Between the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn and the coup that ousted Evo Morales, I have been quite close to giving into hopelessness and despair.
Then I got a belated Christmas gift. On Boxing Day, Cornel West made a visit our shared hometown of Sacramento to have a socratic dialogue.
Cornel West is up their with Evo Morales as one of my heros on the left, I would not be a socialist, and therefore not a DSA co-chair, were it not for my affinity with West’s work, an affinity I found in high school at the same time as I found Evo Morales. I was reading West long before I was reading Lenin or Marx.
I owed it to myself to make it to what might be my only chance to see him in person.
“I want everyone to leave here unnerved, unsettled.” He began with the fire in his voice that you knew was only going to make the flames grow as he scanned the crowd, as if he was making eye contact with every single person.
Assuming the people reading this blog would familiar with Brother West’s work and style, I do not need to go into excessive detail about how magnanimous and inspirational he was. This is not a post about his speaking style or his stage presence. No this is a post about the words that “unsettled” me.
And indeed, I left the dialogue very unsettled, in the best ways possible, because the professor forced me to face the despair that had gnawed at me.
“Don’t be afraid of the despair!” He bellowed this with the kind of passion that can only be compared to Dr. King’s. “Those who have never known have never lived!”
Immediately, I began to reflect on my despair.
Thanks to West, I choose not to suppress the fact I felt despondent and depressed by the beating the left has taken the last two months. I choose to embrace the feeling so that I may push through, and let that despair ignite my passion. The key is not to “never despair” as some leftists toxicly insist, the key is to push through the despair, to come out the other end stronger.
Later, when a woman confessed to the professor that she was beginning to feel “powerless against the rich and white men who hold the power,” West reminded us what our power truly is:
You are not powerless! You only feel powerless compared to a small group who have a certain kind of power. You always have moral power, and you always have spiritual power! I never want anyone to feel powerless.
But the pinnacle quote of the evening, for me at least, was a simple sentence that reminded me why I do what I do, why I got involved, why I started this blog and continue to fight this fight.
“Love cuts deeper than just justice.”
The man is the living embodiment of inspirational, but I was not just inspired, as West insisted, I left the talk “unsettled.”
I was unsettled because his last quote about love, forced me to face some truths about my own attitude. It made me realize that love was the whole reason I got involved in this fight.
I have to just be blunt, thanks to West’s words I see now that I at times can be too fastidious, too insistent about the means we use and not the ends that we need.
Somewhere along the line, I forgot that I do this out of love.
“If you confuse means with ends, you confuse success with greatness.”
Keep the fire quotes coming Brother West, the world needs you. I need you. We need to remember that love is the reason we fight.
Brother West, thank you for unsettling me!