You Are the Light of the World
November 14, 2020 9:41 AM   Subscribe

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II sees the shining light of Kamala Harris as the light of a star, born long ago, taking many years to reach us, a sign that darkness cannot prevail, in his sermon last Sunday.

Rev. Barber also issued a statement on November 7:
We have elected Biden and Harris to use the power of government to lift up those who have been battered by COVID-19, battered by poverty, and battered by years of Republican extremism. We can celebrate now for a moment, but we must go to work and make sure that people can soon feel that their votes will result in policy change.

As I said to Vice President Biden when he was running, our hope is in the mourning.
posted by kristi (44 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
A reminder that Kamala Harris fought to keep nonviolent offenders in jail after a Supreme Court ruling required California to reduce the number of prisoners in jail.

Shining light, my ass.

We just elected the guy who wrote the damn crime bill that got us into this fucking mess and an AG with a history of siding with the cops.

Sure, they're a damn sight better than the shitshow that is the Trump Circus, but I'm sick as living fuck of this train of pretending they're like fucking Marvel heroes here to save the day. At best we have a slight reprieve from straight authoritarianism, that's all.

No god damn it, they're human, they're flawed, and it's super reasonable to talk about those flaws, especially in context of "this is the best we could fucking do?"
posted by deadaluspark at 10:29 AM on November 14 [50 favorites]


No god damn it, they're human, they're flawed, and it's super reasonable to talk about those flaws, especially in context of "this is the best we could fucking do?"

What if with the electorate that we currently have, that actually is the best we can do?
posted by LionIndex at 10:31 AM on November 14 [12 favorites]


Frankly, then it's probably even more important to be discussing their flaws, honestly.
posted by deadaluspark at 10:32 AM on November 14 [10 favorites]


What if with the electorate that we currently have, that actually is the best we can do?

An optimist is someone who thinks we live in the best of possible worlds. A pessimist is someone who fears that this may very well be true.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:52 AM on November 14 [11 favorites]


I think it's likely that neither Harris nor Biden are the same people today that they were when they did those things. Unlike many in the current administration, they have at least some willingness to learn and grow, and also to disagree with each other and challenge each other to grow.

Also, a person can be a symbol of hope while still being deeply flawed. Personally, if I'm going to volunteer to help turn out Georgia, I need some hope, otherwise, why bother? As the Reverend said, "We can celebrate now for a moment, but we must go to work and make sure that people can soon feel that their votes will result in policy change." If people feel like their votes don't result in policy change, or any change, why bother even voting? Why not just let things slide from unbearably horrible into even more unbearably horrible?

The Reverend might not be speaking to me - I'm not a churchgoer - and he might not be speaking to you, but he's speaking to a lot of people who are celebrating a moment of hope. That gives me hope.
posted by kristi at 10:53 AM on November 14 [37 favorites]


Now with Biden and and Harris in office, Metafilter can get back to doing what it loves more than anything: bitching about democrats.
posted by octothorpe at 10:55 AM on November 14 [38 favorites]


the electorate that we currently have

What do mean by this? Sincerely inquiring.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:01 AM on November 14


I would strongly suggest learning about Rev Barber if you don't know who his is, to understand where this is coming from. I don't think this take is a liberal as people think. As a white person, I can only speak about Harris from the point of view as a politician. I cannot speak to her place as an inspiration, a figure head, or pioneer, all of which I think are really the focus of this post.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:13 AM on November 14 [8 favorites]



I think it's likely that neither Harris nor Biden are the same people today that they were when they did those things.


Real strong Donald Trump has learned his lesson! energy here.

But yes, it's fine to feel both vigilant and relieved at the same time. The choice between savior and satan incarnate is a false one. Personally, I think it more likely that the political circumstances have evolved that that will hopefully result in baby steps towards the ideal, whatever it happens to be. Throwing black people in jail for possession is just not as much of a political winner as it used to be... for some people anyway.

