The News Times, Satuday May 20, 1995
Rev. L. Weldon Palmer
A few days after the bombing in Oklahoma (my home state), I called a life-long friend of mine who still lives near Oklahoma City. He spoke at length of the devastation and its haunting aftermath. I listened to his familiar voice with its familiar accent but realized at once there was something quite unfamiliar about it as well, something more shaken than I had expected, something that shook me more than I had expected.
Like others out there, my friend will draw upon the frontier spirit of that culture and his own character and will steady himself and rebound. But as I listened, I sensed the menace, the evil of what had happened to our country as hatred ripped through our lives out in the "hartland." It is something nameless and unnameable, a thing that will mark times - time before that day and time since that day. It is not something that can be known, but rather only sensed - in the quality of a human voice on the telephone f rom Oklahoma.
By luck, a day or so earlier I had happened upon a Newsweek article by Joe Klein, recounting the visit of the first lady to South Asia and, in particular , to Punjab in northwest India. Among her meetings there was one with several hundred women in the city of Ahmadabad. A diverse group, most from impoverished backgrounds, the women came to hear her and to tell her of their endeavors, especially of their self-employed women's association, over 100,000 members strong. They told of receiving loans to start businesses and spoke of the strength and unity they gain through their association.
As Hillary Rodham Clinton completed her remarks, one older woman leaped to a microphone and said, "You have come into our courtyard and filled our hearts with joy. We will never forget you." And, at once, all the women broke into song - a familiar song, but not quite recognizable. Then the realization came: they were singing "We shall overcome" in the Gujarati dialect. Tears swelling in her eyes, the first lady thought of the great circle, the great completion, accomplished in that moment - f rom the thought of Henry David Thoreau who was read by Ghandi, who inspired Martin Luther King, who inspired these corageous women. "We shall overcome."
I have held the image of the faces of those women in my mind every say since. I have held their singing faces in my mind's eye as an act of defiance against the bombers and all their terror. I hold up the faces of those women against the hatred, against the menace, against the forces of evil that have marked our lives. We, as people of faith, defy them! And we will overcome. We will, for we have learned, as Thoreau learned from Jesus, and Ghandi from Thoreau, and King from Ghandi and from Jesus, what it is that must be overcome.
It is not the force of arms, the explosive blast. Overcome must be the force of hate. The force by which the legions of hatred seek to make us like them, a people of hate. We defy them! Christ said we are "the light of the world." We are set "up on a lamp stand to give light to all in the house, to all in the great house of God, to let our light so shine that all may see our good works and give glory to God in Heaven." Ours is to shine - to shine in terror's darknesss like faces in song, like the women singing the song of Martin Luther King. Overcome we must people of faith. And overcome, by love, we shall!