Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
Things refuse to be mismanaged long. Jefferson trembled when he thought of slavery and remembered that God is just. Ere long all America will tremble.
Theodore Parker, Ten Sermons, 1857
Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ arose and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” There is something in the universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., The Gospel Messenger, 1958
Theodore Parker was a prominent Unitarian minister and abolitionist, who helped hide and smuggle slaves to freedom after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. Martin Luther King, Jr. evidently liked the sentiment, which had been requoted and paraphrased many times until it had been been condensed into the aphorism he puts quotes around in the article excerpted above. MLK used the phrase in several speeches, and Barack Obama famously recycled it, crediting it to MLK. See this post at Quote Investigator for a fuller explication.
Millions of observances of Martin Luther King Day went up in the cells of the virtual panopticon Monday. MLK, as he is condensed, has a become a sort of adamantine secular saint that even Republicans must praise. Saint MLK is a rather denatured version of the man. Various polities including conservatives claim him as their own tabula rasa and furiously reject the claims of other tribes to overwrite his legacy. The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency is often presented as at least a a partial fulfillment of the MLK “Dream,” including by Obama himself. “…the arc of the moral universe is long…” Of course, on the right wing fringe, President Obama is deemed in a persistent Dimbulbican meme a Soshulist. Obama looks more like the heir of Reagan than of King from my clade on the sociopolitical tree. King was a lot closer to being a “Socialist” than our current president. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a radical thinker, and becoming more radical in his thinking before he was cut down by a bullet. Like the current Pope, his critique of global capitalism was not a positive one.
I saw this graffito the other day:
The nail is still sticking up, and the hammer is still coming down.
After all the erasures and scribbled screeds, the palimpsest remains. The arc is long, but it bends.