Lighting Fires At The Outer Edge

April 20, 2021


What do we want? Peace. Justice.
When do we want it? Now!!!

I can hardly believe it was fifty years ago when this chant was fundamental to our protests of the war and racial injustice. The war in Vietnam ended, but we still don’t have peace or the justice we were marching for.

Fifty years later and standing at a place of accumulated decades in my life, I have a different perspective. I still find myself longing for immediate change. But now that is tempered with a long view. I’ve been watching several documentaries on people now gone from us who lived through the horrors of nazi and fascist regimes in Europe, and racial inequity in this country. And things have changed. While so many of us are absolutely horrified by the current rise of white supremacy, the general fabric of our culture is not what it was even a few decades ago. We have a long way to go, but there has been progress.

In one of the documentaries there was discussion about how change, real and lasting change, never happens from the center. It always happens at the edges and then moves to the center. 

Sitting with this I think about the rich diversity that Biden is welcoming to his administration. Those appointments would not be possible if the general fabric of this country hadn’t shifted to our current culture of acceptance and understanding that all voices and perspectives make us a strong and vibrant nation.

Sitting with this I think about the frustration so many of us have about being so distanced from the power to effect massive and meaningful change on a national level. And I wonder at the narrative I’ve long held that systemic change only happens when I’m part of the system. I remember being told all those decades ago that rather than protesting for change I needed to become part of the institutions we were criticizing because change only happens from the inside, from the center. Yet now I see more clearly that change, real and lasting change, happens at the outer edge. The outer edge where most of us live. 

We at the outer edges have more power than we imagine – an inconvenient truth for those claim the power of the center. And I believe that fifty years from now those who can hold a long view will marvel at the change made manifest by those of us the outer edges. 

What do we want? Peace. Justice.
What will we do? Light the fires of change at the outer edge.

Judith –