Friday, December 15, 2023

#349 / A Belief That All People Are One

Let me recommend a recent article from The New Yorker, commenting on Bayard Rustin's work as an "organizer." The New Yorker article is titled, "Eclipsed in his Era, Bayard Rustin Gets to Shine in Ours." Those who are not familiar with Bayard Rustin might want to click on this link, to get a Wikipedia summary of his life, and what he accomplished. The New Yorker article, of course, labeled as an "American Chronicle," provides a lot more information about Rustin and his work, and particularly information on Rustin's impact on the Civil Rights Movement

I am not certain that non-subscribers to The New Yorker will be able to read the article by clicking the link I have provided, though I hope so. In case a paywall does interpose itself, however, let me quote the part of The New Yorker article that has inspired me to write this blog posting: 

[Rustin] was ... matchlessly eloquent, with as distinct and elevated a manner as any American political leader has possessed. Against the charismatic orotundity of Martin Luther King, Jr., or the clipped, impatient nervosity that Malcom X shared with J.F.K., Rustin’s precise, urgent tenor, with his mid-Atlantic accent, stands out. Slightly lisping, smartly concise, he is not trying to inspire or to overwhelm; he is just trying to tell a sharp truth or two. In a video from 1979—he’s wearing a tattersall vest and holding a cigarillo—he shocks a well-meaning interviewer, who asked about the civil-rights era, by insisting, “I don’t think any of the lessons of that period are applicable now,” because “its objectives were veddy concrete and ex-ceed-ingly limited.” (His enunciation at such moments is almost uncannily like Katharine Hepburn’s—and, indeed, Hepburn learned her articulations at Bryn Mawr, not far from the places in Pennsylvania where Rustin learned his.) Rustin popularized the phrase “Speak truth to power,” and memorably insisted that social progress calls for “angelic troublemakers.” Late in his life, he summed up his credo in five simple steps: “1) nonviolent tactics; 2) constitutional means; 3) democratic procedures; 4) respect for human personality; 5) a belief that all people are one (emphasis added).”

It is my belief that our political future (here in the United States, and in the world) will be determined by our ability to understand (or not) the implications of what I think Rustin properly tells us is a "lesson" we need to learn - the lesson that "all people are one." 

I often put it this way, as I discuss political topics, and make observations about our human situation; "We are all in this together." In my opinion, this is not just a "nice phrase." Rustin has articulated a fundamental truth about who we are as human beings. 

As I indicate when writing about my personal "worldview," I think it is clear that we are both "individuals," and part of a greater whole. Although we have built our history, and our economy, and our society on the premise that "individualism" is the most important thing we need to remember and protect, making "individualism" our first priority is not, in my opinion, the right thing to do. 

I'll sign up, instead, for a society that is premised on the "five simple steps" that Rustin sums up as his "credo." And... I think the most important one of those steps is that last one: 

All People Are One

Let's start acting (and I mean taking action, "political" action) like we understand what that means!

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