Monday, January 21, 2013

On MLK Jr. Day, the Heart is Heavy but the Love is Strong

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we're always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Tomorrow the president will be inaugurated again.  Last time, the first time he was sworn in, I felt so proud, so filled with hope.  I remember being on the phone with a dear friend who had literally seen the effects of racism I experienced, and we cried tears of joy.  This time I didn't even vote for him.  And I have spoke out against his administrations evil.  For this I have lost friends and even a mentor has turned away from me, and the very friend I cried with four years ago, I'm worried doesn't want to speak to me.  Speaking out, as a person of conscious, has been a necessity, but it has come with costs.  The price though is worth it.

By now I shouldn't be surprised that some feel Obama's presidency somehow proves that as a nation, race relations and racism is less of an issue because a "Black" president (he's mixed race and not acknowledging that is proof we have longer to go than fully considered) was elected.  In fact I contend that a big part of why my more liberal sisters and brothers have not spoken out about our being engaged militarily with over seven countries is because, in essence, we are still congratulating ourselves on voting in the brown guy.

But this is the most lazy form of supposed anti-racism work I've seen.  Are we not holding our president and his administration accountable for the thousands of people killed overseas because we want to believe we voted for the good guy or because we voted for the Black guy?  I suspect it's a lot of both.  And here's the rub, if we voted for the Black guy who turns out is even worse than the bad guy before him, then that means we have to really and truly look at not only our presidents policies, our role in allowing them to fester, and our lackluster approach to dealing with racism.  It means by golly we're still racist...and that we don't want to face the real work it takes to examine it and make a true and concerted effort to change it.

Let me also state that when those who do speak out against Obama's policies, compare him to Dr. King Jr. (I have a drone/I have a dream) they are being equally lazy and racist.  Obama is a politician, bought and paid for by corporations.  King Jr. was a preacher, activist, and fallible visionary.  The only thing these two have in common is that they both are of color, and both are powerful orators.  To act as if they are somehow in the same category is oversimplification at it's worst.

Tomorrow the president will be sworn in on King's bible.  I may cry tomorrow but only because of the absolute travesty such an action will be.  There is no nicer way for me to say this but as an activist, and as someone descended from slaves, I am disgusted.  Here is what Cornel West has to say about it:

Interestingly Mr. West believes that Obama's NDAA would have potentially locked up King indefinitely without due process.  But knowing King's legacy as I do, I think he would have spoke out anyway about the several unjust conflicts we are engaged in.  And in all honesty, though I'm speculating, I think King would find that his bible being used in such a way tomorrow, was a bit inappropriate.

Love is not easy.  I struggle myself with the urge to finger point.  But luckily I still have friends left who hold me accountable, and tell me when my striving for peace, looks potentially like harm.  The humility I have experienced recently by being called out I am grateful for.  It has reminded me of King's words above, that my vision has limits, but even if I am clumsy, I must ask my higher power for the words, and continue to speak, think, and take loving action.  All I can say is - I'm working on it.  But regardless I don't speak out to win friends but to save lives.  As a feisty older lady once told me "if you're not thought of as a bitch, then you're not doing enough."

If you have 20 minutes to spare, please listen to Dr. Kings antiwar speech.  And if you have 20 more minutes, look into Obama's drone policies and the NDAA.  Then ask yourself if King would be happy with the actions our president has taken.  Ask if we are any closer to the equality we so desire than we we're four years ago.  Ask how we can stop the violence against our sisters and brothers of color here and around the world.  We don't have to know the answers...but if we never ask the questions, we may not find out who we truly are, and the healing we are capable of.

Love is a great beautifier. -Louisa May Alcott

More of Dr. Martin Luther King's words.

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of mankind. And when I speak of love I'm not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of John: "Let us love one another, for God is love. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us."

Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. We are presently moving down a dead-end road that can lead to national disaster. America has strayed to the far country of racism and militarism. The home that all too many Americans left was solidly structured idealistically; its pillars were solidly grounded in the insights of our Judeo-Christian heritage. All men are made in the image of God. All men are bothers. All men are created equal. Every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth. Every man has rights that are neither conferred by, nor derived from the State--they are God-given. Out of one blood, God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. What a marvelous foundation for any home! What a glorious and healthy place to inhabit. But America's strayed away, and this unnatural excursion has brought only confusion and bewilderment. It has left hearts aching with guilt and minds distorted with irrationality.

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