I have been re-reading Everything That Rises Must Converge (the actual story and the collection of stories by the same name) by Flannery O'Connor this summer. While her writing is inspirational on its own, it's the psychic battle behind it all that has had me thinking about her more today. She obviously was hopeful that segregation ending would produce an equality for black Americans but she was also very pessimistic that uneducated whites and the older elite class (also very white) of that day would ever accept the change. The youthful hero's in her work have such bitter conflict with these protagonists in her stories. They all seem to weigh the risk of silence vs. speaking out against injustice even in their own families. They have an evangelical enthusiasm for the change that will come with "equality for all" and an indignation for those who aren't ready to accept the change.
It seems to me that Ms. O'Connor wanted badly for the world around her to change and that she was quite impatient waiting for it back then in the late 1950's. It's what I love and yet mourn most from her writing. We also live with a longing for something that is just out of our grasps. You could argue there is a new brand of privilege and a disenfranchised working class today - both hell bent on reversing the hands of time as if the demons from Flannery O'Connors imagination have been set loose from the pages. Or you could say nothing new under the sun. Suffering is and will always be. I realize there are politics here that I am not fully addressing. No election will ever be enough to cure what ails us. We need that too but regardless of the size of our government or the party brand that dominates our politics in any election cycle, it is in the daily battles of our lives that we make the most progress toward equality and it is in living freedom that we experience it. It is in loving those around us fully that we will learn to accept them for who they are and realizing that is how they accept us too. Like the youthful hero's of O'Connor's works - we can sit in agitation until we eventually explode or we can find an effective a way to communicate our love, empathy and support for those who need it most.
The progress Flannery O'Connor was likely hoping for, never really materialized. We still don't like people that are different from us. We still act out of self protection. We still believe resources are too scarce to share them. Vote? Sure. Lets have all kinds of protections for animals, water, people, plants and planets... But true social change doesn't just require a vote. Like for O'Connors heroes, it also requires a brave moment when we realize that we can't be silent any longer. My actions derived from the ultimate concern for another human being today will help ensure that any future legal protections are meaningful and long lasting. Let's not wait for change. Let it converge on us now.