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The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
I’ll admit that these days I struggle to hold onto these words from Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 speech. These days the arc of the moral universe seems incredibly long and obscure and justice seems far away.
I believe that for all of us, this past year (which seems decades long) of presidential campaigning has been emotionally, morally, and spiritually exhausting. And as the outcome of this painful marathon has finally arrived this past week, at least half of America is left in shock and profound dread with the uncertainty of what lies ahead.
And, of course we know that there is also a significant portion of our country that is thrilled with the outcome of the election. It is my most sincere hope that these high hopes will come to fruition and that we will all be joined together in optimism for a better future for our nation as the weeks and months pass by. As the political winds begin to soften, I do believe that weare all much more similar than different in our desire for a kind and respectful way of life in our country.
Holding on to hope with trembling hands – together.
But the truth is, at this moment I struggle mightily to hold on to hope. Through the angry rhetoric of this campaign, it seems that the beliefs that I hold dear and have come to take for granted are now called into question. What I believe are basic standards of decency, morality, and respect seem to no longer prevail and the expectation that these basic human rights will be upheld is likewise called into question. I suspect that we are all hurt and upset by this rhetoric and it is my hope and belief that we all desire to return to a more civil and respectful conversation.
For those who are survivors of sexual abuse and for those who speak out to bring healing and awareness, this has been a particularly painful and even traumatic time. The disrespectful, objectifying, and demeaning language directed at women and the careless dismissal of actions of blatant sexual assault are unconscionable and intolerable. The basic safety and respect that every man, women, and child should be able to take for granted, in this country and in every country in the world, seems in peril. When it comes to the threat, any threat of sexual or physical violation, accepting anything less than swift and sure protection is unacceptable.
Flight, fight, freeze – it’s okay to be human!
So much fear and so much uncertainty can easily lead us to the edges of despair. We know this cycle. We know how it is that humans deal with fear. If you, like me, have found yourself moving through the reactions of fight, flight, and freeze, know that you are not alone in this most basic of human processes. And as I move from my frozen state of shock and disbelief, as I remind myself of the strength and goodness that surround me every day, and as I seek out the company of my steady community of support, I find myself more willing and able to resume the fight. And I remember that there is work to be done – lots of it!
Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.
My resolve is strengthened as I remember that there are other strong and wise voices whose clear and dignified words and example light the way. These wise words of Helen Keller remind us that there is indeed a spiritual path, a path of honesty, dignity, compassion, and mindful action that will lead us all to a better place. There is the worst of humanity and there is the best of humanity. I know which path I will choose. I truly believe that in the stillness of each of our hearts, we each, regardless of political persuasion, aspire to live lives that represent the very best of our humanity.
Action is the antidote to despair.
I deeply believe songwriter Joan Baez’s words – I know this to be true in my own life and in the lives of others. There is much to be done and we are the ones to do it. Take action, speak up, lend your hands, heart, voice, and resources to the cause of promoting equality, tolerance, compassion, respect, and healing for all humans. Take action and speak up on behalf of those whose voices have been silenced through abuse, intimidation, and fear. Live your values with courage and conviction. This is the common path and there is room for everyone.
We are on this journey together, each and every one of us. We are indeed stronger together and we know that a community united is a strong and formidable force. I deeply and truly believe that the glimmers of hope in basic human goodness will continue to burn brighter to light our way, that perhaps the arc of the moral universe may be in view and that justice will prevail.
~Janice Palm, MA, LMHC, Shepherd’s Counseling Services Executive Director
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