Monday, January 15, 2007  

A Dream for America...

This is Martin Luther King. Jr. day, a day which inspires both unity and division. As I mentioned in a post months ago, we seem to find ourselves somewhat in the same position we were in during the Vietnam War. King's position on the war was quite specific and as we come up upon Bush's State of the Nation address and on the heels of his idea for Iraq, the commitment of additional troops and the US bombing of Somalia, perhaps we should turn to King to hear what one of our great men had to say.

But, first, some thoughts about King. I am neither African-American nor Latino, but I hold both King and Chavez in high esteem. Why? Because their commitment to what is right and decent for people has made this country a better place. Because they dared to challenge we, the people to look at the creed of this nation as laid out in the Declaration of Independence and to ask ourselves by what right does the mainstream establish and maintain a lesser status for their fellow Americans and permanent residents based on color and race. These were extraordinary people, who used their youth andthe rest of their lives in the service of what they perceived as a more just nation. It humbles me to see how clear a vision they possessed so early. Of course, their work was not undertaken in isolation, nor were they the first to express these ideas. They and those who preceeded them are the giants upon whose shoulders we stand. We can only hope that we do them honor.

How have we done, little over 40 years since that momentous day King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial? I'm not sure I am in a position to make a clear, concise assessment. I know that the Jim Crow laws no longer exist. I know that the segregation of the schools that were in the South when I was young no longer exist. I see people of color in all walks of life and positions. But there are two things that bother me: prime time TV remains somewhat vanilla, with the exception of cop/CSI shows; and the idea of racial profiling. Personally, I think King would have a great deal of trouble with racial profiling- especially the type done in the spirit of suck it up, you're doing your part in the war on terrorism and illegal immigration. Better the racism that is clear and open, than one that is cloaked in the clothes of a false patriotism. This type of racism visited upon our fellow citizens diminishes us all- it strips us of our dignity, our humanity and our decency as a nation made of many.

Today, we find ourselves on the cusp of an increased military action which can only described as obscene- as its vocabulary: thrust, go in hard and deep, dominate- has the whiff of soft porn, a quality clearly recognized by post-colonialists who recognize it as the re-sexing of a nation and a people as weak, female, possessable and in need of corrective domination by patriarchal and superior (read Western) force.

As we stand on the mountain moments before the army rushes down, screaming, to descend upon the enemy below, let us stand here and look into the Valley of Death- theirs and ours- theirs will be physical, ours will be both physical and moral-with Martin Luther King, Jr. and remember how he saw a similar war, more than a generation ago:

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

(the rest + audio file here.)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Locations of visitors to this page
Technorati Profile