This image was posted on Facebook last week and it kicked up a storm of comments.
The division of opinion seemed to run across narrowly defined political party lines, with a fair share of mud-slinging on both sides. These basic human needs and the desire to meet them for all people is not singular to our nation, nor to our time in history. Each generation faces it’s challenges and passes on to the next its ideas, solutions and unsolved problems.
One of the greatest challenges of our time is the growing division between those who believe in self autonomy, “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” taking care of yourself and your own only and those who believe in taking care of those who either temporarily or permanently need help.
The main objection and concern seems to be how to pay for support and services in a time of economic recession and government debt. I don’t claim to have the answers to these difficult problems but I do know that tough problems take hard work to fix and no amount of complaining and backbiting is going to make any progress on anything.
This week we said farewell to an American Icon, Pete Seger. His life is a lesson in strength of conviction, tenacity and how little steps can lead to big change for all of us. Pete used his music as a catalyst for social change. He began his musical career trading songs for meals in the depression. He knew poverty. He traveled the country playing music and writing songs that represented his view of the need for social change. He supported the Labor movement in the 1940’s and 50’s. When he was charged with contempt of congress by the House un-American Activities Committee he kept singing. Shunned from mainstream media, he took to college campuses and small towns. He sang to support the civil rights and the anti-war movements in the 60’s and the beginnings of the environmental movement in the 70’s. He played for Farm Aid, Occupy Wall Street, after which he is quoted as saying “Be wary of great leaders, … Hope that there are many, many small leaders.” and at 90 years old played Madison Square Garden. He won numerous awards including a Grammy, Kennedy Center National Medal of Arts Award, Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.
Awards are great, yet I feel his greatest gift to us was his music and his unswerving belief that, “Participation that’s what’s gonna save the human race.” He sang it, he walked it, he lived it everyday in poverty and success. Little steps collectively and individually lead to great change.
None of the great changes in the world have happened overnight. And none of them have happened without hard work and sacrifice, many people taking many small steps. In 1776, at the birth of our nation, who would have dreamed that 233 years later we would elect the first Black President of the United States? The abolition of slavery seemed an impossible hurdle, civil rights was another long road that we walked as a nation together. The Great Depression, multiple wars, the creation of social security and Medicaid, Rowe vs. Wade, Gay Rights, same-sex marriage, all difficult issues that we have and must continue to face as a nation.
If the picture at the top of this blog had been posted 200 years ago saying…
“Wanting everyone, of every color, and both sexes to have the right to vote, the right to interracial and same-sex marry, the right to a free, public, equal education, the right to use birth control, the right to have an individually funded retirement account managed by the government to prevent homeless poverty in old age- does not make you un-American it makes you a compassionate person.”
…we may have read in the local papers an outcry similar to what we hear today..
“Impossible! Immoral ! Too costly! It will destroy society!
I submit to you that all our most pressing problems can and must be solved. “Participation – that’s what’s gonna save the human race.”
Providing Food, Water, Shelter, Education, Health Care, Dignity to all people is a worthy mission-and possible, as well as making real progress on climate change, energy policy, environmental defense, money in politics, poverty, privacy, education, terrorism, war and nuclear proliferation. We are going to have to make big changes in the way we think and act. We must consume less, reduce our carbon footprint, give more, help more, vote more, write more letters to congress, volunteer more, speak up more and care for and about each other a lot, lot more. This is it, there is no where else to go. No local planet yet to conquer. What do you want to leave as your legacy?
We can do it. We just have to make up our minds to do it. Little steps collectively and individually lead to great change.