“Once to every soul and nation
Comes the moment to decide.
In the strife of truth with falsehood
For the good or evil side.
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Offering each the bloom or blight.
And the choice goes by forever
‘Twixt that darkness and that light.”
For reasons unknown, this song came to me a couple of days ago as I was sawing downed branches and raking and picking up leaves and branches in my yard after Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaias came through my area.
It’s been a long time since I’ve heard or sung this song. It was one of the favorites of Martin Luther King, Jr., and I’ve always liked it, both the melody and the words, but especially the words.
It’s similar to other words of note from Albert Camus: “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present,” but there is something about the particular time we are living in right now which makes the words of this song especially on target.
These next few months are absolutely a moment of decision for not just the USA but the world, for reasons most people understand. Not all progressives, though; in a way that is mystifying to me, there are some who see no difference between Biden and Trump. It’s like ideology (“the two parties are equally terrible”) comes before facts and truth.
Another verse to this song references truth:
“New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth.
They must upward still, and onward,
Who would keep abreast of truth.”
In other words, be open to new developments that call for doing things differently. If there was ever such a time, given the grievous damage to our wounded world’s ecosystems and democracy that a second Trump administration would bring, this is it. That holds true for third partyites, for anarchists who disdain electoral politics, for anyone who is alienated from our corporate-dominated electoral system.
The final verse of this song is pretty religious. The last couple of lines affirm that, despite so much evil and wrong, “Standeth God within the shadows, Keeping watch above his own.” There is a non-religious way of saying something similar: “There ain’t no power like the power of the people, and the power of the people don’t stop.”
Ted Glick is the author of the just published Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.