Sincerely enquiring.

It's pretty clear that about 70 million americans have their ears stopped against the sirens' song of logic, reason, peace, justice and good government and no amount of gracious liberal rhetoric will un-stop them. We all know and have given up on a few of them. Maybe it's cultural, maybe it's generational or maybe you guys have finally poisoned your water enough to rot people's brains.

I've been wondering if there's some kind of 21st century parallel to the lead paint-crime wave hypothesis in play.
posted by klanawa at 11:20 AM on November 14 [7 favorites]


It's a struggle for sure. The banality of evil is constant and their evil actions, so many times, unrecognizable as an issue. The pot keeps warming up and the vast majority of us don't even notice.

You can be tired of this shit all you want but that's not helping those, in the slog, pushing evil out of the way one step at a time.

Getting enough of us to vote this one time was great. Let's do it again. Then let's start increasing the quality of candidates. Then let's start changing things we thought were impossible. Let's take these small steps 70 times 70 times. That's our job for the rest of our lives. All of us pushing toward the just and kind and better. Who's with me?

That sermon was beautiful.
posted by Increase at 11:24 AM on November 14 [9 favorites]


Calling a politician "the light of the world" strikes me as bad theology. Maybe Harris and Biden are "the best we can do." Harris in particular may well be an "inspiration, figurehead, or pioneer."

But politicians are humans, not divine manifestations, and should be honored or criticized accordingly. Attributing God-like attributes to them is a dangerous road to go down.
posted by andrewpcone at 11:28 AM on November 14 [8 favorites]


the electorate that we currently have

What do mean by this? Sincerely inquiring.


There was a primary that Joe Biden won, quite handily in many areas. I don't think criticizing Biden or Harris for things they did years ago is very productive, but it's easy. The harder, maybe impossible, task is to convince the electorate to support more progressive candidates in the first place, or at least inoculate conventional wisdom against the scare tactics used by the Trump campaign. We all saw the Fox News (!) screenshots where the majority of Americans supported fairly progressive policies - getting "better" people in office may just be an issue of bridging the messaging gap.
posted by LionIndex at 11:28 AM on November 14 [7 favorites]


In case you were in too much of a rush to scold anyone appearing to say anything positive about Harris, please click through to Rev. Barber’s statement. Here, I’ll copy and paste for convenience. I really don’t think Rev. Barber is “pretending they’re fucking Marvel heroes here to save the day.”

If [Biden’s] administration can answer the cries of mourning people with real, transformative policy that addresses systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of healthcare, it will indeed be a new day in America. If the new administration and Congress will challenge the war economy and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism and nativism, then we the people can believe again that this democracy will continue to be made a more perfect union. If this win is to be a victory for all of us, we must have a major political reconstruction.
posted by snowmentality at 11:33 AM on November 14 [18 favorites]


She pardoned Devaughndre Broussard who then killed Chaucey Bailey.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:33 AM on November 14 [1 favorite]


Calling a politician "the light of the world" strikes me as bad theology.

My rudimentary understanding of Rev. Barber is that he thinks EVERYONE is the light of the world, as we are all manifestations of God, and that the message of the Mary J. Blige song that Harris used as her intro music calls on everyone to love themselves, be proud of what they have managed to do in the face of daunting odds, and give the world what you can - "work what you got."

It's a short clip (under three minutes) and I encourage watching it if you haven't. It's as much about Mary J. Blige as Kamala Harris - and even more about the individuals listening to him, and about rousing them - us - to both love and action.
posted by kristi at 11:43 AM on November 14 [4 favorites]


Also maybe actually click through to the sermon video before making assumptions about what it says. It’s only two and a half minutes long; I hate watching videos rather than reading, but even I could make it through this one. He doesn’t say that Kamala Harris is the light of the world or that she has godlike powers or that we should worship her. He’s saying that a black woman vice-president is significant, and that it’s possible because of the light of so many people who worked for justice even as they suffered oppression, and that we are the light of the world (and that we can also work for justice).
posted by snowmentality at 11:48 AM on November 14 [24 favorites]


Ah, fair enough, the article does not seem to do the sermon justice.
posted by andrewpcone at 11:55 AM on November 14


But politicians are humans, not divine manifestations, and should be honored or criticized accordingly. Attributing God-like attributes to them is a dangerous road to go down.
posted by andrewpcone at 2:28 PM on November 14 [+] [!]


