Our Awesome Task, May, 1997

(written on the way home from a national conference of the Independent Progressive Politics Network in Decatur, Illinois)

I cried
for a long time
while driving
from Decatur to St. Louis
Monday,
after Summit/97,
on the way home
to Brooklyn.
I cried thinking about,
feeling,
the power of
the weekend past,
but still so far to go,
so many rivers to cross,
so many people
suffering and struggling,
unnecessarily,
consistently,
wrongfully
in this world of pain.

I cried
thinking about
the children–
the innocent,
beautiful children,
starving, abused,
homeless,
miseducated, hopeless,
futureless–
the world over,
UNLESS
WE
SUCCEED
in the awesome task
we have assigned
to ourselves.

I cried because,
despite the power
of the weekend past,
we are powerless,
right now,
and for years to come,
realistically,
tragically,
to stop their pain.
I cried,
I cried,
I cried. . .
*******************

Where do we look
for strength
in times like these–
hard times,
struggling times,
fighting-seemingly-insurmountable
odds times?
*******************
To one another,
as we learn
the “to” (one another)
and not the “on”
that has been
our history
on the Left,
within the union structures,
in our other
organized efforts–
the competition,
the pettiness,
the backstabbing,
the dishonesty–
a history that must be,
and fortunately is,
being transcended.

Progress was made
in Decatur.
Some find strength
in spiritual traditions,
even rituals,
connecting us
to one another,
to those before,
to the natural world.

Some love and meditate
on “God”–
Truth, Justice,
Compassion–
(“And what does
the Lord
require of you
but to do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly
with your God?”)–
with all their heart and soul,
and their neighbors
as themselves,
fulfilling
Humankind’s
Greatest
Commandment.

Some gather children,
grandchildren,
neighbor children,
friends’ children,
students
around them–
“and the little children
shall lead them.”

And some of us
just muddle along,
doing the best we can,
learning from history,
understanding the
historical truth,
the law of physics,
that for every action
there is a reaction–
that oppression
breeds resistance–
that,
as Dr. King said,
“The arc of
the universe
is long,
but it bends
toward justice.”
Accepting–
we have no choice!–
our limitations,
our limited power,
right now,
while never accepting
injustice and evil,
the evil system
we must transform;
Using our anger,
our outrage,
our humanity,
our love,
burning like a low flame,
a pilot light,
flaring up as necessary
into a burning torch
to lead others
into a future,
a future world,
we must,
we have to,
claim
and
win.