It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I urge you to at some point take a break and listen to his most famous speech. It has always given me chills, but never more than today, a time when it is unfortunately, unbelievably, still so relevant.
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Dr. King would have been 88 this month, which is younger than my grandma was when she passed away last summer. Many of the original Freedom Riders and founders of the Civil Rights Movement are still with us. John Lewis is still fighting his ass off for the resistance — most recently protesting this nightmare of an incoming administration by boycotting the inauguration. I’m currently reading his autobiographical graphic novel trilogy March, about his life and the founding of the movement. It’s a visceral history lesson, as horrifying and inspirational as you would expect. The sacrifices these people made — their bravery and dedication — are incredible, and must never be underestimated.
But of course this “history” is current. We’re living in it right now. There is still so much work to be done. Between threats to civil rights and liberties, the dignity of women, non-Christians, and immigrants, international diplomacy, the environment, and the entire freakin’ Earth itself, I sometimes feel like my head and heart are going to explode from disbelief and outrage. But as we continue to fight against and resist this myriad of evil bullshit, let’s also take a minute to acknowledge all the good and necessary work that has come before. Let it feed us.
As King said, The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. So long as we show up.
“This, now, stopped him, He’d known that adventures were supposed to be hard. He’d understood that he would have to go a long way and solve difficult problems and fight foes and be brave and whatever else. But this was hard in a way he hadn’t counted on. You couldn’t kill it with a sword or fix it with a spell. You couldn’t fight it. You just had to endure it, and you didn’t look good or noble or heroic doing it. You were just the guy people felt sorry for, that was all. It didn’t make a good story — in fact he saw now that the stories had it all wrong, about what you got, and what you gave. It’s not that he wasn’t willing. He just hadn’t understood. He wasn’t ready for it.”
— From the last pages of The Magician King, by Lev Grossman
“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”
— Last paragraph from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road
“She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.”
— Emily St. John Mandel, from Station Eleven
Funny, I have always held the same suspicion, or hope, really.