A good week in America.
June 27, 2015 § 8 Comments
I don’t know when I became an activist limiting my efforts to the very local—a neighborhood on the south side of Tallahassee where I run a children’s library out of the house that used to be my father’s.
Along with neighbors I plan and teach a program every Sunday to promote literacy, science, and art to kids who, like me, live with financial constraints that limit opportunity.
Luckily, we can go anywhere with the help of books.
I want to be a change agent, but I came to realize that the lever of global change was not in my hands or even in the collective hands of we-the-people.
Perhaps it was the Citizen’s United ruling which gave unlimited financial influence to big corporations and unions by allowing them to funnel campaign contributions through super PACs, essentially buying elections.
Perhaps it was when I realized news had become opinion dressed as fact.
Perhaps it was a dawning understanding that my time on earth is finite and that I can have a greater impact putting an arm around a kid who is struggling to read than launching the puny spitball of a letter at a representative.
But this week in our vast country remarkable things happened—like the breaking of daylight after a long dark night.
That same august body that gave personhood to corporations handed down two rulings that were sane, logical, and humane.
Both will touch lives in my very small sphere of influence, the neighborhood.
The Affordable Care Act was strengthened, not overturned, by the assault of what amounted to a grammatical attack, the honing in on one infelicitous phrase, a needle in the haystack of a complex and groundbreaking piece of legislation.
The intent of the act was clear and that intent was honored and made harder to assail in a six-three ruling by the Supreme Court.
That is the on-high judgement. The effect here, in the neighborhood, is that the option of health care remains within reach of those who get none through their low-paying jobs, those who have traditionally used the ER as their primary healthcare provider . There will be more preventive care which means healthier kids at my library.
The next day the right to marry whoever you love became the law in this country. I went to take my nightly walk with my dear friends Kary and Sally, and their daughter, smiling like it was Christmas, said her moms had gone out to celebrate.
The sad thing is that it has taken so long to recognize that love is an involuntary act. The phrase “falling in love” is descriptive. But as haphazard as that sounds, love is what holds us together. There is no hierarchy of love, no better or worse brand of love, just love.
The dignity of marriage for any couple who share that kind of commitment is long overdue—but it has come at last.
Finally, there was the funeral for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney at which the gathered mourners rose above the horrific act of bigotry and violence that had brought them together, and at which President Obama delivered the eulogy.
The president’s speech set off a fervor of raised hands and voices lending the affirmation and support so typical in an AME church, “Say it, say it!”
The speech was a testament to how faith can, at its best, inform and elevate life and turn the human heart to service.
We can shine.
We can exhibit that elusive quality the president cited again and again.
With grace we might get past our partisanship and the gridlock that keeps an elected president and congress from working together.
With grace we might learn to listen to each other.
For the first time in quite a while I felt proud of being part of this larger enterprise, life in America.
Tomorrow I will open the Front Porch Library and the kids and volunteers will come, and I will use the lever I can put a hand on, the kids who will take over when my time is up.
But I will do so with a little more optimism, a little more faith that we are in this together. A little more hope that kindness and love can prevail.
Note: The president’s eulogy for those slain at Emanuel AME Church is incredibly moving and worth every bit of the nearly forty minutes it will take to listen to it. Grab a Kleenex.