by John P. Flannery
On August 28, 1963, the Reverend Martin Luther King said:
“I have a dream that 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!”
There have been advances but, in recent years, since Trump, we have had to run to stand in place, to assure that character is the measure of the person. We have made progress but still we’ve lost ground.
The Reverend Martin Luther King compared himself to Moses who led his people out of slavery, saw the Promised Land, but never got there himself. We’re still not there.
MLK’s promise was that “we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
King’s road map to the Promised Land was to challenge “the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.”
We know today that the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott, deciding that a man was property, was wrong.
But we don’t’ seem to appreciate that a Supreme Court that compromises voting rights is also wrong.
Consider how King fought so hard to remove obstacles to the franchise so that blacks could arrive in a polling booth and throw a voting lever so that they would have recourse against how they were badly or unjustly governed
So many years later, we have a Supreme Court compromising that right to vote and others as well.
We have states interposing obstacles to that vote, working hard at it.
King sought further to remedy an American system that valued property over persons and, in the bargain, short-changed workers in pay and benefits, and denied them credit, housing, education and many other opportunities — all because of race — in a form of violence, economic, that is every bit as invidious and punishing as physical violence.
King was praised by many for his Ghandian ethic of non-violence in Montgomery, also on the Freedom Rides, in Albany, Birmingham and Selma. King was dumb-founded therefore when the public and even his strongest supporters challenged his decision to oppose the war.
They told King that civil rights and peace didn’t mix. King said, “the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war.”
Our political candidates, and in this regard, we are talking about emerged cultish Republican party, talk compassion but make light of feeding the poor, of housing, of job training, of helping the unemployed.
Senator Robert Kennedy said to those in South Africa, still fighting apartheid, that: “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage … that human history is thus shaped. Every time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million difference centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Martin Luther King believed that ripples of hope become forces of change. When I’ve campaigned over the years, and visited homes, I have seen pictures of King and the slain Kennedy brothers in a place in the home set aside.
We owe it to King and ourselves to resume our march forward, while we may have seen the Promised Land, we’ve been thrown for a loss, and we’re not there yet. We have work still to do. This mid-term is our next opportunity to do some good. In the words of the day when King spoke, “We shall overcome.” Believe it. It will come to pass.