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Moral obligation to make things right


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s words leaves me wordless. Each of his phrases say it all. His letter from a Birmingham Jail said it all. His Riverside Church speech the year before he was assassinated said it all, and then some.

He did not start out a prophet, but he became one. As we know, empires don’t like prophets.

Now we have a new prophet among us, and a new emperor. The emperor would like us all to be afraid, if not of him, at least of the others, starting with Muslims, then Mexicans, North Koreans, non-whites from “s***hole” countries, etc.

The new prophet I speak of is the Rev. William Barber. I haven’t met him, but I read his autobiography, “The Third Reconstruction,” and I know he is organizing a movement based on inclusiveness and morality. He is using this 50th anniversary of MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign to launch another one with the same basic title and purpose, to raise up the poor and oppressed with a moral force that will save the soul of this country.

I can’t think of anything more profound, more urgent, more necessary — or more dangerous. I have been reading about the foundational role that slavery played in the founding and success of this country. This — the freest, wealthiest, most powerful country in the world — was built upon human suffering. Without slaying the Indians, we wouldn’t be here. Without enslaving Africans, we wouldn’t be here. But since we are here, we have a moral obligation to set things right.

We have to force ourselves to look at what our ancestors did and our current structures continue to do. We have to acknowledge the bleeding feet of men laden with chains walking to where they can be sold. We must remember those who laid under the bodies of white men and were raped and those who died hanging from trees.

Rev. King knew this. Rev. Barber knows it. We know, but we have made excuses. Until now. Now we must make ourselves ready to transform the suffering into a creative force, the Poor People’s Campaign. We will do it together — all of us — black, white, brown, with courage and with love. Visit: www.poorpeoplescampaign.org to learn more about the movement.

Sherrill Hogen

Charlemont