THINKING FOR OURSELVES
Reaching for Maturity
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, Nov.16.-Nov.22, 2008
It's going to take a while to understand the meaning of this moment. Whatever the coming contradictions and difficulties, President-elect Barack Obama has brought all of us to a new place of possibility, in a time of great peril and promise.
We, the people, are finally reaching maturity. After 8 years of a president shaped by the worst of adolescent impulses, adults are in charge. But this immaturity in governance did not begin with George Bush. More than 40 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King observed that since the end of WWII, the United States has found itself "on the wrong side of a world revolution." He said, "we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors" in countries around the world to "maintain social stability for our investment accounts."
King said , "if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
To begin this transformation, Dr. King, observed, "The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve." For to achieve this maturity we have to "admit that we have been wrong and “to atone for our sins and errors "we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war."
The United States did not rise to the choice that Dr. King so clearly laid out in 1967. We had neither the political will nor the spiritual depth to respond to his call to look deeply at ourselves.
It would have forced us "to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies." Such questioning would require a fundamental restructuring of our whole society. It would require overcoming the arrogance that we have "everything to teach" the people of the world and "nothing to learn."
Avoiding this process of reflection, King warned. "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
Yet Dr. King had hope. He believed, "There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war." Echoing how many people view our own moment of peril, King said, "These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness." Days that demand, "positive action" that will "seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice."
Dr, King knew long ago that, "It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency" and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries." Yet, he said, "Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores."
King believed that just as selfish people had created injustice, those motivated by love could create something new. Love is the "ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil."
The question, now, is have we grown up enough to begin this transformation?
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