Justice Requires Us to Act!

This is a horrific time for our country and a time of deep reflection for me.

As a child of the 60’s, it is almost incomprehensible to fathom that we are experiencing a moment that is eerily similar to what I lived through fifty year ago on May 4, 1970.

In recent weeks, the brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, in addition to so many others, have shaken our nation to the core.

These tragic circumstances make it clear, yet again, that systemic discrimination and unjust racial disparities continue to plague our country.

It is beyond time for change. 

The horrors that I witnessed from afar in 1970 hit close to home on Friday June 19, 2020. On that day, I experienced a hateful and vile Zoom bombing during a call of 90+ people that Bridge Alliance, an organization that I co-founded, initiated on the subject of the social unrest in our nation. This was particularly distressing given it occurred on Juneteenth — the day celebrating the end of slavery in our country.

Words alone cannot describe the evilness of language and images neo-nazis used in hijacking the call. They began by shouting and sharing images of swastikas, sex acts, Hitler, and other vile memes and photos promoting their racist agenda. We were attacked and our collective response was adrenaline fueled, heart-pounding action.

They attacked our beloved lead speaker, Willis Johnson, a recognized pastor, by name. Willis maintained remarkable composure despite the intense, hateful threats directed at him and all of us. He demonstrated courage by calling out the attackers for their cowardice, as they chose to spew their hatred behind a cloak of anonymity.

The experience is something that none of us on the call will ever forget. It transforms the abstract understanding of bigotry, antisemitism, sexism and racism to a visceral and real level. The experience will remain with me forever.

And the experience of June 19, 2020 brought my soul back to a time of anguish 50 years ago in 1970 when four students were killed for protesting at Kent State; a time of despair emboldened by the exuberance of youth believing our generation would change the world.

The lyrics of Neal Young’s “Ohio” resonate in my ears today as they did then:

“This summer I hear the drumming, 

Four Dead in Ohio.” 

Our best efforts as a nation to engage with one another in a peaceful and loving way are failing in this moment, just as they were then. We must fight for the soul of our nation by acting as we are called. For the younger generation, and for some of us who still have the energy, it will be protesting in the streets. For others, it will be engaging more deeply with understanding, volunteering, and more involvement.

And for those of us who have the resources — accrued over the many years as we left the idealism of the 60’s to spend a life raising a family and engaging in financially rewarding careers — it does not have to be a time to surrender.

We can go forward by remembering that time of hope and action inspired by our youth. Time passes in the wink of an eye.

Today, despite the horrors that I am witnessing and now experiencing personally, I am also feeling a resurgence of energy that I felt 50 years ago as a young man. My generation has not surrendered….. It is not too late. Now in the summer of 2020, as our nation is yet in crisis again, we can help fulfill the dreams our generation imagined 50 years ago.

We need not be the “pretender” as invoked in the song of the early 70’s. (Jackson Browne – “The Pretender”)

Justice requires us to act. It is our time to assist the next generation to find their way to a pluralistic America of We the People. 

As we collectively garner the civic courage, this moment will become a movement and finally we will all be able to raise a glass to freedom as one with our children and our grandchildren, and with our brothers and sisters of all religions, ethnicities, and races and say we have finally fulfilled the dream of our motto e pluribus unum: Out of many, we are one.

We will not accept inertia, apathy, indifference or silence. We will not allow the hatred, prejudice and intolerance to grow.

The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. live forever:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

 

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