This is very out of touch for what people are saying here in this thread as well as in the media presented in the FPP. Me, as a white person, saying I can't comment on how Black or Asian people are experiencing this moment isn't giving her "god-like attributes"
posted by FirstMateKate at 12:18 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. I know there are general urges at work here (to be critical/iconoclastic about a politician or Harris specifically, to push back on religious or overly positive framing). But especially if you are a white person or a man, please stop and take extra care to consider the context here, of kneejerk negative/dismissive/derailing reactions to an experienced black minister and organizer praising a pioneering black and South Asian woman politician... namely whether this sermon is about you/for you, and whether your instant take on how Barber is wrong/naive/whatever, or your comment about who Harris dated, is needed.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:19 PM on November 14 [21 favorites]


We all saw the Fox News (!) screenshots where the majority of Americans supported fairly progressive policies

Though I would caution you to remember that polling was just shown conclusively (and again) to significantly understate MAGA support and therefore likely also overstates support for fairly progressive policies, and that's on top of policy polling being much more unreliable than candidate polling even in a good polling environment.

I don't have a good answer for how we move forward if we just can't trust polls at all but that's not my job to figure out.
posted by Justinian at 1:40 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


I genuinely wonder what Extremely Online Leftists[TM] think they accomplish by constantly restating the very worst facts about Biden and Harris. Do you think that continually revisiting these talking points -- about votes, words, or actions from years or decades ago, often presented in grossly oversimplified and unfairly decontextualized form -- is telling the most essential truth about them?

Because I think it's the opposite. Human beings, including politicians, cannot and should not be reduced to the worst things they've done or said. The people that the majority of us choose to fill leadership positions don't need to have perfect records (and in fact, none of them ever have or ever will). Rather, they need to be the best available options to meet the moment.

It seems like this type of reductionism is of a piece with the rationalist impulse many on the left have to evaluate candidates according to very simple policy checklists. This entire mindset grossly misunderstand politics and human nature. And it can't process, for example, the fact that, while polling data has shown Medicare For All to be a popular concept in the abstract, the Democratic electorate overwhelmingly chose the guy who favored a more incremental approach to expanding healthcare.

(A lot of people in the bubble I'm talking about have chosen to try to rationalize this contradiction by taking refuge in silly theories about the primaries being "rigged" by the DNC, that all-purpose evil bogeyman, simply because a bunch of candidates dropped out and endorsed the front-runner -- something which happens in literally every competitive primary.)

Personally, I thought Biden was a terrible candidate a year ago, and couldn't imagine that he could beat Trump or even win the primary. But as he accomplished both of those things -- fairly handily, as it turned out -- I have tried to learn from my mistakes. I wish more people toward the left end of the political spectrum would try to do so as well.

What I think the Biden/Harris win affirms is that most people are looking for a whole range of things in their prospective leaders, not just checking off policy positions. These things include emotional intelligence, empathy, a certain kind of rhetorical ability, a steady temperament, and the ability to calm fraught situations and bring people together. (They also include things like representation, and the ability to learn from one's mistakes.)

