Like everyone else, I am trying to absorb the historical moment in which we stand and to take some measure of it. There are times when I am reminded of high and low points of the Civil Rights movement, the struggles for justice and peace in the 1960s and early 1970s (from Vietnam to the early stirrings of liberationist movements), and, more globally, of the upheavals in Europe and China in 1989, and, in 1994, the end of Apartheid in South Africa.
Still, this is a unique moment—one peculiar to where we find ourselves as a nation among nations in 2020, when social media and communications have elevated our common humanity and demoted the many ways we have traditionally partitioned society and our “common” life, our life together. We are at a point, it seems, where we have come to realize anew that in order to function as we have been functioning, we have been sipping a tonic of lies.
Yet this seems to be a moment when a critical mass of people want to clear away the tangle of lies and to start anew, with a clean slate, and a commitment to truth—to what must and can be possible for us. At its best, this is a time when the young will see visions, and the old dream dreams (Acts 2:17). At its worst, we risk the pitfalls of self-delusion and the judgmentalism of having been newly “woke.”
Each of us wants to act; we want to see how this story ends (or at least how it arcs in the medium-term), and we want to participate in the making of the story. We want to become ever more engaged with life, to help make it happen. Here is where frustration can set in, where some must be content to be the old men whose “action” consists in dreaming, in saying the dreams with a creaking voice, in encouraging others to act, to bring visions into reality: to live in a hope where the promise of history blossoms forth, where our part of the story is made complete.