To Move On Needs to Move With Justice Toward a Just Future

Sabrina Sojourner
Aug 19, 2018 · 4 min read

It is stressful to receive information that one does not want to know, especially when it comes to the mistreatment of another or others. The closer the subject is to us, the more likely we are to care. Still, some instances so go against who we believe ourselves collectively to be that we must speak out.

This past week, atop the continuing saga regarding the mistreatment of asylum seekers, including separating parents and children; women, and more men, continuing to come forward to share their experiences of sexual harassment to abuse on the job and at school; racism, sexism, heterosexism… everywhere — we received the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on sex abuse in the Catholic Church. It was unrelenting in its detail, making plain the systemic nature of the abuse and the coverup.

As I listened to and read some of the reporting on on the Grand Jury report, I was fascinated by how many of the the stories ended with, or placed close to the end, the voices of those who just want “to move on.” Certainly, the sentiment is understandable. After all, we have been talking about abuse and spiritual entities for a few decades. It can be easy to assume the report is mostly a rehashing of what we already know and nothing like that “is” happening now. Without evidence-based assurances from the Catholic Church and other religious institutions that there have made changes in how they screen, train, counsel, oversee, and account for the behavior of all their personal — I don’t think so!

Similar sentiments have been expressed about the #MeToo movement. Folks want to know if it’s “over, yet.” Of course, there were (are) also those trying to put the breaks on it even as it finally has the steam to move past centuries of inertia. It really wasn’t that long ago that sexual harassment to sexual assault was just one of the things that a woman was expected to put up with as part of being in the workforce. The same mentality believed that men had a right to rape and/or beat their wives and if a woman was raped it was her fault. We are not done with that mentality — not by a long shot.

There are always expressions for the desire, belief that we just need “to move on” when the subject is racism. For decades there has been polling on racism that showed that White people and People of Color have very different perspectives on how we are or are not progressing as a country. White people repeatedly said that race relations had greatly improved and People of Color repeatedly said that race relations had somewhat improved or improved, but not enough.

This year, that trend changed. Earlier this month, in a Politico/Morning Consult poll, 55% of Americans agreed that race relations have gotten worse. This change is quite revealing because a May NBC News and Survey Monkey poll showed that only 30% of Americans thought race relations were worse — from plurality to majority in three months.

The major and undisputable difference between the two polls is the number of White Americans admitting that things have gotten worse, and most of them hold the President responsible. The President is an easy foil, and saying that does not take away his contribution. My point is that blaming one person — no matter how important — can bring us a false sense of security when they are no longer doing whatever it is they were doing.

So, what would it take in any of these arenas to genuinely move us forward; to move on? If the experience of the subject or subjects of the workplace, home, sacred space, community, or historic incident or crime are not included, there can be no means to move on. No Entity can truly move forward without us.

The past and present must be reckoned with for what it is: horrible, painful, embarrassing, shameful... The stories must be told and documented — including the “new” ones which are oftentimes old ones. The initial path forward must first be paved, then mortared with the debunked myths and unfounded lies of the past that allowed systems of “isms” to exist and mutant unthwarted. The documented experiences of subjects must be centered in moves toward reconciliation as well as creating a historical accounting and an aspirational narrative into which we as individuals, family units, communities, sacred spaces, societies, and nations may live.

What is clear to me from the multiple messes in which we find ourselves individually and collectively, is that too many times “move on” means moving out of relationship to the past and its associated pain; embarrassment. That’s a polite way of saying forgetting, ignoring, and burying the past.

When we fail to forgive another who has hurt us, it keeps us tied to the hurt and to the person who caused the hurt. When we are speaking about institutions and groups in which no one person or key people are unwilling to be responsible, short of Divine Retribution, there is no reconciliation and no change; leading to a faux “shock” when the same bad behavior continues.

Not all of us are perpetrators of past wrongs, and all of us are responsible for creating new ground on which to build a better us. To move on, we need to move with the past in relationship to the present, creating a different path toward a just future based on justice for everyone. Without working toward justice for everyone — I’ve chosen not to write the rest of that thought.

Sabrina Sojourner

Written by

Sabrina Sojourner, Jewish Spiritual Leader, Community Chaplain, Storyteller, and Educator.

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