Repeating these stupid litanies about Biden and Harris completely misses all of this. We know all that shit already. You can stop trying to wake up the sheeple. Maybe the sheeple are paying attention to some fairly important things you've been ignoring. You can continue ignoring them if you want, but ultimately, it's your loss. A left that doesn't grasp these basic realities of politics is dooming itself to continued irrelevance.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:13 PM on November 14 [63 favorites]


Relatedly, I think the Biden/Harris hate squad demonstrate a lack of respect for the small-d democratic process, and the big-D Democratic electorate. A black friend of mine was recently posting on my FB wall about how white leftists (who love to call Biden a racist and slag Harris for locking up black people) really haven't taken the time or made the effort to understand and respect the fact that black voters overwhelmingly chose this ticket. There's a ton of unexamined condescension there.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:26 PM on November 14 [36 favorites]


Artifice_Eternity: Human beings, including politicians, cannot and should not be reduced to the worst things they've done or said.

reminded me of this great FPP from adrianhon just two days ago about the Fortune Society, a nonprofit helping people cope with the aftermath of incarceration; that New Yorker article quotes ex-con and now executive director of a harm reduction program, quoting his friend, the founder of the Fortune Society:
David said once, to a journalist who asked, ‘How can you work with these violent criminals?,ʼ ‘Well, how would you like to be identified for your entire life by the one worst thing youʼve ever done? If your editor made you put at the top of every column you ever wrote, Written by Tom the Bed-Wetter. Or by Tom, Who Drove Under the Influence.ʼ Iʼve worked in D.C., where people identify themselves by their degrees—‘I went to this schoolʼ—and thatʼs what itʼs about. And sometimes people of color introduce themselves that way—‘I was in prison.ʼ But thatʼs not you! The crime is what you did. The crime is not who you are.”

(Sorry. I'll try very hard not to comment any more in this thread for at least five minutes.)
posted by kristi at 2:35 PM on November 14 [8 favorites]


kristi: Yes indeed -- I read and enjoyed that FPP, and was thinking of that very quote as I was writing my first comment above.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:41 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


Calling a politician "the light of the world" strikes me as bad theology....politicians are humans, not divine manifestations

No, that's a misunderstanding because the context is missing. The "light" metaphor does not suggest any deification. "The light of the world" is a specific Biblical reference from the Gospels, part of the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:14-16. Jesus has just begun to preach publicly and to gather his disciples. He says to his listeners:
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Each person who hears and lives the Gospel is called here to reflect the Gospel message. Jesus asks his new followers to "let your light shine," instead of keeping those new understandings to themselves. This set of verses is commonly understood to mean that everyone who follows the teachings of Jesus shares this responsibility to illuminate others; every follower of these teachings is "the light of the world." He then goes on to talk about how divisive this will be. It's not about deification, it's about being one of a great many people who have accepted the responsibility of carrying the Gospel's messages onward and outward.
posted by Miko at 3:02 PM on November 14 [14 favorites]


If I could favorite Artifice_Eternity’s comments a thousand times, I would. The constant harping on Biden/Harris by the online left is tiresome. I’m not saying criticism is off limits, but, Christ, let’s give them a little time to get some stuff done.
posted by snwod at 3:25 PM on November 14 [7 favorites]


I just wish my mom could have lived to see Harris be elected. Almost fifty years ago, my mother was a supporter of Shirley Chisholm's campaign for the democratic nomination and while she was overjoyed to see Obama elected toward the end of her life, the fact that no woman ever made it to higher office really saddened her.
posted by octothorpe at 3:25 PM on November 14 [5 favorites]


I have only had a few tingly, happy, overwhelmingly peaceful cries this year.

Chalk one up for Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Mary J. Blige, and VP Harris.
posted by NoThisIsPatrick at 3:27 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


Human beings, including politicians, cannot and should not be reduced to the worst things they've done or said.

Yes, but you also can't write off a long history of supporting bad policies as one-off "things."
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:49 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


I first started following Reverend Dr Barber after his speech at the 2016 Democratic convention. He talked about standing for each other and it was quite moving. Could listen to him talk all day.

Here he is chatting with Biden about hope, right after Easter.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:50 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


I genuinely wonder what Extremely Online Leftists[TM] think they accomplish by constantly restating the very worst facts about Biden and Harris.

