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I have been examining the conflict that had been ravishing this board since Rick Warren's announcement.  There is righteous anger.  There is bitterness at the unfairness of this process.  There are understandable feelings on betrayal.  And all of it is something that I can understand and appreciate as someone who is for full equality of all citizens.

In this reflection I have gone into my own self reflection about the Civil Rights Movement that has brought us to this moment where we are about to swear in a man of color on January 20th.  Just a year ago I doubted Obama had much of a chance.  Not in this country.  White people weren't ready.  It would take more years for this to happen.  I always thought that someone of hispanic orgin would get it before a black person.  Or a woman.  But I felt that the nation wasn't ready for it.  That maybe we would never be ready for it.

I have never been so glad to be wrong in my life.  I have never felt so much thankfulness for being able to see it when many of my family and friends who went through the struggle are dead and gone. Where my grandfather was a sharecropper who had to escape from a lynch mob and ran up to Washington D.C where he built his own house to raise a family.  To be two generations removed from that and have a black president is absolutely astounding.  And to find my gay brother and sister hurting at the same time is humbling knowing the the struggle still goes on.

So it was with this reflection I go back to the beginning of MLK's journey.  After he had one his first victory with the Montgomery Boycott that had lasted for most of the year.

Martin begins his sermon with the famous biblical tale of the Hebrews coming out of Egypt and the story of the Civil Rights movement in Ghana.  He weaves together the tale of the Hebrews with those in revolt in Ghana.  He talked about how Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah became the leader in his nation through civil disobience.  Of his jailing and how his stance created the movement that freed them from British rule.

Martin then goes into his own movement and what is important.

Now I want to take just a few more minutes as I close to say three or four things that this reminds us of and things that it says to us—things that we must never forget as we ourselves find ourselves breaking aloose from an evil Egypt, trying to move through the wilderness toward the Promised Land of cultural integration. Ghana has something to say to us. It says to us first that the oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have to work for it. And if Nkrumah and the people of the Gold Coast had not stood up persistently, revolting against the system, it would still be a colony of the British Empire. Freedom is never given to anybody, for the oppressor has you in domination because he plans to keep you there, and he never voluntarily gives it up. And that is where the strong resistance comes—privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.

Power never gives up anything.  It is why it is powerful, it does not want to share.  This goes from gay rights struggle to economic equality.  It is a fight.  It will always be a fight.  It is maddening and make one angry.  Injustice is supposed to make one angry.  But it is not suppossed to make you hate your oppressor.  Martin explains:

This is the thing I’m concerned about. Let us fight passionately and unrelentingly for the goals of justice and peace, but let’s be sure that our hands are clean in this struggle. Let us never fight with falsehood and violence and hate and malice, but always fight with love, so that when the day comes that the walls of segregation have completely crumbled in Montgomery that we will be able to live with people as their brothers and sisters.

Oh, my friends, our aim must be not to defeat Mr. Engelhardt, not to defeat Mr. Sellers and Mr. Gayle and Mr. Parks. Our aim must be to defeat the evil that’s in them. And our aim must be to win the friendship of Mr. Gayle and Mr. Sellers and Mr. Engelhardt. We must come to the point of seeing that our ultimate aim is to live with all men as brothers and sisters under God and not be their enemies or anything that goes with that type of relationship. And this is one thing that Ghana teaches us: that you can break aloose from evil through nonviolence, through a lack of bitterness. Nkrumah says in his book: *"When I came out of prison, I was not bitter toward Britain. I came out merely with the determination to free my people from the colonialism and imperialism that had been inflicted upon them by the British. But I came out with no bitterness."* And because of that this world will be a better place in which to live.

Martin ends on a rather poignant note when you think about where we are  today fifty one years later.

Moses might not get to see Canaan, but his children will see it. He even got to the mountain top enough to see it and that assured him that it was coming. But the beauty of the thing is that there’s always a Joshua to take up his work and take the children on in. And it’s there waiting with its milk and honey, and with all of the bountiful beauty that God has in store for His children. Oh, what exceedingly marvelous things God has in store for us. Grant that we will follow Him enough to gain them.

