What’s next? Today’s marches around the world leave me looking for guidance from those who have already marched for civil rights, for human rights. What do we need to know now, moving forward? I sought inspiration from an extraordinary woman: Dr. Pocahontas Gertler.
She is a fierce warrior: as thoughtful, gentle and articulate as she is determined. Poco has been patient with me as I sort out my views on America’s way forward. She graciously agreed to let me share her thoughts with you.
“I suspect that at the dawn of the Donald Trump presidency, many of us are reflecting more profoundly than ever on what the future holds and how to heal the deep wounds that divide our nation. Uncertainty and fear loom as dark times, fueled by the hate and prejudice that the president-elect and his supporters have stirred up, threaten to rip our nation apart.
“How do we brace ourselves to withstand what this fractured future may hold? How do we preserve the freedoms and gains we have made in the past and build a stronger nation going forward? The responsibility that each of us has is crucial. I ask myself what I have done with my moments and my days, which now seem shorter as the sands of time run through the hourglass with increasing speed. Have I used my time wisely and unselfishly? Have I faltered in service to my neighbor?
“ All of God’s children are equal in His sight and deserving of liberty and justice regardless of race, color or creed. The dignity and dreams of all of God’s children matter. This has been my guiding principle and motivation for working for Social Justice throughout my life.
“The dreams of black and brown and red and yellow people dry up like prunes and perish ‘like raisins in the sun’. Ignored are their anguished voices crying in the wilderness, begging America for a place at the table.
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth can only make us blind and toothless. Already we stumble in blindness and hate, ignoring your edict to love one another as God has loved us.
“Your instructions, Divine Source of Strength, are so clear about how to create a peaceable kingdom: simply to love God and love our neighbor. Yet, greed and avarice prevail and the hunger for power over one’s fellow human beings makes ravenous monsters of the strong, who devour the weak and oppressed.
“We must continue to work tirelessly to create the Beloved Community as did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. In our imaginations, we can picture the celestial realm where brilliant souls unloose the surly bonds of creed and race and embrace peace and justice face to face.
“I implore the God of my weary years, the God of my silent tears, to grant us peace and let peace and forgiveness begin with me. May my remaining days be a testament to His loving kindness as I surrender to His holy will.
“May God use the broken places in my life to let His light shine through. I paraphrase what an unknown, perceptive person once said, ‘Life is not a smooth journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty, well preserved body, but rather a rugged race to skid in broadside, thoroughly bruised up and used up, totally worn out from fighting for justice and loudly proclaiming, “Wow, what a ride!!!”’”
Pocohontas Gertler is my stepmother-in-law. She just turned 84.
I have been struggling with where protest marches fit into American political life and expression, and what value and role they have in defining, articulating, and accomplishing change in the face of adversity, unity in an environment of poisonous division.
When I asked her thoughts, she wrote,
“Judy, Dear, I would never presume to present myself as any kind of an expert on these matters. I have only my eight decades of life experience and observations to rely upon and what I have learned along the way. I don’t believe that there is only one approach when it comes to standing up for justice. Some may be quite spontaneous while others are well planned. I do believe that all must be non-violent. Violence begets more violence and that, of course, is counterproductive.”
Her memoir, While I Run This Race, is filled with the amazing grace of a lifetime warrior against racism and injustice. Of all the people in my life, she holds the brightest torch lighting the way of determination against struggle, despite the astonishing hardships and indignities that life dished up.
She is living proof that while we cannot control what happens to us, we choose how we will respond and who we will become.
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