It has been an intense two months since Donald Trump won the presidential election. I’ve experienced all the different stages of grief, spending an exorbitant amount of time at the anger stage. As Mr. Trump announces his cabinet choices my anxiety level rises to high alert.
My mind tells me there are some trying times ahead. My heart compelled me to go back and read some of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s writings. I settled on the “Letter from a Birmingham jail” written in 1963.
Dr. King was responding to criticism leveled at him from the white southern clergy regarding the Civil Disobedience action being taken in the Jim Crow south.
In the letter, Dr. King states, “shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
He goes on to say, “like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up, but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicine of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
It’s been fifty-three years since Dr. King penned this letter, but today’s circumstances make it apropos for today. He went on to say, “we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
Dr. King could have been eavesdropping on a conversation that Pastor Marvin Hightower, the local NAACP President and I had at a meeting last month. I told him I was frustrated with the apathy and passivity of today’s churches, both black and white, and find myself conflicted in connecting with them. Not with Jesus, but with this safe, ineffective organization.
At one point in the letter Dr. king said, “the judgement of God is upon the church as never before, if today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club, with no meaning for the twentieth century.”
With January 20, 2017, fast approaching, I have accepted that the 45th President of the United States is Donald Trump. I have also resolved to be actively engaged in effecting change whenever and however I can.
Pastor Hightower has accepted the mantle to lead this local chapter of the NAACP. He is quick to say, that he can’t fill the shoes of those who came before him, but stands on their shoulders. Pastor Hightower plans to be intentional in bringing a younger generation into the organization. He understands the strength of the youth coupled with the wisdom of the baby boomers is needed to meet the challenges the nation will be facing in this highly charged climate.
On November 9th, many private groups sprung up on social media. People, especially women, were looking for a safe place to share, vent and cry. These sites became lifelines for people, who were confused, hurt, distraught and angry over the outcome of this election.
These women encouraged and empowered each other. I began to see their posts change from despair to organization. The words of Michelle Obama, “When They Go Low, We Go High” reverberated over and over.
Strategies started to form as women decided they could wring their hands for the next four years, or become activist in their local communities and help build a national movement. One of those women is Cindy Mundell, who wrote the following post and gave me permission to share it.
“I have finally discovered the silver lining in the 2016 election. Maybe, because I turned 65 this year, or maybe because I have come to see myself for the first time, I have achieved clarity of purpose.
I have always doubted the content of my character. For example, if I was alive when Jesus roamed the earth, would I have been a coward & denied Him, doubted Him or defended Him?
If I was alive in Nazi Germany, would I have hidden Anne Frank or would I have turned her in?
I marched for civil rights & sang, “We shall overcome”. Was that because I was 18 years old & wanted to be trendy?
I marched protesting Vietnam Nam…because it was trendy. Always doubting my dedication & motives.
Now, the content of my character is clear. I will fight for the collective constitutional rights of ALL.
It was always within me. It took 65 years & the 2016 election to bring it into sharp focus.
I will march for black lives, because they matter. I will march for blue lives, because they matter. I will march for immigrants, because they matter. I will march for LGBT lives, because they matter. I will march for refugees, because they matter. I will march for the disabled. I will march for Muslims, Hindu, Jewish, Catholics, Protestants, Methodists, atheists and I will march for women…
I have also faced my prejudices: arrogance, entitlement, greed, supremacy. I WILL MARCH!”
It is evident that the next four years will be challenging. And it’s going to require all of us to examine our own moral compass and make the choice to remain silent or to live out our true self and “Go High”.