The Lie of the Climb

The hardest lesson we learn is what our true enemies look like. Not the bigoted, racist, nationalist ideas of an enemy. Real enemies. Cruelty. Violence. Ignorance. Poverty. Sickness.

The terror they inspire haunts us. It slides down our spines at random moments when our eyes first open to see reality and not merely our imagined world. When we hear a cough from someone we love that’s not a cold, but a deeper rumble of a disease we only hear in hushed whispers. When our best efforts and honest earnestness are laughed at and rejected by those we seek to engage. When a word becomes a projectile and first punctures our scarless heart. And we bleed our first drops of hate’s pain.

And finally we learn that our enemies were never people but the systems they made to make themselves rich, or safe, or famous, or powerful, or deathless. How those that first learn how not only how to wield power but to engineer it into inhuman systems that manufacture these outputs with a machine consistency, when we see the bodies, souls, and minds crushed in the gears and broken by the weight of maintaining these systems. We are told to aim for the top, grind our way up the king of the castle game, the truest game we learn as children. That the meanest and most powerful will win, and you will continually thrust yourself into harm in your attempt to summit their worthless hill.

We learn our world is not made for us. It is made of us. Our flesh and blood and time and our literal lives construct the systems around us that wage war on us. On all of us. Even those who think they live in that castle, stand at the top of that hill. They are wounded at a soul level by the endless war they wage to stay on top simply because they bought into the rules of the game.

We can step off those childhood hills. We can stop playing games and start living lives only when we allow ourselves to fully see and know our real enemies. But sometimes that sight breaks our minds, hearts, and spirits.

How do we armor ourselves? How do we learn to wage the real war while still living, laughing, loving?

Stop resisting, just make it so.

Luke 4:18, as Jesus opens his ministry. He starts with the good news:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,

Lovely, but dangerous words. This is the most dangerous of ideas—the world is not just, but it can be made more so. Maybe this is why the people  whom Jesus was teaching then proceeded not only to run him out of town, but to try and throw him off a cliff to his death.

There is a reason that moral leaders are ignored, then mocked, then threatened, and often then killed. Being faced with a call to treat the poor and oppressed with full dignity and respect often results in society feeling threatened. No one likes to hear about what that takes, and what it means for them. A few are guilty, but all are responsible. What we do when we feel the weight of that responsibility is our moral choice, and collectively this defines our moral character.

So much of the resistance to social justice is simply determined efforts to not see, to unsee, to make others blind to, and finally to make them participants in, injustice.  The resistance is not those fighting for justice, the resistance is those fighting against it.

This is why I have grown to dislike the framing of liberal and progressive organizing and political will as “The Resistance.” What we are seeing in our national politics is the real resistance. It is a resistance to justice. By defining ourselves as resistors we fail to see that we have the power our our national creed and the strength of our shared moral principles. We are the force being opposed.

The power to make and change policy occurs at the intersection of moral principles and public engagement. Moral values of fairness, justice, honesty, and compassion have the power to increase prosperity, health, and security for all. The choice that we have to cast off or out the poor, sick, weak, old, or other to obtain freedom or prosperity is a false teaching based in fear and aristocratic traditions. It is not only morally abhorrent, but it does great injustice the people whose labor and suffering built and continues to build our society. Even more, this core teaching of libertarian elitism is utterly dishonest and ultimately untrue.

Fair wages, fair treatment under the law, fair opportunities to learn, access to safe and reliable transportation, housing, medical care, and food are essential for a society that is truly free.

The freedom of the elite cannot come at the cost of the poor, the working class, minorities, and immigrants. Those are the very people who literally create the wealth of the rich with the labor of their hands, feet, backs, bones, muscles, sweat and blood. The rich may finance, but the poor are the ones that make the buildings in which the rich live, the roads they travel, the cars they drive, the food they eat, clothes they wear. They nurse them in ill health. They often protect them, entertain them, secure and serve them. None of these these people work with the intent to make the few free. They believe, that through their efforts, they make free themselves. Though, the common the result of the system they work within manufactures their captivity and sickness, at their own expense.

Do we see this, or do we remain blind? Do we work to set the oppressed go free, or do we double down on the chains and fetters of the systems and attitudes that keep them out of our sight because we fear, or because we are, the overseers?

We are called to witness, and to release, not to resist.

We cannot be defined by that which we oppose. When we start defining ourselves by what we are doing, what we are working to achieve, we reclaim our power and focus our efforts.

Let us be The Witness. Let us be the Voice bringing good news to the Poor. Let us be the Healers of the sick, and let us be the Liberators of the oppressed. Let us be the humble, stalwart, masses back doing the work that must be done in small ways everyday until these small ways become the mass movement that reawakens and quickens our national soul, a soul that seems to be sick and slumbering.

We don’t resist injustice. We overcome it. We are not The Resistance.

We are Architects, Constructors, Artisans, Voices, Dreamers, Doers—and most of all—we are Makers.

We are The Makers of a just, fair, free, and well America.

We are doing the work of making liberty and justice for all.

The work of making liberty and justice standard, common, expected—the default setting—for all.

If you want prosperity, to unlock American potential and pride, to unleash the strength of our nation as a force for good in the world, we must make the work of justice first in our hearts, our minds, and our bodies, everyday in all the small ways and things that matter so much.

Make justice your first work, and you make America better.

Keep making justice. Keep bringing the good news to the poor, keep making the sick well, keep freeing the oppressed.

Reclaim what it is to make America. America was never about harkening back, America is about moving forward. Not great again, but better always.

Better Always. In ways small and large. In efforts personal and actions global.

Always More Just.

Always More Free.

Always More Well.

Always more Prosperous.

Let us make it so.