Tag Archives: freedom

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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Remembering the Dead ~ All of Them

As we go into the full focus of Memorial Day weekend I would like us to think on more than time off and nice memes about military service shared across social media. I would like us to think about what that “service” we keep thanking people for really means, to us and to them. You see, I’ve known a few. Some who came back broken physically, mentally, and all kinds of other ways. I’ve known those who chose to serve when their only reason was because they were called, whether they understood the reasons we chose this particular battle to or not. I’ve known those who in their heart of hearts just couldn’t do it because their faith or their ideals would not allow them. I’ve had at least five decades of accumulated experience to know the heart-wrenching choices made each and every time this country chooses to leave our homes and go do battle.

I am here to say something I feel is critical. Freedom may be won in the battlefield, but it is maintained, nurtured, and protected at home. It is done through the support of those who served and those left behind. It is done by being involved in the day to day operations of a country by voting, by serving, by fighting every minute for truth — and understanding. If this country is ever going to reach a time when the vision of the people points in the same general direction? We have to learn to communicate. A house divided cannot stand.

Today I have seen a few posts that poked fun at certain teenagers who have declared their intent to do battle. They are doing so by reaching as many as they can through the vehicle of free speech – our number one and arguably most important right. And yet there are those that scoff and say they wouldn’t last a minute in a battle field. Excuse me? They did. Without boot camp, without weapons, without Kevlar, helmets or kits – they survived a point in time when the active shooter drill was a drill no longer. We have students in this country that assume that one day, some person upset about who knows what will walk through their school doors and young people, teachers, and “resource” officers will have to make split second decisions about sacrificing their lives to save others. Have you given thought about how you would respond? Really?

I love this country with all my heart. I know that there have been sacrifices beyond imagination to keep me safe in my privilege. But I also know there are unsung heroes among us, people who cared about those around them, who did not hesitate when the moment came to choose between their own safety and that of others.

This Memorial Day I want to think about all of those who have given their lives in pursuit of a dream. A dream 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.

The Wall

Courtesy of “Living in Washington D.C.”

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Reflections ~ Where has my country gone?

‘Tis the season. We are heading into the last lap of an election season. A sport that, in America, seems to go on forever. Costing billions and sometimes accomplishing no more than we might if we chose Miss. Universe to lead the country. In the interest of keeping up my new persona of activist, this blog grew out of what was going to be a simple Facebook post. It was inspired by this wonderful video.

Dictator

I looked up the original speech given by Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator, a politically sensitive film made while Hitler was rising to power and people were not really certain of how to react, or weren’t paying attention at all. By the time it was released, there was a very different attitude. Here is the speech as reproduced on the Charlie Chaplin – Official Website.

Things changed dramatically for this country. A transition that occurred in mid century led us to where we are today. Not just in our country, but in many nations. We are at a point in human history when we can, quite realistically, destroy all that is human, and the very globe on which we live. This is not the destiny we were created to fulfill. This is true whether you believe that creation originates with a superior intelligence or as a fact of a creating, evolving universe.

It saddens me that the country I was born in is no longer that country. I cry every time I see our flag, hear our anthem, and watch as our country tears itself apart. A video clip I ran across some time ago explains some of the reasons why we are no longer who we were, and something of the arrogant delusion we accept as gospel truth. Language warning.

As given by one of the characters in the Aaron Sorkin production, The Newsroom, the statistics are shattering. As of the airing of this episode of the series (2012), this is where we stood.

“We are 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force and number 4 in exports. We lead in three categories – number of incarcerated citizens per capital, number of adults who believe in angels, and defense spending.”

The Business Insider added a few more, as well as support for some of the statistics mentioned above in their article found here.  

And I’ll add one of my own. One of the reasons that our economy was strong and we were a country of innovation and invention was that our universities were open to the world. The best and the brightest from every corner of the globe traveled to study in our schools and contribute to our research. Not anymore. After 9-11 the hurdles for entering the country on a student visa became so onerous that we lost one of our greatest assets: the ability to educate the best and reap the benefits.

But we used to be great, really great. (from The Newsroom clip)

“We stood up for what was right, we fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured disease, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy.”

 

But, we changed. Now, even in the process of electing our officials, we are at each other’s throats. Even when we do arrive at some selection, the level of disrespect for our leaders is abysmal. And dangerous. A world is watching—a world we have been preaching to for decades. Telling them they must become free and elect officials and adhere to a code of law. Statistics quoted by Sorkin include that out of 207 countries in the world, 180 are considered free. Having elections, a free press, and some adherence to human rights. We are beating our chests soundlessly and the whole world is learning that the Emperor does indeed have no clothes.

Across the globe, nations are recognizing the sins of their past and working hard to make viable restitution for slavery, and the genocide of indigenous peoples. In the U.S. we fight those options tooth and nail and continue to embed those legacies in our treatment of “people not like us.” Arrogance. Delusion. Fear. It is no longer a war against Christianity, Islam or anyone other identifiable label – it is a war against humanity.

This is not who we are. It is not who we were meant to be. Not as citizens of what was once a great country; and not as members of homo sapiens.

Now is the time to hold our leaders accountable. To let them know that we will not allow intolerance to rule. To let them know we are not eternal warriors looking for the next head to hang on the city gates. Now is the time seek a solution that is intelligent, creative, and builds for a future worthy of who we are.

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Reflections ~ Understanding Choices

I very rarely “reblog.”  I believe, I suppose, in using my little space to express how the world impacts my thoughts, dreams, desires.  There are times, however, when the words of another touch you so deeply there is very little else to say.  One of my best online friends and a thinker of great depth (and, at times, genuine humor), please meet Rhonda Little.

http://www.rodalena.com/2013/12/14/letting-them-rest/

 

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