We can lead the way in righting wrongs
Taos is one of the poorest counties in this, one of the poorest states in our Union. Our friends, neighbors, brothers and sisters know firsthand the uncompromising cruelty of social and economic injustice. These are wrongs that cry out for corrective confrontation.
That said, a half-dozen of us had come from Taos to the Roundhouse in mid-January to join with New Mexicans of different faiths from across the state in “Witness for the People.” Although we may call our God by different names and have diverging theologies, we were as if one united voice, speaking the truths of our moral positions to power.
Those of my faith, Unitarian Universalism, are not newcomers to the arena of social justice. To the contrary, we have a long tradition of resistance and rebellion. It was the abolitionist minister Theodore Parker who said that “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” words echoed by the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. It was the Unitarian Susan B. Anthony who assured us that in the struggle for liberation, “failure is impossible.” It was the Unitarian troubadour Pete Seeger who sang about danger and warning and hammering out freedom. And yes, it was a Unitarian who declared that certain truths are self-evident: that all … are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. But what are these indisputable rights?
● Paying workers a livable wage is not a simple matter of accounting or economics. People have a right to share in the common resources of the Earth that belongs to all of us, and a right to a fair return on their labor.
● No matter what rationalizations are offered, we cannot abide a cruel and profoundly insensitive government immigration policy that rips refugee children from their mothers’ arms. Asylum seekers fleeing chaos and violence have a right to be treated like human beings, not animals kept in cages. Because we are all sisters and brothers, and because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, we cannot countenance this action in our name.
● Renewable energy legislation to fulfill our sacred duty as stewards of our planet is not simply a pragmatic business proposition. Posterity has the right to inherit a habitable world, not one despoiled by climate change or lacking air that’s fit to breathe or water to drink.
● Quality affordable health care is a right, not a privilege. As former Vice President Hubert Humphrey reminded us decades ago, a “moral test of government is how that government treats … the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
● Quality education for all is a birthright of every child. Can we in good conscience deny current and future generations access to this proven path out of the corrosive confines of poverty?
These are indeed all moral issues. But what can we do?
The late Tom Hayden famously observed that politicians do not lead parades. To the contrary, he declared, politicians follow parades. It is up to us to begin the parade that our politicians will feel compelled to follow. In so doing, let us help our governor and our legislators become the elected officials of our dreams.
We must show up, stand up and speak up in our quest for redress of moral grievances. In words of the ancient Hebrew Rabbi Hillel, “If not now, when?”
Robert J. Silver lives in Taos and is a retired psychologist. He is the author of Tributes & Tirades: Taos Life and American Politics (2013 Nighthawk Press), Keepin’ On: Living Well With Parkinson’s Disease (2018, Nighthawk Press) and dozens of published newspaper op-eds.