice he has come down to find Congress dancing around the golden calf. Senators like Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) lead the throngs, anointing themselves the true guardians of the Constitution, and declaring those who would compromise and reach toward consensus heretical RINOs and “squishes.”
In order for the earth to open and swallow them up, we must raise our voices for what is right for our flailing republic. We must stomp our feet loudly as we march for what we believe. We must blow the trumpets of justice, fairness and equality until the exclusionist wall with which they surround themselves comes tumbling down.
Why should we keep pushing, when so many before have tried and failed? Because unlike those who find it a lot less challenging to keep us penned into convenient stereotypes of race and religion and ethnicity and gender and sexual preference, who fight to reconstruct our country into a place where they won’t be frightened by the Muslim family next door, we fight for an America where being generous with our neighbors, all our neighbors, is the ideal truest to the foundation of our founders’ vision of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“This [country] is the ideal micro-world, and entire world,” Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of the accused Boston bombers told a gaggle of reporters gathered outside his Maryland home, during the manhunt for his young nephew. “I respect this country. I love this country – this country, which gives [a] chance to everybody to be treated as a human being.”
The honor, love and respect for America, of which Rusaln Tsarni speaks, is not just the voice in the heart of an immigrant (or this child of immigrants); it is the song that is played in the hearts of all those around the world who look to us as a light of liberty and a guarantor of self-determination. But none of that is true, if we cannot come together as one nation, to lift up the weak, protect the sick and provide justice in balanced measure, to all who choose to call America home. Whether one’s family has been here one generation or fifteen, we will destroy our promised land, if we destroy the generous promise of a free and open democracy, to the world.