Mom and Dad were incredible living examples of turning injustice into action. Our family moved to Los Angles in the late 60s after several years in Morocco where my dad was finishing his Fulbright work in Fez. He had just been hired in his first role as a professor of Political Science specializing in Middle East Studies at UCLA.
In 1998, journalist Tom Brokaw coined the term, “the greatest generation.” It was the title of his book on ordinary Americans who, during and after World War II, were such an important part of this country’s growth and success. Many celebrated his stories using words like courage, sacrifice, and honor to describe the individual valor and contributions of everyday people. While Brokaw’s book wasn’t only about veterans, World War II formed the core of his greatest generation.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” I have been haunted by these words from the Kris Kristofferson/Fred Foster song that Janis Joplin popularized with Me and Bobby McGee in 1971. When I feel stuck or confused these words come back. I ponder, “What is Janis saying?”
Recently I was asked by the Racial Justice ministry at my church to co-facilitate a Book Group. Fortunately for me, I said yes, as it turned out to be a great learning experience.
I’d like to be able to say that I write this article from a distance, from the calm context of Canada rather than from the conflicted context of the United States. But that would be a delusion. Racial injustice manifests itself differently in the Canadian context, but it remains just as demeaning, dismissive, and destructive.
The founding moment for Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) happened on June 10, 1935. Recovering alcoholics and their families from all around the world are celebrating the unique and powerful personal and family transformations that are the result of this simple Twelve Step program. The power of A.A. and the Twelve Steps is now frequently applied to many other addictions. And the number of people grateful to Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith for a chance meeting in Akron in June of 1935 continues to grow.
A recent trip to Lisieux in France deepened my understanding of Therese of the Little Flower and her spirituality. I was surprised and delighted with what she had to teach me about surrender and faith and about persistence in learning how to be an anti-racist in America.
The truth will set us free; Leo Tolstoy said truth is more powerful than violence, circa 1904. My devotion to non-violence began at the Syracuse Peace Council during my high school years in the 60s. It became more studied during the first Iraq War in 1990 under President George H. Bush.
America is in denial about its “war” on racism. Only one side is truly engaged – the white supremacists. They are organized and committed to winning at all costs. If those of us who want to end racism are serious, we have an imperative to organize, fight, and not stop until we are victorious. We need the commitment of a warrior and the heart of a nonviolent revolutionary.
Monumental stands on social justice have followed social upheaval. The end of World War II led to the adoption of two policy documents that make our current gaps and inequities in health care appalling. In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and, more specific to health, the World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution (adopted in 1946) declared health and access to healthcare a fundamental human right. In 2013, the World Health Organization went further by broadening attention to the heath care rights of specific groups based on mental, gender and sexual health which led to a focus on determinants of health, including social (WHO, 2013).