In Our Thirst for Freedom…

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.


  • Dan:

    Great blog! I am inspired by the top­ics, your insights and your read­ers’ insights … and your photos!

    I saw a PBS New­sHour with Jim Lehrer seg­ment last night dis­cussing the rela­tion­ship between Mar­tin Luther King and Lyn­don B. John­son. Your post, com­bined with that news sto­ry, brought up deep sad­ness over what I judge to be the lack of inspired and inspir­ing polit­i­cal lead­er­ship in this coun­try today, a sad­ness that I keen­ly felt dur­ing the 2004 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. At the time, I blogged a bit about the rel­a­tive lack of inspi­ra­tion I felt from pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, and as a coun­terex­am­ple, I includ­ed some excerpts from anoth­er speech that, like MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, I find high­ly inspir­ing: LBJ’s “Great Soci­ety” speech dur­ing the 1964 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign (9 months after MLK’s famous speech).

    On a dif­fer­ent top­ic, I love the pho­tos on your blog, and came across one today that remind­ed me imme­di­ate­ly of your empha­sis on the lead­er­ship edge, at Richard Bangs’ web site: “Into the Libyan Desert” by John Canning.

    Thanks for blogging!


  • Thank you, Joe. I appre­ci­ate your kind words. Visions of the desert are not so inap­pro­pri­ate! I think good deserts turn us inward to ask the ques­tions only we can begin to answer (but there can be a lot of wor­ry along the way that we’ll be stuck in emp­ty spaces.

    Again, thanks so much for writ­ing! You are linked here.

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