“Make the Path Straight”
On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi undertook an important step known as the Salt Satyagraha or Salt March. He walked for 24 days, covering a distance of about 240 miles. His goal was to pick a handful of salt at the end of the march. Why would you want to walk for so long just to pick up a handful of salt? This was Gandhi’s principle of active nonviolence protest against the British rule in India.
Salt was, as it is today, a very important element in the diet of every Indian. The British saw an opportunity to exploit this essential item for economic gain. The British mandated a law that prohibited Indians from making salt. Picking or making salt for self-consumption was now illegal. The only salt that is legal is the one sold by the British. Gandhi saw this gross injustice as an epitome of the British rule in India. So he marched in order to make the path straight for the suffering ordinary Indians. He walked for so long because he wanted to level the playing field for the oppressed and the exploited. He wanted to make the rough ground smooth for the future generation. Inevitably, the moment Gandhi picked up a lump of natural salt on the Dandi seashore, he was considered a criminal. He broke the law, no matter how unjust, and was arrested and put into jail by the British.
I see marches or walks being organized everywhere in the US at this point in history. Last Saturday, a group of Native Americans and supporters walked from the Sand Creek Massacre Memorial site and ended the march at the state capitol. This was in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre that took place in 1864 where about 200 Arapahoe and Cheyenne people, mostly women, children and elders, were murdered by an infantry led by a Methodist clergy, John Chivington. Following the verdict by a grand jury not to indict the police officer who killed an unarmed teenager, some protesters started a 120-mile march from Ferguson to the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City. Again, in New York, following another grand jury’s decision not to bring charges against another police officer who chokehold a man who later died, there is a national protest march being called on December 13 in Washington, DC. These marches are reminiscent of the civil rights marches in the 1960s when people walked hand in hand in order to make the path straight and the rough ground smooth.
While we will never be able to totally overcome our sense of prejudices, biases and self-love/-centeredness, we are called to walk the path of righteousness so that those who come after us will find the path smoother, straighter and broader. While we will never experience a world without injustice and discrimination, we are called to
“Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.”
Tezenlo Thong, Pastor, Simpson United Methodist Church