Today, we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr, a rare leader who mobilized catalytic energies from the deepest spiritual strata of human dignity; whose non-violence and whose vision, so clearly articulated in his “I Have A Dream” speech define what is best about America by defining what it could be.
When I think of him, I also think of something written by Ian Frasier, a reflection on this country in his book, On the Rez. His words are to me testimony for what Dr. King — and what all Americans — might stand for:
America is a leap of the imagination. From its beginning, people had only a persistent idea of what a good country should be. The idea involved freedom, equality, justice, and the pursuit of happiness; nowadays most of us probably could not describe it a lot more clearly than that. The truth is, it always has been a bit of a guess. No one has ever known for sure whether a country based on such an idea is really possible, but again and again, we have leaped toward the idea and hoped….The idea does not truly live unless it is expressed by an act; the country does not live unless we make the leap from our tribe or focus group or gated community or demographic, and land on the shaky platform of that idea of a good country which all kinds of different people share.
Today, I learned through a story in New Yorker Magazine by Seymour Hersh about additional possible military action in Iran. Why this country’s administration appears to be devoted to such a destructive path I have no idea. Seems like we Americans have all got to make a new, perhaps even bigger leap to consider America’s possible place in the world — where our real and collective leadership edge is about learning to be part of, not in charge of, about connecting rather than defending. And we have so much to learn. Is there anything clearer than that our “defending” is just another word for violence and aggression? More Shadow stuff. More Control.
Today, I am hearing Dr. King’s words resonate across a quickly shrinking world:
“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
And I am humbled. When you have a moment tonight, you might want to read or listen to all of King’s famous speech. It is a declaration. It is a human vision, more vital today than ever, perhaps because it burns so brightly with hope in the midst of suffering.