Jan 21 2010

Arianna_Huffington In a powerful and insightful column "'Hope' Has been a Bust, It's Time for Hope 2.0", Arianna Huffington hits the nail right on the head. Change no longer can eminate from Washington but must come from a citizens revolt outside the Beltway. In her column, Huffington writes:

"What we need is Hope 2.0: the realization that our system is too broken to be fixed by politicians, however well intentioned -- that change is going to have to come from outside Washington.

This realization is especially resonant as we celebrate Dr. King, whose life and work demonstrate the vital importance of social movements in bringing about change. Indeed, King showed that no real change can be accomplished without a movement demanding it.

As Frederick Douglass put it: "Power never concedes anything without a demand; it never has and it never will."

The perfect example of this came in March 1965. In an effort to push for voting rights legislation, King met with President Lyndon Johnson. But LBJ was convinced that the votes needed for passage weren't there. King left the meeting certain that the votes would never be found in Washington until he turned up the heat in the rest of the country. And that's what he set out to do: produce the votes in Washington by getting the people to demand it. Two days later, the "Bloody Sunday" confrontation in Selma -- in which marchers were met with tear gas and truncheons -- captured the conscience of the nation. And five months later, on August 6th, LBJ signed the National Voting Rights Act into law, with King and Rosa Parks by his side.

At that March meeting, LBJ didn't think the conditions for change were there. So Dr. King went out and changed the conditions."

She continues:

"In his famous 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," King lamented the failure of "white moderates" to "understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality."

He went on: "Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."

And that's exactly what his nonviolent direct action sought to do. King understood that he needed to tap into the empathy of whole constituencies that would not themselves be the direct beneficiaries of the civil rights movement. And so he set about making a compelling moral case by bringing the "ugliness" and "injustice" front and center -- forcing many in white America to see for the first time that millions of their fellow citizens were effectively living in a different reality than they were. He created pathways for empathy and then used them to create a better country for everybody.

"A man," said King, "has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow confines of his own individual concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

While Huffington writes about a broad spectrum of progressive issues, I would like the LGBT community to pay special attention to this important piece of writing. In my opinion, Huffington has it right.