Which Way the Arc? Justice or Chaos?

BY Millard Arnold, May 4 2022



On a cold, blustery day in late March 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King – whose birthday we recently celebrated – took to the podium at the National Cathedral and uttered this famous phrase:  “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

Yet however inevitable justice may seem to be, it nonetheless is a struggle that is by no means guaranteed, for the definition of justice is clearly not universal.  For some, it is justice for all; for others it is justice just for us.   And so, it was that on January 6th, we witnessed in revulsion and disgust, the most audacious skirmish yet in the civil war that is about to engulf us. Five people died on that bloody Wednesday two weeks ago; two Capital Police officers gave the ultimate sacrifice to defend our capital and protect our democracy.

What transpired on January 6th was no accident, nor was it spontaneous.  It was a controlled, orchestrated and meticulously planned and executed strike at the heart of our democracy incited by the President with the specific intent to bring our country to its knees. It was blatant, it was deliberate it was calculating.  It had its genesis four years ago with the inauguration of Donald Trump, it was incubated in a bed of lies, deceits and deceptions; it was given expression in Charlottesville in 2017 and it was tested in a trial run in May of last year when gun-toting hooligans seized  the Michigan statehouse. And then, of course, there was Trump’s not so coded message to the Proud Boys, and other “fine people” to “Stand back and Stand by.” This was no accident nor was it spontaneous.

Aided and abetted by a Republican Party, held hostage by its shrill, lunatic fringe, Trump initiated an insurrection against the very government to which he swore a constitutional oath to protect.   The first of many casualties in that insurrection have been truth, honesty and decency.

We need to realize that we are at war. We need to accept that the values and principles that have guided America for centuries is under attack.

January 6th was not about protesting election results; the bogus claim of election fraud was but a fig leaf of legitimacy to justify the violence and radicalism that followed. Inflamed by the President’s rhetoric, wild-eyed, crazed anarchist entered the hollowed chamber of our capital and rampaged with impunity, inflicting mayhem and fear everywhere.  A riot run amok: construction of a guillotine and chants of hanging the vice president: defecating on the capitol floors, disdainfully occupying the Senate well and Nancy Pelosi’s desk, desecrating and vandalising congressional offices while lawmakers huddled on the chamber floor in terror and anxiety.

This was a coup attempt by rabid, right-wing fanatics hellbent on destroying our way of life, no matter the cost.  January 6th was their Fourth of July; in their minds, it marks the beginning of their revolution.  And notwithstanding today’s inauguration, their revolution will continue.

Like you, I have a great deal of respect for the Reverent Dr. King, I too believe that an enlightened future is possible.  But there are other voices.  Other voices that I respect equally as well. Voices perhaps more realistic; perhaps more cynical, perhaps voices that need to be listened to as well.

I quote for you Ta-Nehisi Coates;

“I don’t believe the arc of the universe bends towards justice. I don’t even believe in an arc. I believe in chaos…. I’m also not a cynic. I think that those of us who reject divinity, who understand that there is no order, there is no arc, that we are night travelers on a great tundra, that stars can’t guide us, will understand that the only work that will matter, will be the work done by us.”

So what matters is the work done by us.

What matters is the work done by us as the Democratic Party.  We need to recognize the inauguration of Joe Biden affords us the opportunity to invoke sanity and reality into our political discourse.  It affords us the opportunity to answer the silent question as to who we are and what we wish to be.  It affords us the opportunity to return to first principles and rebuild America to reflect the common values and shared ideals that have been the foundation of our rich, multicultural society.

There is work to be done.  We have but 18 months to demonstrate what good leadership and commitment can accomplish.  The challenges which Joe Biden and the Democratic Party faces are daunting in the extreme.  A fledgling civil war, a ravishing pandemic, a crippled economy and a global environment reeling from climate change and lack of political coherence.

As a party, we need to produce; we need to deliver.  We need to provide genuine answers to the problems our nation faces.  We need to end the deception and demagoguery of the Trump Administration and speak with purpose and clarity.  As a party we need to rededicate ourselves, reconstitute ourselves and repurpose ourselves,  so that America can once again realise the dream expressed in our declaration of independence so many decades ago:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men – and women — are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In which way does the moral arc of the universe bend? Does it bend towards Justice or Chaos? As custodians of America’s fundamental and enduring values, it is incumbent on the Democratic Party to ensue that he moral arc of the universe always bends towards Justice.