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When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won.

There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it – always . . . When you are in doubt that that is God's way, the way the world is meant to be . . . think of that.

And then – try to do it His way.

I saw and heard those words this afternoon, as I watched for the first time in years the powerful motion picture, Gandhi, with its superb performance by Ben Kingsley in the title role.

I want to reflect on those words, however briefly.

Those of us who view ourselves as Progressives or Liberals can rightly be worried about the direction of our nation.

Those who are political active can with justification look at what happened in 2010 and what could happen between now and through the end of 2012 and consider despair.

Or if we do not despair we might consider extreme measures, of responding in kind to what we see opposed against us.

It is right to raise concerns.  I myself did so earlier today in this diary

But then I remember words from another time, in another context.  It was Walt Kelly's Pogo, looking out at the devastation of the swamp and saying sadly,"We have met the enemy and he is us.

Recently I had dinner with one of the most important people in educational policy.  I said that a part of me feels as if we have already lost the battle to save American public schools.  But then I noted that if I gave in to that I could not go on.  I could no longer teacher.  I could no longer try to make a difference.  Instead, I had to act as if what I did still mattered, still could make a difference.

I am prone to depression.  Perhaps it is because I have wrestled with that on a personal level that I find myself less willing to surrender to despair on the larger stage of politics and morality and education and government and human rights and the environment and all the issues that matter so much.

As I write this, sitting on my sofa on a warm day, two of our rescued cats are curled up next to me.  I realize that in the small things we do we begin to make a huge difference.  We took in these two, and three more.  They have brightened our lives immeasurably.

I think of the letter I received yesterday from a student, about which I wrote in this diary, and again remember how simply acts of kindness and respect begin to change the world by empowering other people.  

The most powerful moment in the movie is for me when the men walk upon the salt works, only to be struck down with violence, row after row after row.  We get enough of it, and see in Martin Sheen as the reporter from the NY Times, Walker, his reaction, his horror.  Then we hear him dictating his story over the telephone.  Allow me to offer from the script only the words he speaks:

They walked, with heads up, without music, or cheering, or any hope of escape from injury or death. It went on and on and on. Women carried the wounded bodies from the ditch until they dropped from exhaustion. But still it went on.

Whatever moral ascendance the West held was lost today. India is free for she has taken all that steel and cruelty can give, and she has neither cringed nor retreated.

Perhaps it is because I am of an age when I saw similar courage and determination in our own nation, whether it was the Little Rock Nine, or John Lewis and others at the Edmund Pettis Bridge, or the Freedom Riders half a century past this year.  

Perhaps because I have seen it small things that matter greatly - a student who intervenes to protect a classmate from being bullied, an adult refuses to acquiesce to tyranny or discrimination, anyone who decides that their own financial situation is not a justification to benefit from the suffering or unfair treatment of others.

We face perilous times.  We are disappointed by many of the politicians we have supported.  We are tempted to despair.

There are many quotes from Gandhi that might inspire us:

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves.

Be the change that you want to see in the world.

And certainly almost all here will already have encountered this:  We must become the change we want to see in the world.

Our task is not to turn to others for inspiration.  We need to turn somewhat inward at least this much - that we know our own hearts and souls.   Where will we draw lines of conscience?  What cost might we be willing to pay to maintain our integrity?

I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.

Of the most recent, I agree, although I admit my possible failings in noting that I am prepared to kill to defend the lives of the children in my care.

Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.  For it is in the small things that are a part of our daily existence that we begin to bring our life into conformity with our deepest beliefs.  It is there that moral integrity becomes rooted.  It is how we become a drop of water in the larger stream that can carve out great canyons from the rockiest surface of the human heart.

There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it – always
  Think of it indeed.  I do not wish the power of a tyrant.  My words and actions are but those of one person, but they are and should be representative of who and what I am, or of what I aspire to be.  I can only help change the world by first changing myself.

Sometimes we are reminded of truth through works of art.  Often we can reminded by simple observation - of the simple acts and words of those who act and speak with integrity.

Today I watched most of a movie I know well, but which I had not viewed in quite some time.

Today some words and images from that film spoke to my condition.

Today I have written how those words and images spoke to me.

Perhaps they will speak to you, perhaps not.

For me it was important that I share.

For you?  Do what make sense for you, not because others say so, but because in your heart of hearts you know so.


Originally posted to teacherken on Thu Jun 23, 2011 at 10:44 AM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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