The Arc of the Moral Universe

It’s not just the US. More than half of the earth’s population lives in a country where there is a nationwide election in 2024.

Yesterday would have been Martin Luther King’s 95th birthday. I think of him often, not only because of his calm intelligence and strong leadership but because we shared a birthday. His speeches and oft-quoted proclamations ring true for many, but especially for those who feel strongly about equal rights.

Current events have me thinking about when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” This quote, which was part of a speech given at a Jewish synagogue in Memphis in 1965, has echoed through the ages. It offers hope and gives rise to the progress of all peoples through freedom, equality, and, indeed, justice as the cornerstone of that freedom.

But …

Does that quote still ring true today, when we are on the cusp of relinquishing the great democratic experiment in favor of something … different?

Notice I don’t say something “bad” or “good.” That’s because this JOAG blog does not take sides in political issues. I don’t speak harshly nor, conversely, do I praise any political person, regardless of their age, personality, or any legal, moral, or civil circumstances surrounding them.

However, there is a proverbial elephant in the room that I do want to shine a light on today.

I’ve been surprised to learn how many millions of citizens have been and currently are dissatisfied with the democratic process. I always knew there were differences, but I never fully grasped a level of dissatisfaction so great as to let the whole democratic experiment be extinguished in favor of a different way of ruling in America.  

Freedom taken for granted

My past Fourth of July blog posts have emphasized how fortunate we are to be able to choose our religion, thoughts, personal choices, beliefs, and opinions. Don’t you take these freedoms for granted? I do.

Don’t you assume that if you or a loved one is intentionally injured by another, some law will protect your right to seek relief from that injury? Laws in our democracy exist in the first place to maximize safety. Laws exist to keep the vast majority of US citizens healthy, alive longer, and able to attain all that they hope for and desire.

Without justice, we are unprotected and vulnerable. If we can’t count on safety, it’s logical that our personal choices, beliefs, religions, and opinions will no longer be valued or protected or even allowed. Our interests will become more difficult to pursue. I would like to suggest, however, that one group’s ideology should not prevent that of another group.

Compromise and autocracy

Those who have felt left out and angry about equality and justice for all feel left out of opportunities to thrive in their own way because of a government or another group of people who ignore their needs and desires. That’s how it’s always been, right? And this causes conflict. But is autocracy rather than compromise and conscious working together to seek a better solution the answer? That’s what will be voted upon in November 2024.

If we, in fact, favor autocracy over democracy so much so as to make it our reality, I doubt the arc of the moral universe will continue to bend toward justice. The desire for equality will be traded for a system of one person alone making decisions, without consideration of outcomes and sanity, for the rest of us, including those who don’t agree with or support the ideology of that individual. Our country will become just like Russia, China, and Iran in having a single person decide for all of us, all the time, on all issues. There may be elections that appear to be open and democratic in nature, such as in Russia, but they will be fake.

Your choice

Personally, I’m not willing to give up on democracy. I agree there is a lot of work and compromising to do within that ideology, but I’m willing to participate.

I’m aware that the issue is not as simple as I have outlined it here. I over-simplified the situation because I keep hearing chatter about distracting issues of personality, age, legal maneuvers, or voting for a third party (this may look more appealing but would only serve to divide and further threaten our ongoing democracy).

So, what can we do? It is imperative to vote in November. Keep in mind—and here’s what’s real simple—you’re either voting for democracy or for something different, most likely a dictatorship. Ignore the media hype and focus on the idea that justice is at risk of becoming a thing of the past.

In the end, the arc of the moral universe may continue to lean toward justice, but only if we pull it there … and we do that by voting.