To the Editor:
This past Wednesday two important – and quite distinct – events can be marked. On the surface each is remarkably different from the other in time, message, delivery, and audience, and yet the core values they suggest are much the same. Let me elaborate.
Wednesday evening of April 4, 7:00 p.m. to be precise, marked the fourth campus-wide showing of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. This is a remarkable documentary for its ability to succinctly capture the pressing reality of global warming and call individuals to action, as well as its demonstration that the once-President-To-Be does have a personality after all. There are a number of excellent points that could be highlighted, but herein I want to pursue two that are particularly salient, if not overly visible through the course of the film. First, speaking of individuals’ reluctance to change habits, Gore quotes Churchill saying: “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences…” Second, speaking of an impending clash between humans and our environment, Gore speaks again of the slow rate of change in human behavior. He fervently points out the intense need to react and respond to the reality of environmental change that is staring us in the eyes. Informed action, he argues, is a moral imperative as much as an intellectual and political choice.
Allow me to put this in the perspective of Wednesday’s second important event – the 39th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. When we speak of MLK, we think of civil rights, of sit-ins and of non-violent resistance. Yet history has conspired to largely erase the other issues to which he devoted himself, most notably speaking out against the Vietnam War, against poverty and segregation of the classes, and his organizing of citizen demands – across races – for equity and justice. Too often we learn of the King who had a Dream, but hidden is the man who called for “a radical revolution of values…from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society.”
Almost 40 years span these two events, yet the issues they engage and the impassioned demand for action that they make overlap so clearly. Whether you prefer to identify with issues of environmentalism, of social justice, of culture or community or any myriad of topics and isms, the bottom line is that as individuals we must cease to seek a congratulatory comfort in our recognition of the world’s inequality. Intellectual acuity and personal reflection mean little if not accompanied with self-interrogation and a consciousness in our lifestyle choices. As Dr. King declared, “a time [has come] when silence is betrayal.”
Mindfulness, a purposeful consciousness of our actions and their impacts on the earth, on systems of inequality, and on the individual’s we share our communities and our globe with, must be pursued. Think of Dr. King’s admonishment, “I speak as a citizen of the world … aghast at the path we have taken…the initiative to stop it must be ours.” Think of Gore’s call to say the ‘buck stops here,’ with each one of us.
The point I wish to make here is by no means a comparison of Dr. King and Gore. Rather it is to point out that a call to action, to personal accountability, and to citizen responsibility is salient across time and throughout social issues. In the most recent editions of the Maroon-News
Beth WeickClass of 2007