Bringing it home now — back to the image of the beach and the crab. The moment of transcendant glory is past; now the hard work of faith begins. This isn’t a time to lose faith. Quoting the UU hymn:
“Praise song for trouble, praise song for day, praise song for every hand-lettered sign…” (Sorry: the teleprompter typist is faster than I am.)
What we need now is love. “Beware the crabs in the sand, but keep your eyes on the horizon. With reason and faith, let us walk forward into that light.”
It’s easy to write off faith talk as inherently divisive — but if we do that, we cede faith, and lose the use of it as a tool for the struggle for self, community, and justice. (Amen!)
(Your blogger is loving this part: I argue it often with my progressive blogging friends, most of whom are secular and don’t believe in the power of faith to create change.)
Faith is an exercise in intellectual humility, a habit that makes us recognize our own limitations, helps us come to terms with what we don’t know and can’t do.
“We come here together to day to make the most incredible faith claim of all: that we can establish a world that recognizes the inherent dignity of every single human being — and that we can make that world using the power of love.”
Theologial confessions: She was a UU on Sunday mornings, and then went to Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity church on Sunday evenings. “A Unitarian by day, a Trinitarian by night.”
She’s now at Union Theological Seminary. “I stand in awe trying to figure out why black Americans are so convinced that God loves them when there is so much evidence to the contrary.” That’s a different kind of knowing than academic life teaches you — but it’s just as important.
She’s echoing Obama here: he’s not going to fix this. It’s on us. The hard work of governing has begun.
A litany of the bleak realities in the United States today — the rights not yet held by black, brown, immigrant, gay, and poor Americans. Bill Gates has more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans combined.
What we spend every year on weapons could put every child in the world in school.
It’s delusional to think any point in the past was any different — or that a fair and equal world is possible. And that’s why we need faith. It’s what keeps us going when reason fails us.
She’s jealous of Van Jones (last year’s Ware Lecturer) getting to talk to us in an election year. It was a great year — but even then, the crabs were biting our feet.
She’s talking about Prop 8. Yes we can? Maybe only some of us can.
Now blasting Obama for picking Rick Warren to give the invocation. Not doing squat about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Backtracking on torture. Taking single-payer off the table — not even trying.
But Van Jones warned us last year: “Get prepared to govern.” We forgot to heed that. We got so used to being the outside agitators that we’re still figuring out how to govern with a friend in the White House, and we’re no longer at the margins.
Comparing the visual impact of Katrina to the visual impact of the Selma March in 1963. But there are still struggles and problems — segregation, poverty, preference for tourists over residents in city policies. The work continues, and will for a long while.
Quote of the night: “The best justice work we do comes about when we commit ourselves fully to a cause we’re likely to lose.”
Her family: her father was the descendant of slaves. Her mother’s ancestors pushed a handcart across the prairies to Salt Lake City in the great Mormon migration. (And she’s a UU — coming home in many ways today.)
The people of New Orleans came back and rebuilt “nail by nail.” They organized, filed paperwork with government agencies, worked jobs and then worked second shifts cleanup. Young people of all races streamed in, turning NO into Ground Zero for social justice movements — not just for spring break, but to settle and help with the rebuilding.
And the televised suffering of New Orleans changed the country, too: George Bush’s administraton recovered from the crisis, and the Democratic Party recovered its critical voice. “How can a government that can’t get water into an American city for three days prosecute a war overseas?” The 2006 election was a referendum on Bush’s policies, and the tide began to turn.
Her own visit to New Orleans in the days that followed bore out that history — and her conviction that New Orleans could not be rebuilt. And she wrote about it. The destruction was just too vast. So she argued for fair cash payments, insurance coverage, transition services — but also that demanding that it be rebuilt left her feeling hopeless. The crab was biting her toe.
Melissa Harris-Lacewell is telling us the story of her vacation at the beach. A perfect UU moment: standing chin-deep in the ocean, looking at a gorgeous sunrise with rays glittering on the water — and a crab biting her on the foot.
And now onto Katrina, a topic she speaks often on. Why was there so little coordinated response? It seemed clear to everybody on the ground that black Americans were being abandoned by their government — a racial gap that was reflected in the polls. Two-thirds of blacks believed that the government would have responded faster if the city had had a white majority. True or not, it was a powerful statement of the lack of trust between black America and the government.
I hadn’t meant to do this. I’m here “covering” it for a more serious article to be posted tomorrow. But I also have the full text of the speech already, so typing furiously won’t add a lot to what’s already there.
So I’ll live blog it.