Marvin Olasky

Near Route 66 a little further south sits a monument to a woman without patience. The grave of Mother Jones, who died in 1930 and a generation later gave her name to a radical magazine, is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The Department of Labor on April 28 (declared by President Obama to be "Workers Memorial Day") issued a poster of Jones with one of her sayings: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."

She was born in 1837 and at age 30 lost her husband and their four children to a yellow-fever epidemic in Memphis, Tenn. She rallied from that tragedy to build a dressmaking business in Chicago, only to lose her home, shop, and possessions in the Great Fire of 1871. With family and career both lost, she turned to class warfare. She cofounded the Industrial Workers of the World. Decade by decade she became even more set on revenge, like an American version of Charles Dickens' Madame Defarge (A Tale of Two Cities).

The words on her monument convey her "last request: Let no traitor breathe o'er my grave." Voters in this fall's elections will decide which path to follow. Lincoln stood for principle but tried to build consensus. (His strategy failed, with 600,000 deaths and decades of bitterness resulting.) Mother Jones strode the revolutionary road. (Her strategy also failed in the United States and failed tragically in countries where revolutionaries succeeded in seizing power.)

A radical chaplain from my college days, Malcolm Boyd, titled his book, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? And yet, words translated as "walk" (English Standard Version) appear in the Bible 349 times: The word run is much less frequent. The Christian life in politics and elsewhere is a cross-country walk, not a sprint.


Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of the national news magazine World. For additional commentary by Marvin Olasky, visit www.worldmag.com.
 
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