This is the work

In every nation’s life, there come breaking points.

Breaking points are many. They’re points in the road where the great mass of humanity says “Enough”; things as they were are no longer good enough, no longer just enough, no longer decent—human—enough. A point of disgust is reached, where what went before will no longer suffice. Where, indeed, what went before was exactly the problem. Where what went before was a Gordian knot of injustice, unfairness, veritable evil.

We have reached such a point.

The election of a black president, buoyed by a coalition which didn’t conform to the lineaments of the previous holders of power, have made that old, decrepit, dying coalition erupt in one last blast of fury.

We saw it in Texas, in Ohio, in North Carolina, where legislatures have made it known that women are to be kept down, subservient, subject to the will of their betters.

We saw it in the halls of Congress, where the Republican House doesn’t pretend to care about immigrants, but is doing everything it can to stanch the coming tide, hoping that if it engages in one more bit of obstruction their power will be secure. But the future that is coming is as sure as that tide, and the leaders of that House haven’t the wisdom of King Canute, who displayed before his court that he was merely human, and had no power over nature, or the forces of history.

And we saw it, most heartbreakingly, in the verdict which decreed that one could shoot an unarmed black teenager in the street as nothing more than an animal, less than one, and walk away, freedom intact, rights preserved. (We have to ask how free Mr. Zimmerman will be; if he has any shred of humanity, his remaining life will be one of anguish and regret. But at the moment, I’m not feeling so charitable.)

The fury began at a low boil on January 20, 2009, and has done nothing other than increase in ire, in volume, in desperation, as the country it thought belonged to it in perpetuity began to slip away, bit by bit. Of course, the irony is that the country isn’t slipping from those who feel that fury; it is still their country; changing, yes, as all things human must change, hopefully for the better. But it’s their reaction to that change which has doomed them to be history’s handmaidens, sloughed off as so much chaff. There were two possible reactions to the change which was coming, which had been a generation in the offing: acceptance, and a joining to help shape the direction; or utter denial, and hatred, and fear. That the latter route was chosen should not be shocking; humans react badly to change. But it nonetheless should sadden us, and make us mourn for that sadness.

But that change is coming. Unless those who now cheer at a child murderer being set free have the courage to launch an insurrection, with all the guns they claim to love, their days as “masters” are numbered. The power has already slipped from them; their joy at Zimmerman’s emancipation is but the cry of those who have already lost, cheered by a temporary forward surge. The protests we’ve seen erupt across the country from people who will no longer put up with their hate, their anger, their evil, is where the country is heading. No, it’s where the country is. The future does not belong to those who have taken to Twitter and Facebook, “liking” posts which claim “Justice for George Zimmerman”. Their current hero will live a life of shame; they partake in that shame, and shut themselves off from the society which is already here, in spite of their best efforts, their herculean eruptions of hate and animus.

And that’s the rub: for all of their brave rhetoric, they are, at heart, cowards. They took to Twitter and Facebook to bray about their “victory”. Those who stood for Trayvon, and the women of Texas, and the poor, and the stranger, they took to the street. They made their voices heard not in the ether of the Internet, but in the blood and sinew of life, declaring that no, it was no longer good enough. Declaring that yes, things would change, regardless of what their opponents thought, regardless of the obstacles, regardless of petty people with their petty hatreds. They won’t start an insurrection, for their hearts are as coal, and they have no courage. They’re bullies; and as with all bullies, when confronted they retreat, claiming victimhood, crying to the universe, which doesn’t hear them.

Mourn for injustice with a demand for justice. Talk to your neighbors, get them involved in the great work. Never rest. The memories of the honored dead deserve no less.


Like what you read? Chip in, keep us going.