When I was young, I watched my parents take up a cause for justice. I watched them getting side-lined and unpopular with their own kin. And I swore to myself, that someday I too will stand up against injustice. I’ve done that in small ways. I’ve had cause in the last 15 years to stand up against injustice – but it’s mostly the kind where it involved injustice against me. Can I stand for others? I think of one of my favourite poems – Dylan Thomas’ ‘Don’t go gentle into that good night’. I know he was talking about fighting death. But injustice is a kind of death too, isn’t it? One of the lines of his poem that always stays with me is ‘Rage against the dying of the light’.
Rage Against The Dying Of The Light
I still wonder if I have the wherewithal to stand up for the cause of others. I have done that in small ways, but do I have the guts to take a stand that would really cost me? I don’t know. Am I willing to go out of my comfort zone, to become unpopular, to be branded as a crank?
In recent times, I’ve suffered a lot of emotional pain, and yet I feel called to speak out against injustice. To take a stand. To speak out on behalf of others whose feelings I’ve seen being trampled upon, whose spirit is broken, who because they are dependent on a salary have to tolerate bad behaviour. I’ve already seen the fall out of taking a stand – being met with stony silence.
I’ve been asked about my rage – been asked how I’ve changed and become so vocal.
I know my strength is coming from a place of authenticity. But I have to constantly be conscious, be aware that I’m doing the right thing. I have to keep retreating into myself to make sure I’m acting on my principles and not being vengeful. All this takes work. My soul is tired. I don’t know whether I truly have the strength to take this to its logical conclusion.
I remember reading a story told by Terry Hershey in one of his reflections:
Mother Pollard was one of the elders of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, during the bus boycott of 1955-56. When her pastor Dr. King (Martin Luther King) , suggested she go back to the buses because she was too old to keep walking, she told him, “I’m gonna walk just as long as everybody else walks. I’m gonna walk till it’s over.”
King marveled. “But aren’t your feet tired?” he asked.
“My feet is tired,” she replied. “But my soul is rested.”
So tired is one thing. Being soulless is something else altogether.
Mother Pollard knew this. I doubt she went to a workshop to figure it out. She just knew in her bones; that she is whole, and filled with grace and sufficiency. Which meant that for Mother Pollard, her rested soul allowed her to live fully into this life. (I read that the best beauty product is to actually have a life.) She walked toward, and not away from, life. This life, her life, with its contradictions, frustrations, weariness, tired feet and injustices.
Mother Pollard knew who she was. Her strength came from that place. Because she did see herself and others as victims of injustice, she could live with intention, beyond circumstance or public opinion. In other words, tired feet was not an impediment. And from that soul flows tenderness, tenacity, compassion, joy, passion and justice.
Presently, I’m resting my soul, attempting to take joy in conversations with my husband, playing and walking my dogs, reading, watching movies and catching up with old friends…. and yet continuing to work quietly (and sometimes loudly) to take a stand.
We live in a world full of injustice. Sometimes, like me, we unwittingly become party to injustice, until we are awakened. Then we are called by conscience to act. I pray that you and I have the strength to rage against the dying of the light.
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