He had a dream.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Here we are, fifty-five years later. While there have been advancements in civil rights since Martin Luther King Jr’s famous speech in 1963, our country remains embroiled in the bigotry of non-acceptance. Not by all of its people and I sincerely pray not by the majority, but enough that it fractures the relationships and soul of the United States of America.
In the last year, it’s felt more like the Divided States and a study of how a country can take one step forward and two steps back.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Love. As in love one another. Dr. King was sure that love could turn his enemies and bring light to the world, but it was ultimately an enemy that ended his life far too early. I wonder what impact he would have made had he lived well into his 80’s. Martin Luther King Jr. was charismatic and an engaging voice against inequality. His dream was one of love, envisioning a country where everyone, including his children, is judged by the content of their character, not by the color their skin. He had a dream that the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; that there would be liberty, justice and freedom in a place he called home.
Fifty-five years later we still have this enemy filled with hatred and contempt, trying to wind its way into the fabric of society and suffocate it.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I’m normally quiet about matters that upset me, in the sense that I don’t stand on a street corner with a sign. I’m not vocal, not a raucous advocate for justice. While not silent, I prefer to speak love for people quietly, by volunteering and being kind to everyone I meet.
But I’m going to use my voice today because Martin Luther King Jr. deserves this from all of us. We are responsible for seeing his dream through and driving out the lurking child of darkness.
Nine years ago, our first African-American President was five days away from taking office. It was an important part of history, one that made a close friend tear up because the majority of people in this country saw hope and a better country in a black Barack Obama. Unfortunately, hope turned into an ugly war of political parties and the beginning of a political divide. I believe there were those committed to discrediting this President because of his love of people and the color of his skin. He reached his hand across the political aisle early on, only to have it slapped away by those who favored division over unity.
Fifty-five years later, we have bigotry, hatred and narcissism in the White House.
Do not shake your head “no,” do not bury your head in the sand, do not call this fake news. I am so sick of the abhorrent behavior, this sense of “we can do anything because we’re in power” bullshit. I am especially incensed when people call themselves “Christian,” but fail to speak out against the vitriol and prejudice, the clear acts against people of differing ethnicity, of differing culture and religion, and those who are in most need of help.
Does anyone understand the commandment of “Love Your Neighbor?” There are no exceptions to this commandment of Christians. It does not read, “Love your Neighbor except the black man two doors down.” It does not read, “Love Your Neighbor, except the homeless family at the shelter.” It does not read, “Love Your Neighbor, except the gay couple that we don’t allow in our church.” It does not read, “Love Your Neighbor, except when I don’t want to.” We don’t get to choose or judge or offer excuses. We are commanded to love others unconditionally.
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
Fifty-five years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and the promissory note that was given to everyone as heir: That all men (all people) would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He spoke that America had defaulted on this promissory note when it came to people of color. They had been given a bad check.
It may be safe to say that Dr. King’s country has bounced a few checks when it comes to its people and how some have been mistreated and disrespected. However, back in 1963, Dr. King refused to believe that his bank of justice was empty. He urged his fellow man to not satisfy their thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. Dr. King wanted to see his dream through with dignity, discipline, and without physical violence. I believe he also would have preferred to see this reality without angry, name-calling tweets.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
I realize that there’s not much we can do with people who embrace bigotry and hate for whatever reason their mind accepts, but there’s much we can do as individuals to tip the scales in favor of love for our neighbors.
- Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Don’t be afraid, most people will thank you for your service.
- Talk to everyone. It’s really that simple. While we take care to not put ourselves in danger in certain situations, we shouldn’t be afraid to talk to people of different ethnicity, different religion, different sexual orientation, or from a different culture. It’s enlightening and leads to understanding and acceptance.
- Don’t be silent. If you are in a conversation with someone who speaks against the diversity of humanity in any way, don’t be afraid to speak your own truth of love.
- Get involved in your community and be an advocate for change. Run for local office if it’s within you.
- If you’re one of those uber vocal people when seeking justice, stand on the street corner with a sign or any legal activity that espouses love and peace for your fellow man, woman and child.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Fifty-five years later and I believe we all have a dream for this country that doesn’t involve bigotry arising from the power of political parties. Our dream has always been the freedom of democracy, not the hatred of a select group of people. Our dream has been inalienable rights, not exemption or exception. Our dream has been one of love and peace, that all people are created equal in the United States of America.
Dr. King continues his dream from heaven and we must continue his dream on this earth.