I am old. Or at least I feel that way right now. And the blessing and power of age is that I feel resolute. Anxious, but resolute.
I am a child of a segregated south. I watched the murders of my president and my heroes Bobby and Martin; I witnessed news reports of cities on fire. I walked over grass flattened by the Poor People’s March On Washington. I laughed with black kids imported from black schools to meet Gov. Holden’s desegregation quotas, while strangers shouted “n*****-lover”. And all that was before I got a driver’s license.
We have lived chaos before. We Americans have grappled with the meaning of “democracy” and “liberty,” and have had a president who believed he was above the law (DICK NIXON *clap clap* BEFORE HE DICKS YOU). What is in my living memory resides in others, too. We don’t have to go to some other country’s history to see lessons in coping with being marginalized and demonized. We can see this in the cyclic work of our country’s contradictions. I offer these gleanings.
Institutions will not automatically grow democracy. Individuals have to work at it, cultivating the individual habits of mutuality and accountability that are core to institutional success.
We each have ways of moving through these tough times. Protesters create space for conversation. Writers invite us to intersections of issues, norms, imagination. Moms and dads modeling mutual respect and loving dissent in everyday relations cultivate democratic habits–with their friends and with their kids. Sciencing on the regular normalizes critical thinking. Reading books in groups cultivates safe space for thinking out loud. Living in your own authenticity and with intention plants habits of courage and hope in your soul.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
~~L. R. Knost