The word “anchor” has been in the news a lot lately. I have always liked that word: it implies a foothold or a grip; firm ground on which to stand. In today’s hyper-maniac world of the Internet and social media – memes, videos, links, endless data – I find that I need anchors to help me stay focused on what I feel is important, particularly with regards to social justice issues. Without anchors, it is very easy for me to be distracted and waste my time and energy on hot-button issues.
What are my anchors? Of course the obvious is my firm belief in the UU Seven Principles. It has taken years for these principles to really settle in with me; and not simply something to read on Sundays. It has taken years for me to understand and appreciate the deep roots of our social justice tradition as they relate to our principles. Likewise, it will take more years to fully live the principles and make this world a more just place for all. In the meantime, I carry in my heart the “inherent worth and dignity of every person” and “justice, equity, and compassion in human relations” and use these words to temper my reactions and guide my actions. This is not always easy.
I anchor myself in the U.S. Constitution; but I’ve also learned it is a work in progress and is not infallible. The work we have done on immigration and racial justice, for example, centers on the 4th Amendment and the 14th Amendment. The 4th Amendment guarantees all people the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause. The 14th Amendment requires that all people be treated equally under the law, extending to both citizens and non-citizens. Using the Constitution as my anchor is a starting point from which I can engage myself.
I anchor myself in international documents, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While not legally binding, it outlines fundamental rights for all humans, regardless of country of origin. Such rights include social security, health, and education – basic fundamental rights that many people in our own country lack.
I anchor myself in history – especially the political and economic history of this country that is not in the standard text books. It is only through understanding our history – the good and the bad – that we can really make sense of where we need to go.
Finally, I anchor myself in the wisdom of great writers and thinkers. This, from the Talmud, keeps it in perspective for me (and helps me plan my day): “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”