These are my remarks at Moral Monday Florida, March 3, 2014, sponsored by the NAACP and 18 partner organizations. The Rev. Dr. Russell L. Meyer, Executive Director.
Greetings to my interfaith colleagues, to Rev. Barber, to Sister Adora and the NAACP leadership, and to all of you gathered here today on Moral Monday in Tallahassee. This is the Day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it!
We are rising to the Moment to face the Urgency of Now. This Moment is more than today alone. It is what we do together going forward. Florida’s rainbow electorate wants quality of ideas not the complexion skin in elected officials. The Urgency is that fear and greed have run wild in our Capitol and it needs HELP. It needs Health, Education, Labor and People to be put first. We’ve got to bring the message of HELP to our districts back home. We have to do it together.
Today we come together to give witness to the morality of love over the immorality of fear. We come together to urge compassion for those without bank accounts and restraint on those who manipulate political connections. We come together for the sake of all rather than the privilege of a few. We come in the name of love, not fear. Fear is a mirage, but love is the true mirror of our souls. We claim a Florida that reflects the best of humanity, not the horrors of a fearful imagination. We imagine a Florida that heals the sick and rescues youth in trouble. We come to end the madness that uses fear to exonerate killers.
We know that when the state empowers fear, injustice prevails everywhere. Its policies get infected by a false logic and irrational calculations.
Taxes collected to provide healthcare to 1.2 million uninsured Floridians now wait in Washington because a few Florida legislators in power will it so. Why? Because a contorted political calculus scares them. They think tax dollars that go to Washington and come back to help working families are a great evil, but the real evil is turning our back on our neighbors when there’s a real way to help them.
Governors in this millennium have spent tax money to create lists to purge voters. Why? Out of fear of losing elections, they limit participation in democracy. In what world is an undemocratic Florida more prosperous than a democratic one?
Fear messes with the mind’s ability to see the real potential of the future based on love. Civil rights have been denied to 1.54 million of Florida’s returning citizens. They and their families make up nearly 1 out of 5 people in the state – 10% of the possible voting public. Imagine if 1 out of 5 people that you love suddenly disappeared? What grief and despair would overwhelm you? That’s what’s been done to four or five million Floridians. By some mis-begotten fear, the idea has trapped our legal mind into the contradiction that if we deny people the right to participate in democracy they will become better citizens. We know this fear is as old as the Civil War. Let’s lay it to rest.
Know this: the history, expense and effects of mass incarceration undermines all other economic and social policies. When large numbers of people from urban centers are put into rural prisons and then returned to their neighborhoods under an ever present eye of law enforcement, we create wastelands of poverty, we engineer family breakups, we perpetuate educational incapacities. And we manufacture political power in rural Florida that feeds on being afraid of urban populations.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” Dr. King went on to contrast love with hate.
“And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate … to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. ”
In the last 50 years, hate has moved from the center to the edges of American society. But hate casts a shadow, and that shadow is fear. It is fear that makes you lock your car doors when you drive through town. It is fear that makes school boards enforce zero tolerance rules in the classroom, fear that replaces guidance counselors with police officers, fear that denies healthcare to working families because a political opponent might do good.
It is time to put fear to rest. To paraphrase Dr. King, “we have seen too much fear to want ourselves to fear, because every time we see it, we know that it does something to laws and public policies, so we say out loud, fear is too great a burden to bear. We insist on love as our rule – love that empowers justice and liberty for all.”
To borrow words from scripture, “Perfected love casts out all fear.”
This is video of Rev. Dr. William Barber II speech at Moral Monday Florida, March 3, 2014. I’ve taken it standing directly behind him, so he is in silhouette.