Monthly Archives: January 2019

On the Steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Today I was reflecting on MLK. I have had a stormy relationship with his memory. There were times when I toyed with the histories that thought less of him, or may have been, in some ways, an attempt to see him more as a human than an icon. Eventually, though, he secured my respect. In the end I could not resist the siren call of “I have a dream.” It was a speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Stanford University, among so many, catalogs the speech with this summary:

“In his iconic speech at the Lincoln Memorial for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, King urged America to “make real the promises of democracy.” King synthesized portions of his earlier speeches to capture both the necessity for change and the potential for hope in American society.”

And the part that will not leave my heart:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification,” one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

He chose to remain faithful to a nonviolent protest, to become a reminder to those who governed the nation that in the process of writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution our founders had written a promissory note to which each American was to fall heir. “This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

His legacy is the voice of promise, and the demand that it be fulfilled. It cannot be fulfilled by governments alone, it must spring from the people governed. King left us the legacy that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Indeed.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

In the past week another nationally shared event took place. Although there is still much finger pointing and multiple interpretations of what precisely happened, a few things appear to be settled. A small group of Black Hebrew Israelites began to verbally attack a group of Native Americans. Black Hebrew Israelites have a fringe militant edge that are the mirror image of White Supremacist groups – a vision that would have given King living nightmares. All the identity theology and supremacy ideology packed into the white-people rage fringe is mirrored in this group. They are known for their inherent hatred of Native Peoples as well as whites.

Into this mix appears a group of high school boys attending a Catholic High School and wearing MAGA hats. I was not able to confirm the reason for their visit, although there was mention of their attendance at the anti-abortion event, March for Life. So, now we have the perfect storm. Enraged fringe people, persons accustomed to being assaulted in word if not deed, and a group of young men nearing their testosterone peaks. America of today in a mini-mash.

Then there is the Elder, playing his drum and making eye contact with the one he perceives to be a leader. Willing the young man, will all that is within him, to not escalate the confrontation. Somehow, to some extent, he succeeds. And, yes, this is my interpretation born by the experience of working with First Nation peoples and knowing something of what it takes to receive the honors he bears. In addition to his garnered respect in the Native community, he is a vet, a man who has served the country which still has issues keeping its commitments to his people.

In this explosive incident, one that is being interpreted, reinterpreted, shared, doctored, fought over and blasted through social media, we have shone a light on where we are as a country today. I may not agree and may even be disgusted by the views of these young men and their parents – but never would I suggest death threats. Little is being said about the BHI because, well, there is probably too much guilt over the general treatment of blacks in this country to see with clear and reasoned vision when we should protest. We have wrapped ourselves up in such convoluted visions of what we think America is or should be we have forgotten our first, simple, shining vision.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence).

From the Library of Congress:

The concept that all men are created equal was a key to European Enlightenment philosophy. But the interpretation of “all men” has hovered over the Declaration of Independence since its creation. Although most people have interpreted “all men” to mean humanity, others have argued that Jefferson and the other authors of the Declaration meant to exclude women and children. Within the context of the times it is clear that “all men” was a euphemism for “humanity,” and thus those people, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, who used the Declaration of Independence to demand equality for African Americans and women seized the historical as well as the moral high ground.

I have a dream, that one day we will be the nation we have always aspired to be and that all of our people will know the fruits of the promise of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

 

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Reflections ~ On the Changing of the Year

I recently read an article by Melinda Gates that talked about goals and New Year resolutions. She wrote something that resonated with me. She does not make resolutions or goals for the new year, she has been trying something different. She chooses a word. Last year she chose the word grace. She reminds herself of her chosen word throughout the year in situations great and small, triumphant and trying. It is a touch stone that guides, rather than defines, her goals for the coming year. I love that idea, so I thought I would give it a try.

There are oh so many marvelous words in the world, choosing one can be rather daunting, but it is worth the effort. My word for 2019 is “seasoned.” Season is both a noun, and a verb. As such, it can describe an accomplished goal, or the process. Common synonyms include, experienced, accustomed, toughened, inured, and habituated. Or, it can mean the fullness of time for the seasonal cycles of the earth, or the perfect moment to consume a fruit or vegetable. Season gives balance, flavor, a richness to things when properly applied. Season, and its related forms, can bring to mind a hint of a flavor, a powerful storm, the aging of fine wood, the smiling face of a wise old mentor, or the face of a storied warrior. Seasoning is how we become.

This word will serve me well, I believe. There are some areas of my life and my developed personal philosophy that have come to fullness. There will always be more to learn, but I feel settled in the direction that learning should take me. Let’s say I have found a distant star and know that it exists. Now I wish to know all about that star, what it is made of, when it was born, when it will die, and what depends on its existence. There are always amazing things to learn even if you feel settled in the path from which you explore them.

I’m not sure I can claim maturity in the full sense of the word. Yes, I am more mellow and more understanding than when I was younger. I am better at leaving well enough alone and at walking away when I believe my presence will cause more harm than good. However, I’m also rather uncompromising when it comes to core values. There are actions my heart has no room for and if people try to convince me there is no solution, then I believe we are looking at the problem incorrectly. There is a solution, but to find it we must first be willing to understand all aspects, all points of view. We need to look deeper to better understand while acknowledging that we are not the metric by which the whole world must be measured.

Consequently, in this coming year, I want to remind myself of the investment in time and knowledge required to mature to fullness; and that it can be a rocky road. I want to find the knee-jerk in my mind and mellow it a bit more so that I am able to frame alternatives in the manner needed for the audience. I want to work on the rough edges of my personality and learn to be a bit more tolerant of the perceived foibles of others. I want to season my presence in the world.

There is one other aspect of “seasoned” that resonates with me. Not only does season refer to experience or flavor, it also refers to cycles and timeliness. This, too, is a critical piece of any decision or goal. Is it time? Is it time for here, but not there? Sometimes we are in such a hurry to make sure our thoughts, our goals, our beliefs are known, that we miss the perfect moment for reception. Communication does not occur unless there is a confirmed receipt of the message. I want to be more mindful of the time and place for sharing. I want to hone my skills like those of a surfer that knows the moment to accept the wave. I want to be more aware of when the piece I have to share will do the most good. My door is always open, I want to get better at knowing when to start the tea.

There are many songs that speak to my heart when it comes to finding the better way, or to reminding me that even the smallest of contributions can make a difference. Recently, I have been reminded of this one. Somewhere in the vast ocean there are many small boats sending big waves, and with one match…

boat-clouds-cloudy-611328

Photo by Matheus Guimarães from Pexels

Fight Song – Dave Bassett / Rachel Platten
Fight Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

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The Scandal of the (White American) Cross

Much food for thought in these trying times.

Leaning Out

I was raised at the cross. It stood atop steeples high in the sky and marked the front of every church I attended — the only symbol allowed in our iconoclastic faith. We sang about it and talked about it, preached about it in every sermon and invited people to come to it at every altar call. We cherished the cross, embraced the cross, and “took up our cross” every day. 

The instrument of the worst torture the Roman Empire could devise, the cross,  had been transformed into the symbol of a life devoted to God.

And I was taught that cross was a scandal — offensive to all those who wouldn’t believe and didn’t belong. A scandal to liberals who were “squeamish” about blood. A scandal to secular minds and hearts that didn’t like the idea of personal sin and guilt. A scandal to the self-satisfied who…

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