2016 Moral March

By Julio Torres
The opinions expressed here do not necessary represent those of the Kairos Center or its staff.
I recently went to North Carolina to participate in the annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street/Moral March on Raleigh, led by the North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral movement. The night before the march there was an interfaith service and Mass Meeting. The keynote speaker of the interfaith service talked a lot about the purpose of this march and how sometimes complaining can be part of the social justice and prophetic witness. Yet action must also take place. He had a moving part of the sermon where he spoke of how several people in the Civil Rights movement and the Poor People’s Campaign, including Martin Luther King, Jr., had nightmares during their struggle. And so the speaker, a Rabbi, gave a mini version of the “I have a dream speech”, but instead it was “I have a nightmare,” and then he went on to list several great injustices.
This week for my class with the Kairos Center, I’m reading a biography on Rosa Parks that deconstructs all the myths about her, as told in classrooms, popular media and even at her funerals in 2005. In the year of the Montgomery Bus Boycott many of the soon-to-be Civil Rights leaders of the were plagued with health problems, nightmares, anxiety and stress. Some resorted to drinking, some cheated on their spouses, and some like Rosa Parks had ulcers.
We all have to deal with issues in our struggles but we can support each other or have other support systems that we can resort on. At least I hope so. I know that sometimes I have nightmares: sometimes I can laugh at them, but I still wake up and it disrupts my sleep. For example when I went to Iraq I had dreams of being chased by zombies. A few weeks ago I had a dream where Trump was a super villain and that one of his towers was a floating superweapon. A therapist said that zombies can be a metaphor for being afraid of death and becoming the monster you fear. Trump, well he keeps getting popular over anti-feminist, -Hispanic, -Islamic, and other forms of bigotry. It makes me wonder when a group of people respond well to that sort of thing. And in a nation with police brutality, school shootings and many people owning weapons, I fear the worst sometimes.
So I take strength in the actions of Rosa Parks; I take strength in Rev. Dr. Barber who is leading the North Carolina Forward Together Moral movement. I take strength when I see my fellow Unitarian Universalists and seminarians fighting injustice in their own ways. I take strength when I stand with my fellow veterans against the lies that became the war on terror, the militarization of the police, and the military industrial complex. These leaders from the Civil Rights movement had weapons. Some had guns, some were armed with prayer, motivation. But they had each other, and they were uncertain but hopeful. Hope can be our greatest weapon, and it’s something I need to work on. So I rely on all of my peers to be my constellation and help me get through the night. My significant other is like my north star sometimes. My parents help me out, and I am privileged because if they didn’t I would probably be just another homeless veteran.
During this interfaith service, Rev. Dr. Barber also said that we must remember to celebrate the small stuff. With this march I was able to celebrate many small things. My wonderful girlfriend who is my partner in crime, in life, and in the fight for social justice; my peers who as students, organizers, religious leaders and faculty were present; and the many blessings which allowed us to travel to North Carolina from New York without any problems other than having to fill up the tires with air. We stood in solidarity, with the homeless, the oppressed, and the sick. Veterans for Peace, doctors, teachers, Black Lives Matter, immigrants demanding their rights (there was some multi-lingual dialogue), and people from all religions, particularly from the Islamic traditions, stood there together. It was moving to see a relative of one of the students who was shot and killed last year, once again here with us to remind us of the price of militarism and uncritical patriotism.
This past year I learned how to be a critical patriot. America today is like Rome was in Jesus’ time, and I have had to reconcile that truth against years of programming as a child and service member in the military. A truly critical patriot takes note of the injustices and recognizes how they have no place in America any longer. I look forward to the new Poor People’s Campaign and hope that change will occur that will bring a level of justice that has been missing in America since its foundations, with the deporting of Native Americans from their land hundreds of years ago, continued with slavery and Jim Crow and further more in war and the criminalization of poverty. I have faith in the constellation of my peers and it was renewed this weekend on the trip to North Carolina, in the freezing cold of the march on February 13, 2016.