"We have ...come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of ... justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of ... injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."
--- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
All of us are moved, in one way or another, by the power of the vision of Life in our society as expressed in this well revered speech of Dr. King. Most of us can identify with the promise of an America, and indeed a World, in which the sacred space created by Justice is a reality. And while we long for that sacred space, there is an ever present hallowed spot in which we find ourselves. It is the immediate circumstance of our lives. It is the place with the many challenges that must be attended to in order for our lives to be all that they can be. In the days when the Reverend Martin Luther King walked among us, one of those challenges was the issue of Justice for all.
Doctor King raised his voice in a call for this Nation to live up to that most noble tenet of its vaunted creed... That all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That call... that raised voice still resonates among us these many years later. Not that it has gone unheeded. Indeed there is much to be celebrated in terms of the advance of Justice among us, but there is still important work to be done to make the ground we occupy together a more righteous place. Ferguson, Missouri, is a stark reminder of that; and so are places like Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Chicago, Illinois... Every place in which we are victimized, and in which we victimize each other.
It is not just Justice among us that we must be concerned about. Something deep inside compels the declaration that we must desist from the convenient pointing of the finger at the historical sources of injustice in our society. Our problems have an often ignored, but very intimate origin that we would be hypocrites to ignore. We cannot continue to claim that we are created equal while we apportion disproportionate reasons for the corruption of our sacred space to "others". Regardless of the disadvantages that are facts of our lives, there comes a moment when we must admit some fault, every single one of us, for the problems that continue to haunt us. And in so doing we must give due attention to the reality of the imbalance that is present within us as individuals. We must face the issue of the absence of Justice within us. If our social environment is to get better ...WE must become better. Better men. Better women. Better parents. Better citizens. Better sons and daughters. Better neighbors. It is time to recognize the gravity of the moment that is NOW. Now is when we are called to be better.
We are all very familiar with the tragic moments when we are forced to recognize that we cannot continue to give expression to the worst instincts in and around us. These are the moments when LIFE speaks with a profound echo, one that is hard to ignore. In those moments when we lose loved ones to the proliferation of vices in us... and all around us. You name them. These are the moments when we become inconsolable in the face of the brutal wrath of our shortcomings as individuals and as communities; when no shallow explanation can speak to the fact that WE must change our circumstances. It is when the thumb and index finger of our grief are indicted by the other three digits of our own complicity. This is the Moment when we all come to know in no uncertain terms what Dr. King meant when he uttered the salient words... The fierce urgency of now.
The fierce urgency of now demands that we stop putting off the need for change... Change in ourselves and in our society. It demands that we end our addiction to "the tranquilizing drug of gradualism", and the jaded spirit of our procrastination. Our society will begin to see real change when we all become more invested in the currency of Justice not just as a responsibility of others... But as an internalized dynamic of our individual lives.