“Our thoughts and prayers are not enough.”
— President Barack Obama, October 2, 2015
Another national tragedy brings more words of sorrow, more pleas for unity from my nation’s leader…
He seemed rather weary during in his brief speech following the killings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana last Sunday. But I can’t fault him for any emotional slump. He’s made so many speeches like that one. And to what effect?
Nonetheless, I was encouraged by his words. By one line in particular…
After acknowledging our divisions, he asked “that everyone right now focus on words and actions that can help unite this country”.
I only wish that he’d taken that idea a step farther. Imagine the benefit if he’d said: “Each one of us can take action this next week. Every single one of us can do something positive to make this bad situation better. Some small but meaningful action.”
That simple statement says: you may feel powerless to change this situation, but you aren’t.
When we begin to feel powerless, we may surrender our will and fall into depression…
…or find violent ways to express our frustration…
…or look to our leaders to do something in our stead. In particular, we may look to our political leaders.
Fortunately, I think we’re starting to realize: our political leaders don’t have the answers. It’s up to us to save ourselves. In the sixties, we sang, “power to the people”. That’s not naive. We do have power—if we’re willing to use it, if we’re willing to act. Even if it’s only in small ways. Small, but meaningful ways.
In times of crisis, we’re apt to look to a leader for guidance. As we open ourselves to this leader, we may gain a sense of our own strength. That’s not a negative—as long as we realize no one gave us that strength: it’s ours.
The leader can be felled in a moment. But as long as we own our strength, our power, we won’t lose the will to act, we’ll continue the good fight.
© 2016, Michael R. Patton