Now Maybe Some Day
Tomorrow morning there will be reports of throngs. We should ask before the fact: to what end? Without the consequence of something better -- for you, for your neighbors, for me, for my family -- then we do nothing but squander optimism.
Therefore we should keep in mind the words of the Frederick Douglass, who should be thought of today like the ghost of emancipation future and the ghost of emancipation past all tangled into a single figure. Speaking before people of impatience over 150 years ago he gave us today's lesson:
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must pay for all they get. If we ever get free from all the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and, if needs be, by our lives, and the lives of others.
-- An address on West India Emancipation
Today's challenge will be to take this precursory conjuring into our hands -- it's a sacred relic and a mojo that we should spread -- and remake it into our new conjuring of struggle to remake this nation in our image. Thus today is our beginning, when we make ours the consequence of a better world occasioned by the President's inauguration.
Today this President opens our door. We must live up to his faith in us by walking through and making a new politics, one that drops the grievances of the past, especially the immediate past, and one that begins the real work that we have left undone for so many decades.
Reminders from the prophetic tradition: