In the Aftermath of the Election
President-elect Obama is fond of quoting (e.g.,    . . .) this inspiring assertion from Martin Luther King, Jr. who , it turns out, was himself fond of paraphrasing abolitionist Theodore Parker.* Both King and Parker, of course, were ministers who grounded their faith in the notion of a "moral universe" in their religious convictions. Obama too, is a religious man. Lacking religious convictions - and not wanting to assume that others have them, either - I am not inclined to believe that the universe has a distinctly moral character. It is not just, as Parker suggests, that it is difficult to discern. Instead, following pragmatists like Peirce and Dewey, I think that the universe is indifferent to human concerns and strivings.
This, though, brings me to agree with Obama and King and others in an important respect. If we ever are to have justice in any meaningful sense, not only will the effort to bring it about be "long," but it will be a struggle, a contest with forces, human and natural, that may be not just indifferent to our strivings but actively hostile to them. For Obama the easy part is done. What remains to be seen is whether he will engage in that struggle and, if he does, whether he will prevail. And that means the rest of us cannot sit back and simply hope for the best. We cannot rely on "conscience" to win out. The hard part is political and, mostly, politics takes place outside of elections. That is the lesson of King's struggle as he traced an arc from advocating for civil rights to protesting war and economic oppression.
* "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. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice." Theodore Parker, "Of Justice and Conscience," in Ten Sermons of Religion, (Boston: Crosby, Nichols, & Company,1853). [source]