Thursday, January 13, 2011

I have a dream

It is likely in the next few days you will hear at least a few sentences from Martin Luther King’s most famous speech. Speeches are great, but I am more interested in the actions that they inspire. Great speeches like this one have inspired many great actions. I have of course, supplied a link.

I Have a Dream Speech

He talks of decency, and against violence. When he talks of what he wants, he asks only for simple rights, to vote, to stay in a motel. He uses the founding documents of the United States to make his case. He doesn’t want to be given special status, just to sit at a “table of brotherhood” with everyone else. The speech comes to a crescendo with
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!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
Some of the concerns from 1963 have been addressed, but not all. The need to remind people to solve their differences without violence became more prominent this week. How do I take this call to action? Do I go to the South and find some little black boys and black girls to join hands with, possibly helping them to rebuild New Orleans? Or should I go to Haiti or Colombia, or the Red River Valley in North Dakota? Why choose one group over another?

On a recent radio program “On Being” Krista Tippet, the narrator, asked Lord Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of England a similar question. Lord Sacks had spoken of the dignity of difference and Krista pointed out that the Torah speaks of a covenant that is particular to the Jewish people. She asked how he reconciled that.

His answer was,
“A strong particular identity is the best hope for the sake of what is universal”
He demonstrated this by pointing out how Martin Luther King drew on words written a long time ago and put down in Isaiah Chapter 40

4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah delivered a prophecy particular to his time, but the struggle of oppressed peoples, the hope that they can just have a level playing field, is universal. To work toward that goal, you need to know your self, your strengths, your weaknesses. You can only do so much alone, so you need to find your community, people like you with similar values and similar histories to work with. We don’t all need to work on the same things at the same time, but we will get to the same place in the end.

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