And as I sit here today and think on Martin and the struggle he went through until his death I cry knowing he never saw it.  He never got a chance to see what a difference he made in my life, in my parents life, in my siblings life, in my communities life.

He, and millions of others, made our life better for us to enjoy.  And he did it with some bitterness in the end, some frustration towards his oppressors, anger over dead friends and the injustices toward his people.   But he did it out of love, even to those who bombed his houses and killed his friends.  He wanted to build a community with those who wouldn't even call him by his title of Doctor.  It the ignorant bigots and the clueless allies.  And here we are today.  He wanted them to be a part of his beloved community, he just wanted their evil ways gone.

That may be too close to Warren's "Hate the sin, love the sinner" but I think it is accurate.  This doesn't mean compromising your rights or stop fighting for them. It doesn't mean not calling out evil when you see it, no matter if it comes from a President Obama or a bigot like Warren.  What it means is we have to be better.  We have to be more forgiving.  We have to be the symbols of what tolerence should look like.  Not subjucation, but action made out of love for fellow human beings.

James Baldwin once said that he felt as sorry for the bigot as he did for himself because he knew they were as trapped in their roles as he was in his.  Let's try to free each other.  And if that sounds naive, well then I guess I'm naive, but I think that love is more powerful than hate.  And fighting out of love can change the world.

The Birth of a New Nation

Originally posted to Niwind on Mon Dec 22, 2008 at 10:54 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think that people (0+ / 0-)

    have come in this time to view Dr. King as an advocate of kumbaya who did not advocate street protests and generally raising hell to advance the cause of civil rights.  I don't think this is a correct view at all  To wit:

    You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.

    Additionally,

    In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

    In a good portion of this letter, King was responding to critics of his protests who had called for negotiation with the racist mayor of Birmingham and his administration rather than marches and sit-ins.  His response:  

    If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

    Letter from the Birmingham Jail

    If this sounds familiar, it should.  It's happening again now in the gay community.

    •  You misunderstand me... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rosecar

      I've read letter from Birmingham Jail.  I understand civil disobience and its form.  I for one wouldn't mind people turning their backs on Warren during the inauguaration and doing civil protest in order to bring about gay rights. If that means boycotting stores or civil unrest then I am totally in support. I'm not about stopping any of that.  I'm not saying "Stop whining gays!" What I am saying is turn your anger into something meaningful and fight for your rights not to get back at the Warren's or even the Obama's, but to gain your freedom the ability to turn back to those people and say I am better and this is the way you do these things.

      But there is a difference between standing up to hatred and totally disengaging from the process of changing minds.  MLK Jr pointed out evil actions from his oppressors but he also called Bull Connor Mr. and was very cordial when confronted with absolute hate.  He never bent in his pursuit of his rights but he was never in a positon to say "I don't want to deal with this bigots and racists"

      He didn't have a choice.  He didn't have the option of dismissing people he felt were spitting on him. They were the ones with the power.  They were the ones who made the laws.  They were Klansmen who were Senators and congressmen, county boards who were a part of the Citizenship Counsel. He knew that if he simple asserted his rights and made rightful agitiation with calling out the evil but not calling those who he fought against as evil, people who were not necessarily invested in the fight would recognize that what the Bull Connors and the George Wallaces were doing was hateful and should not be apart of America.

      I am not telling any person to shut up and get in line.  What I am telling you is being hateful toward your enemies is not the same as standing up for your rights.  Civil disobience is not the same as calling people bigots.  That at the core of his movement was his beloved community where in the future those who once hated could be seated at the table with those they hated.

      It is about being the better person.  It is about breaking the law but in a peaceful way.  It is about agitating without heated rhetoric.  You don't have to call somebody a bigot to change their minds or say they are without redemption.  You can force them to show it without saying a word bad about them personally.

      All you have to do is assert your rights and let them reveal themselves for you they are.  You can point out their evils without calling them evil.  Most people will connect the dots and know they are bigots without you having to raise your voice once.

      This is the purpose of my post.  This is what I am saying.

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