A Call for Justice

A speech by Michael Pollack outside the Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pa., calls for an end to corruption and the influence of big businesses over the state legislature.

Image courtesy of Tablet Magazine.
Image courtesy of Tablet Magazine.

We are standing today in the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This building is designed in the style of an ancient Temple. It was built by the robber barons, and it was described by Teddy Roosevelt as “the most handsomest of buildings.” Its opulence is Herodian, and its decor of marble and brass could be classified as “bigly.” It is built to be a holy temple, a place where we the people deliberate, cooperate, and ensure justice and peace, a holy meeting place where every member of the state contributes with dignity, a place where we pursue our highest and holiest ideals.

But it is not that; it is divisive, exclusive, and deeply corrupt. Rather than be the holy temple on high, it is a whirlpool of chaotic quicksand. It is not the People’s House. This building has parking spots reading, “Reserved Shell Oil” and “Reserved Comcast.” Its members are illegitimate, funded with dirty money and elected through voter suppression and gerrymandering. The quantity of biblical quotes and engravings on its walls and columns are mocked by the scores of lobbyists guiding the business of the state. Laws and statutes are created here in service to idols, idols of money and power and supremacy, idols of our own pride and arrogance. It is a perch of indifference detached from the immense suffering in our Commonwealth.

The words of Isaiah are too true today, “Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves, they chase after bribes and the widow and the orphan’s case does not come before them.”

Ezekiel howls from the past, “In you are people who take bribes to shed blood.”

Though we pray to the God who frees the prisoner, yet we ignore each other’s cries as we pursue mass incarceration.

Though we claim to turn to God for guidance, we ignore what is written. 36 times in the Torah, in the five books of Moses, we are told to love and welcome the immigrant. 36 times. Why do we as a society focus so much on what You talk so little about, and focus so little on what You talk so much about?

God, God of all those who have come before us and God of all who will come after us, give us the courage to hear each other and to see each other. Give us the strength to rededicate this Capitol, this Temple, to re-consecrate this meeting place for all people, to transform the actions of this building from division to unification, from violence to justice, from waging war on the poor to waging peace throughout the land.

May our voices be heard. May Pennsylvania be redeemed through justice and sacrifice. May God have mercy on the United States of America.

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