Like many of you, I wept a tear or two the night Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. The tears that flowed for so many across the country gave testimony that the last 8 years have been trying. But more than that, the tears of joy and relief–springing from the depths of our national soul–testified to four centuries on the fault lines of freedom and slavery. A history filled with trauma, though not without triumphs.
November 4, 2008, was one of those triumphs.
I felt giddy when my dad called early in the evening and said, "It’s over. Obama won Ohio." Though the networks wouldn’t call it for another hour, I went to the fridge and popped a bottle of champagne. Channel-surfing the live TV coverage with my son, we were watching Jon Stewart’s show when he told Stephen Colbert and a delirious crowd the official news: Obama would be the 44th president. Involuntarily, my chin buckled a bit, my chest quaked, and I did something like a half-sob. On TV, the usually ever-ironic Colbert was wiping his eyes.
The tears around the world were not only mirrors of the past, but also libations for the future, dedicated to the proposition that we can heal and transcend the brutal shadows of history, see the full picture of the present, and manifest a transformative tomorrow.
The election of President Obama represents a stunning moment in the history of systemic racism in this nation–a profound moment in the spiritual journey of the country, and an amazing moment in the history of the world.
But as Obama said on election night, "This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change." Looking at the past, we see that history is made by mass movements, more so than by a single person–even a prophet or a president. To reverse catastrophic climate change and runaway global warming, we need a movement. To dismantle institutional oppression, we need a movement. To save the Earth’s biosphere–the sacred, fragile and disappearing web of living species–we need a movement. To end poverty, and the unnecessary, unconscionable suffering it causes, we need a movement. To transform our country from an empire into an ally, we need a movement.
We desperately need to start a new story.
Taylor Branch, on the radio after Obama’s victory, said that in some ways, this moment is the reverse of the Civil Rights period, where a citizens’ movement eventually led to political victories in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Here, said Branch, you have a political transformation at the top first, and now we need a citizens’ movement to go with it.
As the elation of Obama’s historic victory slowly fades, we begin to grasp the magnitude of the work ahead. We have an opening. It’s imperative we seize it. Now is the time to planetize the movement.
We need a global movement that connects ecology and social justice. Thankfully, it’s happening all around us.
Just ask Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. Hawken says there are some two million groups around the planet working for justice, sustainability, peace and democracy. Perhaps this is what Dr. King dreamed of four decades ago when he offered this challenge:
"Although it is obvious that non-violent movements for social change must internationalize, because of the interlocking nature of the problems they all face, and because otherwise those problems will breed war, we have hardly begun to build the skills and the strategy, or even the commitment, to planetize our movement for social justice." (Martin Luther King Jr., 1967)
Forty years after King’s critique and call to action, it may finally be possible to truly "planetize our movement" for global justice, positive social change and creative transformation. Supporting this emergent ‘movement of movements’ is the purpose of Planetize the Movement (PTM). Our inspiration comes from all of you around the world working for compassion and the future. Our resolve is steadied by the passion and the courage of those who stand beside us and those who came before.
Dr. King said that every person of conscience must decide on the form of protest that best suits his or her own convictions, but as long as injustice exists, we all must protest. In the face of racism, war, and poverty, King taught, "We must speak with all the humility appropriate to our limited knowledge, but we must speak."
Some of the greatest freedom fighters in history were also writers and publishers of journals: Frederick Douglass had The North Star; William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator; Emma Goldman published Mother Earth; Gandhi had Young India; and W. E. B. Du Bois founded The Crisis.
While none of us may be the equal of a Douglass or a Goldman, all of us are called to follow in their footsteps. Each of us can manifest our creativity, vision and love through compassionate action, in solidarity with all people and the whole Earth Community. As PTM grows, we’ll bring you articles, guest blogs, interviews and videos from leading visionaries, artists, activists and authors.
So send us your thoughts and ideas, your writings and poems, your news and notices. There is value in every voice, from meticulous scholars to half-mad scribblers. Imagination springs from the same source as dreams, and the future is a poem inside our pen.