Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

45 years of dreaming

I'm sure I don't need to tell anybody that today is a pretty historic day.

On this day in 1963, Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. There were some two hundred thousand people in attendance to hear his message of equality and justice for all. And tonight, exactly 45 years later, Barack Obama is going to deliver a speech in Denver accepting his nomination as the Democratic candidate for President. Obama will be speaking to some seventy-five thousand people live, with millions more watching at home on television or the internet.

I’m looking forward to watching to Obama’s speech tonight, because he is a inspirational and uplifting speaker, because this is a truly historic moment that I don't want to miss, but also because I am eager to hear how he will relate the events of today with Dr. King’s message of 45 years ago.

I have no inside scoop as to what Obama will say, but I know what connection I hope he draws between 1963 and 2008.

45 years have done a lot to bring reality closer to the vision of King’s dream. We're not there yet, but we're certainly a lot closer. The day that an African-American becomes the likely next president of the United States is unassailable evidence to that.

However, although the past 45 years greatly eased the divisions between black and white, in many ways we have simply replaced that division with others: east against west, Christian against muslim, and rich against poor. The specific sin of racism has been replaced with a more general crime of intolerance.

We have seen this in spades since 9/11, which is now almost seven years in our past. The Bush administration and Neo-con theorists who have ghost-written Bush's policies have elevated intolerance to an art form, almost to a national pasttime.

We have seen countless examples of intolerant attitudes from them since then: from their less-than-strident statements about the hate-crimes against American sikhs and muslims in the days immediately after 9/11, to their not-so-subtle marriage of fundamentalist christian rhetoric with public policy language, to their border-fence against scary central-american brown people.

In these and many more examples I am constantly stunned at the hypocrisy of people who with one face profess to follow the teachings of Christ, while with the other face consistently pursue policies which divide, subjugate, and punish those who are different than themselves. To the best of my knowledge, the teaching of Christ include loving thy neighbor as thyself, and loving even thy enemy. Division, subjugation, and intolerance just weren't in the mix.

Today Barack Obama will deliver a historic speech to a nation in crisis. The fact that his speech falls on the 45th anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech--one of the most famous, powerful, and significant public speeches in American history--will certainly not be lost on him.

My dream is that while accepting his nomination for the most powerful office on earth, he also uses the opportunity to inspire us to go beyond King's dream for racial justice in America. That he lays out for us the critical need for us, both as a nation and as an increasingly connected species, to take the next logical step.

My dream is to hear Barack Obama impel each and every one of us, in the powerful oratorial style that only he can summon, to create a world everyone understands the value of tolerance, and respects the right of others to think, live, and believe differently than themselves.

Martin Luther King shined a very bright light on one horrible, inexcusable example of intolerance right here at home, and did much to bring it to an end. But now we must carry that torch forward. We must accept, in King’s words, the fierce urgency of Now, and shine the light of tolerance into all the corners of the earth that remain dark.


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