Friday, June 13, 2003

The small god within. 

Oh boy, the news isnt' good from Liberty Hill. Liberty Hill Foundation churns out activists in several arenas in the Los Angelas county, and the news from the City of Angels may reflect a budding national trend, from TomPaine.Commonsense.com:

Los Angeles now has the sharpest economic divide in the nation -- fourth in the world after Calcutta.

One guy who has been working on Skid Row for 20 years told me he's never seen so many women and children on the Row -- 82,000 people in Los Angeles County are now homeless each day of the year.

At the day laborer center that we fund, a man recently said to me, "I came from a Third World country for a chance for my family, and found another Third World country -- no housing, no jobs, no health care."

A South L.A. organizer talks about her community's "ghost population" -- the men coming home from prison at a rate of 98 a day. Half of them can't read, and most have untreated drug problems. Almost none will find work, at least not legal work. The majority will return to prison.

These may be local problems, but they reflect national trends, priorities and policies.

82,000 homeless in Los Angelas County; the sharpest economic divide in the nation, 4th only to Calcutta.

Are we peering into America's future when we look at statistics like that? I wonder if our definitions of nation would survive those numbers.

Yet, even from the vantage point of Liberty Hill, there is hope:

Sometimes, when the view from Liberty Hill reveals what I fear could become the destruction of the dream called America, I recall what Dr. Martin Luther King said: "Let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.... The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

And indeed, from Liberty Hill I can also see the sparks of leadership, organizing and vision that could someday reclaim our America. Our America, where we delight in difference, expand opportunity and invest in our young people. Our America, where we know that true patriotism is not imperial arrogance or blind nationalism. Our America, where we take shared responsibility for each other, and honor higher values, like liberty and justice for all.

The vision from Liberty Hill is that of the individual taking responsibility for the kind of world that he or she wants to live in:

L.A. is also now the most diverse place on the planet, and this emerging force for justice cuts across all lines of class, culture and community. It holds huge potential for pointing the way toward reclaiming our country, but it's still centered in the small, specific battles fought every day by those whom the Indian writer Arundhati Roy calls "our small heroes."

Roy writes: "Who knows? Perhaps what the 21st century has in store for us all is the dismantling of the big -- big ideologies, big contradictions, big wars, big heroes, big mistakes.... Perhaps this will be the century of the small. Perhaps right now, this very minute, there is a small god up in heaven readying herself for us."

The small god within.