It Begins Inside
Many years ago, in my old hometown, the Dixiecrat segregationist and presidential candidate George Wallace was scheduled to make a campaign stop on a lovely fall afternoon. Some friends and I drove downtown and walked toward the event, not knowing quite what to expect.
The first gathering of people we encountered happened to be what we’d now call counter-protesters and they were equipping anyone who was willing with signs and instructions for what to shout, what to sing, and what to do. I was handed a sign that said, “General Lemay sniffs airplane glue,” a cynical jab at the otherwise distinguished career of Wallace’s vice-presidential running mate.
I don’t know if Wallace noticed my sign or paid any attention to the voices arrayed against him there that day, but we had fun in the party atmosphere while exercising our freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and absolute rejection of Wallace’s white supremacist rhetoric.
Back then, my young friends and I could afford to be lackadaisical. While Wallace and his ilk did indeed feel to us like a threat to the Republic, they were never in our wildest dreams going to win the Electoral College.
But today is not fifty years ago, and many things that once were unimaginable have come to pass.
After Charlottesville, it is disturbingly obvious that there are competing visions of America out there among our neighbors. While some of us look forward to a bright new day, others are trying to drag us back in time into their dystopian version of the “good ol’ days.”
But there is no Golden Age back there in the past; we have always had our collective foibles and our moral failings, and we have yet to get it all into perfect order. In fact, the greatness of our nation has always depended on our best efforts to expand Jefferson’s imperfect and too narrow “All men are created equal” into the most inclusive and vigorous and radical America imaginable.
That’s not going to happen, though, if I hit the streets like I did when I was young: unprepared and simply on a lark. Before I can help get my country and my world right, I need to get my own life in better shape.
Anne Lamott has said, “While fixing and saving and trying to rescue is futile, radical self-care is quantum, and it radiates out from you into the atmosphere like a little fresh air. It’s where world peace begins.”
Since world peace has to start in my own heart, maybe I’ll add to my morning yoga routine a meditation on the phrase, “It begins inside, it begins inside, it begins inside.”
See you in church,