King Day Reflection: Haiti, Katrina & Our ValuesJanuary 15, 2010 12 Comments
Haiti. I’m sure I’m not the only one who watches with profound sadness at the loss of life and devastation by way of natural disaster and makes direct comparisons to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy and its blow to the precious people of New Orleans.
Its the haunting similarities of the man-made and disastrous pre-existing conditions of extreme poverty and lack of infrastructure that vex and perplex me the most. In a few days, those of us who consider ourselves spiritual and vocational heirs of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will focus our attentions on considering his life and legacy. In all honesty, I’m feeling guilt: How in the world is it that we (the international community, the U.S., black folk, Haitian governments over time, fill in the blank…) tolerate the abject poverty of peoples and nations right beside us, while so many (or is it “so little”?) of us have (much too) much (money, education, privilege, information, doggone stuff, etc.)?
I declare: something’s wrong with us — and its at the level of our values. On a very fundamental level, friends, we got issues.
In twitter parlance: #ValuesFail.
Yesterday, Curtis and I facilitated a meeting of community leaders, activists and funders in CT who are contemplating no less than a total re-vamp of all systems and structures that comprise early childhood education and care in that state. In assessing the status quo, they confessed: “We need a values shift.” In searing self-critique, they admitted that when it comes to how we treat children, our actual policies speak louder than our words, and woefully contradict.
Speaking to another time and context, Dr. King spoke to a need for a values shift:
“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.”
So, then, on the eve of King Day and in the wake of this tragedy in Haiti, I ask: What will it take for a values revolution of any sort? Where are opportunities to turn tides and sustain change? Is crisis such an opportunity?