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Home / Articles / Columnists / On the Bright Side /  Moral Arc Bends Toward Justice
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Saturday, July 4,2020

Moral Arc Bends Toward Justice

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  


“The Moral Arc of the Universe is Long, But it Bends Toward Justice” (Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) We are a nation founded on popular sovereignty, natural rights and an implied social contract that, when presented rationally to the King of England some 240 years ago, was met with a big sigh, an eye roll and a call for law and order over those “uppity” colonists. It’s not as if this letter declaring independence came as a surprise to the king. After all, the Sons of Liberty had made their anger at the systemic injustices practiced against them quite plain, when a political protest turned violent along the shores of Boston. Property was looted, chests of tea tossed into the harbor, ships burned... patriotism or terrorism? It depends on who is telling the story. The Declaration of Independence, penned two years later as a last resort, characterized the grievances presented to the king as so egregious that they should be “self evident;” that all men are created equal.

I remember growing up being annoyed by pronouns. “He” and “him” were used generically. Everyone I turned to (parents, teachers, my priest), waived it off as all inclusive and basically told me to just get over it. For a girl growing up in the 1970s, that was a really weak explanation. Some would try to assuage my deflation by reminding me that ships and cars and even the earth are referred to as “she!” (Oh Boy!! wink) Years later, on a visit to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house in Seneca Falls, NY, I felt vindicated upon hearing a fantastic story: Elizabeth and Susan B. Anthony were sitting at Mrs. Stanton’s kitchen table having tea, taking a break from darning socks, caring for the five Stanton children, cooking dinner and contemplating women’s suffrage. Susan joked that this was like their own “Tea Party!” In a bout of laughter and inspiration that is the beauty of female bonding, Elizabeth got the BRILLIANT idea to rewrite the words to the Declaration of Independence to include “men and women” every time the words “all men” occurred.

What resulted became the “Declaration of Sentiments,” read aloud by Mrs. Stanton at the invocation of the first ever Women’s Rights Convention right there in little Seneca Falls the following year (1848). Fun Fact: Elizabeth Cady also insisted that the word “obey” be removed from her wedding vows. Such a badass! I love her! I wasn’t able to articulate it at the time, but from a very young age, I knew I was on the lesser side of a power imbalance, and I was resentful. You cannot just tell people to get over microaggressions. They are very real and dehumanizing to those on the receiving end. If I felt so strongly about a pronoun at age six, imagine how more marginalized people feel every day, especially when the aggression is not micro, but targeted and deliberate.

As we watch the “rocket’s red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” in the form of fireworks on our nation’s birthday this year, let’s remember that when injustice is met with indifference, a time will come when enough is enough. We saw it in 1776, and we have seen similar resurgences as we have grown apart and then together again as a nation. We can become one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. But only when we are all truly equal under the law.


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