“Summer of Discontent”
I love history because it is the human story, our successes, and failures. At such times when we are living amid historical leadership failures, governmental, social, and religious, there is hope for humanity. Every so often, amid chaos, voices of the “people” arise speaking up against injustices. The most dramatic example of this in my lifetime is the end of apartheid and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa.
The Civil Rights Movement was one such example for the U.S. In the 1960s, social forces on racial equality, women’s rights, severe poverty, and the war in Vietnam coalesced to bring about Civil Rights and other dramatic changes. The unrest in the U.S. had been brewing since the Great Depression. When millions of young men and women who saw the broader world during WWII returned and questioned the draconian social, economic, and political systems at home, they demanded changes.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech spoke of the urgency of the moment and communicated the resolve of the people who believed in justice when he said, “ The sweltering summer of [African Americans’] legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.” The goal was justice, and some of that was achieved in Civil Rights.
We are now facing our moment of truth with history.
The “legitimate discontent” continues to this day, and Black Lives Matter is a reminder that our system is still unjust, and we are leaving many people, as Dr. King said, to “wallow in the valley of despair.” Just as Civil Right protests, Equal Rights marches, and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations forced institutions to examine itself, we must do the same today. Just as the ’60s was set up by previous decades of discontent, we are now facing the same discontent half a century later.
We must agree that civilian deaths at the hands of militarized police should not be happening in our main streets. We must admit that when 49% of African American men and 44% of Hispanic men are arrested before the age of 23, at least once, it is not a criminal issue, but it is a social systems issue. We must recognize that when people work full time and cannot earn enough to take care of their families, the economic system is broken. We have to admit that when in the 21st-century, women are paid only 73% of men are paid for the same work, something is wrong. We must be honest with ourselves and admit that we have failed to hold our civic leadership accountable when ensuring the safety of citizens is not their primary focus, and lying indiscriminately is encouraged.
One day our grandchildren will look at us and ask, “What did you do to make your world better during the Great Pandemic of 2020?” They will want to know if we sheltered safely at home, wore masks, and kept a safe distance to eradicate Covid-19 and create a safe world for them. They will ask if I shared my abundance with my hungry neighbors. They will ask if our church helped the children who were seeking safe places to live. They will want to know if I joined the protests and signed petitions to dismantle systematic racism. They will ask if I supported the creation of a no-cost health care system for everyone. They will ask if I worked to ensure that every worker had a safe working environment and was compensated with living wages. They will ask if I gladly paid more taxes, so those who had fewer means, opportunities, and advantages could experience the grace of God in the same way I did.
This is our time in history. We are living in a historic “Summer of Discontent.” Let us not become complacent nor tired. History will not forgive if we do not seize this moment. Let us be on the right side of history.