I think EOL tend to be white dudes, and white dudes aren't used to getting EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 3:53 PM on November 14 [8 favorites]


Gently, MetaFilter: there are actually also some Black people who are critical of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – not just the hated white leftist. Some Black people have even been quite affected by Biden's crime bill, or the California DA's office under Harris – in which case, these "actions from years ago" might carry more impact than being just "shit we already know." Something to bear in mind when dismissing what you regard as tiresome criticisms.
posted by Beardman at 4:14 PM on November 14 [9 favorites]


I do understand why people get fed up with negativity. I just think the response to that can't be making light of actual horrors.
posted by Beardman at 4:22 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]




Yes we are all divine lights through which the universe God / Higher Power casts its light.

Turn on your Love Light, let it shine!

And Hope is so rare, critical for our times. Let us have High Expectations from the leaders we have chosen no matter how flawed they are and our "system"is.

Without Hope and High Expectations for a better future, it will just continue to get worse.

Of course we all have to Do the Work, hold their feet to the fire, prioritise the systemic changes that will make the Big Changes more possible even likely.

But Love and Hope must drive that work, not hatred nor fear.
posted by goinWhereTheClimateSuitsMyClothes at 4:45 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


What an obnoxious thread replete with outlandish strawmen arguments and sweeping generalizations.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 5:15 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


Just for the record, I don't advocate completely ignoring Biden's or Harris' records. They are part of the picture that must be evaluated. My point was that they are very far from being the whole picture. But again and again I've seen a certain segment of the left seem to reduce B and H purely to a somewhat cartoonish compilation of their worst words and actions.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 7:07 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


While we have pretty good evidence from multiple directions that Trump overperformed relative to 2016 among Hispanic voters, particularly Hispanic men, apart from that I beg you not to draw lots of conclusions from extremely preliminary and raw exit polling data until the Powers That Be weigh it to voter files and such. Really. Don't do it. Please I'm begging you. Don't.
posted by Justinian at 7:07 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


> I genuinely wonder what Extremely Online Leftists[TM] think they accomplish...

As an Extremely Online Leftist™, honestly at this point my concern is less about Biden/Harris and more about America as a whole. I'm deeply worried by the (non-POTUS) results of the 2020 election and what this says about who we are as a country and where we are going to be for a while. The question isn't so much whether Biden/Harris are divinity incarnate, it's more the worry that they would have to be divinity incarnate to make things better. It is optimistic to hope that they can make things better (rather than merely a pause button until 2024) but I'm afraid to not be optimistic because the alternative is so awful to contemplate.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:05 PM on November 14 [8 favorites]


I didn't read the thread. I merely saw the post text on teh front page and it reminded me of the breakdown in one of my favorite songs from my favorite band: Enter Shikari - Radiate. The breakdown is at 2:19.

To everyone: ♥
posted by glonous keming at 9:14 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


We just elected the guy who wrote the damn crime bill that got us into this fucking mess and an AG with a history of siding with the cops.

I encourage everyone with a manichaen view of politicians to read LBJ's biography. People can be complex.
posted by benzenedream at 12:35 AM on November 15 [10 favorites]


Also, we have no idea who the AG will be.
posted by Justinian at 10:04 AM on November 15


Oh, Harris used to be AG. My bad. I misunderstood.
posted by Justinian at 10:04 AM on November 15


I'm not an american, and I am rather anti-american in general, but even I think that now would be the time to celebrate the election of a female black/south-asian vice president rather than not. It's a milestone for a lot of people. She'll be around for 4 years, you'll have plenty of time to piss on her if you feel pissing is warranted; when you piss on her now how the hell are we supposed to distinguish you from the assholes who use any and every excuse to piss on anyone who's not a a white dude with money?
posted by lastobelus at 9:26 PM on November 15 [7 favorites]


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