Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I (Still Have) A Dream

Today is the 50th anniversary of the “March on Washington” and the "I Have A Dream" speech.  I’ve noticed how our remembering the “March” tends to disconnect the “March” from its original purpose.  Civil rights.  The end of inequality, oppression and injustice. 

There are isolated attempts to re-connect the “March” to the struggle for civil rights, but as an event, with an anniversary, the 'March' becomes an institution, nestled safely in the arms of history.  Because the “March” represents many things.  Civil rights, and in equal or greater parts, nostalgia for the time when we were young and things mattered and the music offered us a version of ourselves we embraced and remember to this day.  Part fiction, part hope, and all of it fading faster than we'd like to admit.    

Today, we stand on the verge of military action in Syria.  An action that seems a foregone conclusion.  Should it be?  Shouldn't there be some discussion or debate? 

On one level, it is an all too present reminder of how oppressive power opposes change and the means it will use to preserve its interests.   We stand at this anniversary trying to celebrate how far we've come and swallow the bitter sweetness of what that means individually, while all around us are the signs of how far we still need to go. 

The things the “March” helped bring about, today are systematically under attack.  Even while we celebrate.  Even as we’re encouraged to remember. 

Dr. King recognized the systemic nature of oppression and injustice and how race was (and still is) a big piece of an even bigger puzzle. 

He began to speak out against the Vietnam War and was criticized for doing so.  He was in Memphis when he was shot and killed, organizing for the end of segregation and better, safer working conditions for the city's trash collectors. 

The “Dream” was opening new vistas and wider fronts.  Calling on him to travel new places and develop new ideas and grow in new ways.  The “March” soothes us, the “Dream” challenges us and equips us for what’s ahead.

As sweetly nostalgic as it is to remember the “March,” to revel in the grainy black and white images of our history, it's not the “March” we need to commemorate, it's the “Dream”. 

It's the “Dream” that points us to where we are going.  And, it's the “Dream” that needs our vigilance, debate and protection to keep it from becoming just another piece of history.     

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