Friday, April 19, 2013

BEDA 15: Hearts and Minds

We all know that there has been lots of terrible news this week. Some of it seems intentionally terrible (the Boston Marathon bombings and last night's/today's suspect mayhem) and some of it (the West, Texas fertilizer plant) seemed--at least to me--at first terrible and then just accidental and terribly regrettable.

Weeks like this remind us that the world is dangerous, unpredictable, full of anger, and frightening. But we are also buoyed by the heroic actions of helpers, volunteers, people who love life and want to resist evil and anger and sadness. We celebrate the helpers and the survivors and try to keep going forward to a positive place.


But when the public statements begin to wane and the daily grind of making choices return to the fore, the dirty business of devising solutions must begin. And I fear how those days will go because I am weary of the posturing and empty statements that cover asses but achieve nothing. Many nights when I get ready to go to bed, I have spent the previous ten minutes ranting to Lynda about how politicians are a.) unwilling to make choices, even if those choices might be unfavorable or b.) are absolutely convinced that they choices they choose NOT to make are done so to forestall the potential of (as yet) unforeseen consequences. I get angry that we don't have legislators willing to lead, but are instead willing to delay.

And, in the end, even if laws are passed . . . problems do not go away.

These are the thoughts that I had last night as I was going to sleep:

a.) the modern civil rights movement "began" around 1954 with the Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed school segregation. But segregation didn't disappear overnight. Continued fights about implementation and completing were still going in the 1970s.

b.) significant mass public protests regarding civil rights were kick-started with the successful Montgomery bus boycott of 1954-1955. Immediate changes began occurring in Montgomery that year. And yet, interstate bus segregation was still begin fought by the Freedom Riders in the mid 1960s.

c.) Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many other leaders and activists were publicly speaking and protesting for civil rights starting in the late 1950s. And yet major, significant national legislation didn't occur until 1965. And the Voting Rights Act wasn't passed until two years after that--following its own series of targeted marches, protests, and much negotiation.

All of this doesn't even acknowledge that much of this was (technically) legally unnecessary if only people had been willing to acknowledge the finality of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments which were passed a century in the past.

The law is important, symbolic, and entirely NECESSARY. I am not diminishing the vital use of laws. But laws are only a necessary step to final success. People must accept the law and learn to live by it and see through it and feel the equality of those words within their hearts. We MUST have laws, because that is how a society is governed and that is how a government speaks to its people and tells them what is necessary and minimally required for cooperative living. But we know that laws are not the final solution to the problem.

Time, education, reality, acceptance, love, and forgiveness are the mechanisms that make laws breathe and that make society real and lasting and secure.

We want our social problems solved immediately because we think we can control everything through science and technology and effort and commitment. But true, meaningful change comes slowly. It must be earned, understood, internalized, and most of all accepted.

This is not what we want to hear during times of crisis and disagreement. But I believe it is true. And that slow change must come by hard, consistent, thoughtful, committed, careful work. The people who want that change must actually do something and stand for it and speak of it in effective ways that make the rightness of it clear. It cannot be shouted. It must be spoken. It cannot be demanded. It must be lovingly requested. And it cannot be gifted. It must be worked for and won . . . won because those who oppose it are persuaded that it is right and just and necessary and GOOD.

This takes time.

It is time well spent.


Tracy Stephen Altman said...

Nice take. One thought: you contrast "lead" with "delay"; but, in light of what you've said here, aren't there instances where good leadership *requires* delay? (Obviously there can be disagreement about what those instances are. But in principle...)

David Martin said...

My personal frustrations that motivated this writing was my belief that too many of our leaders are willing to delay rather than act. But that is because what I want to occur is being thwarted by those whom I see as delayers.
I personally want leaders who will take the unpopular position and make the effort, even if it fails. But through that action, a principle is stated and a belief is acted upon. These are naive wishes where I want champions to fight the good and proper fight and through their temporary failure become the point of a coming change that eventually arrives.

Those opposed to what I want may say that they are leading by delaying the inevitable arrival of bad decisions and moral relativism. They are quite pleased with the idea that delay is the proper thing to do.

Am I voicing the frustration of the defeated?

Tracy Stephen Altman said...

"Am I voicing the frustration of the defeated?"

Well, sure (the temporarily defeated, anyhow), but that's fine. Neither victory nor defeat is all it's cracked up to be. The only model that actually counts shows that the only real victory comes through defeat, and that all our apparent victories are defeats from the beginning.

You do what you should with the time that's given you, you suffer your defeats, and you watch as victory emerges anyway. That's the real cosmos. The rest is just a series of interesting plot devices.