Their Burdens

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I pledge to do all I can to secure a democratic way of life and heal a wounded planet.

Judging from my social media accounts, which I spend a little time curiously perusing every day, I am not the only one whose heart grew three sizes that day – that day being the day of the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and the moment my heart grew being the reading of the poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ by our nation’s Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman.

I was so taken by her. Every word moved me, healed me, inspired me, challenged me, absorbed me.

But there was one line that haunted me. It struck me full across the face when I heard it, and its impact has not left me since.

I remember an old aphorism of unknown origin that reads: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Reading that statement for the first time in the midst of our global climate crisis, I felt immediately convicted by the generations to come who will have to adapt quickly to a world altered by choices I made today. Not being one who harbors guilt for very long, I turned that conviction into a more dedicated effort to participate in the global communities resolve to repair the planet.

Well, I felt that same conviction and resolve, only more powerfully this time, when the poet stood before the nation and said this: “our blunders become their burdens.”

I had been following along with Ms. Gorman, hanging on every word somewhat in awe of how much wisdom was emanating from this youthful spirit. She had just spoken about our gaze being on the future while history’s eyes were on us. She wrote this in the aftermath of Jan. 6, and that was the context. She spoke about our resolve to carry the light of democracy forward in spite of the assault it had just endured and challenged us not to give in or give up, but to continue. She wrote “We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.”

I resonated deepy with all of that.

And then this happened – these words hit me, and hit me hard: our blunders become their burdens.

At this point, she is not referring to Jan. 6 – but to our capacity to endure what another poet called ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ and our collective agency to oppose them – if we choose.

She is saying two things about that: democracy won’t be terminated either by white supremacist insurrectionists or our awkward attempts to overcome it; the consequences of our inattentiveness to this matter won’t be borne by us, but by the generations to follow.

That is what hit me.

I have three children and two grandchildren. I don’t exactly relish the thought of forcing them to live with the consequences of my silence in the face of white supremacy or inability to alter my lifestyle in order to preserve the health of the planet.

This is truly a case where the sins of the father will be visited up the children and grandchildren – our blunders will become their burdens.

My spirit is both disturbed by that and motivated by that. I feel called and convicted by the young poet and prophet who speaks with the wisdom of her ancestors and the hopes of her heirs. I pray what she inspired in me translates into blunders avoided and justice delivered. Today, I pledge to do all I can to secure a democratic way of life and heal a wounded planet. Let us work with resolve to minimize our blunders and reduce their burdens as we continue our journey Into the Mystic.

Categories: Column Into the Mystic

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