This is the speech I gave on April 2nd at the Democracy Spring kickoff rally at Independence Hall.
(Here is an edited version in op-ed form: http://washingtonjewishweek.com/30497/the-burning-bush-and-the-future-of-american-democracy/editorial-opinion/voices/ )
The first Democracy Spring, the first summit on voter suppression and institutionalized corruption, happened over 3,000 years ago when Moses and the Israelites went to see Pharaoh. And Moses said, by what right do you rob us of our right to self determination, by what right do you dominate us? And Pharaoh replied, I make the sun rise and the Nile flood, I grow the economy and I create jobs. And it was just as unlikely then that Moses and the Israelites would soon walk across the red sea toward freedom, as it is today that an average citizen will one day be able to walk into Washington DC and be meaningfully represented.
But before Moses and the Israelites could earn their right to self-governance, they needed to believe that they could. And the courage to inspire was sparked at the burning bush where, for Moses, the dejected castaway, despair turned to hope, indifference became passion, and the stale swampy levees of inaction shattered before the flowing waters of righteous action. This rally, this march, this is our burning bush, and we are all Moses.
At the burning bush, Moses acted with wonder and gratitude, he honestly and courageously faced his suffering, and he found his place, his role, in a larger story that began before his birth and will end after his death. And Moses also realized that Pharaoh and his entire empire is based on a lie. The lie of Pharaoh’s perceived control over reality. In the mindset of Pharaoh, in the attitude of empire and its subjects, everything can be made stable with enough corruption, everything can be known with enough ignorance, and everything can be controlled with enough deception and violence.
At the burning bush, Moses learned that no human can maintain strict static order in our ever-changing world, no human can claim absolute knowledge, and no human can forever control the fates of others. Moses, the formerly depressed runaway, learns that the absolute control Pharaoh claims over reality is a temporary farce, an unfunny joke.
And with this knowledge, Moses is emancipated from the mental slavery of empire, and he takes the first step toward meeting with Pharaoh, and demanding as a free human, let my people go!
When we march to Washington and sit in at the Capitol as free human beings, we are lovingly reminding our brothers and sisters that we are not immune to the grand trends and the shifting tides of history. We are lovingly reminding them that democracy is an adaptable and dynamic and open system, and they do not have our consent to close us out. And we are lovingly reminding our fellow patriots that they are sowing seeds of division and discontent, and we cannot continue this way and expect to avoid the plagues of a failed state.
And we must hope that, unlike Pharaoh, their hearts have not yet fully hardened.
Shabbat shalom and happy democracy spring.