Monday, 17 January 2005

The Content of our Character

...I say to you today my friends, that even though we must face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed--we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day, even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream 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, the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that 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!
I was only six and a half years old in August of 1963 when those words were spoken, and my awareness of them didn't come until later, but I do remember sitting in the den of my suburban Atlanta home when the tragic news of Dr. King's assassination in Memphis was announced less than five years later.

Being from the South I sometimes confront assumptions about what it must have meant to grow up with the legacy of racism, but being in Atlanta, Martin Luther King, Jr was part of my legacy as well, even as a white kid in the suburbs. Red state or blue state, white or black, 'liberal' or 'conservative', Christian, atheist, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, or deist, we should all be judged by the content of our character. That's the crux of what matters, and those who try to divide us never succeed in getting the 'better' character on one side or the other.

Whether I'm right or wrong, I've judged the character of our current leadership to be sorely lacking and morally repugnant, and consider it my patriotic duty to continue to expose their corruption and cry for justice. Alas the majority of the counter-inaugural protests on Thursday come sponsored by strident ideologues who can't properly represent the outrage that's felt by reasonable Americans of diverse political persuasions. The best of the bunch that I've found is a plan for inaugural attendees to turn their back on Bush when his motorcade passes.

Whatever may occur this Thursday, all I can hope is that during the next four years we continue to find our voice and have it heard loudly and broadly, not as the voice of extremism but rather the voice of sanity and compassion. That voice may be radical when it needs to be radical, calm when it needs to be calm, reaching out to opponents when that is appropriate, but it should always informed by the call of justice. Here's to the memory of Dr. King.

No comments: