Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reclaiming our real future

I've been thinking about this for a while now. History has been off course. I don't just mean the accounts of what happened. I feel as if someone grabbed our future and put a noose around it, forcing us all down a different, much darker path. What if that hadn't have happened?

What if Medgar Evers, John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had all lived long and full lives? What kind of country would we have had? Where would the racial divide be today? Where would our politics be like? Would the right wing have risen to the same kind of power? Or would creativity flourished and the economy soared as the middle class expanded, presenting an ever-larger market for goods?

What if Jacobo Arbenz had not been overthrown in Guatemala in 1954? What if Mohammed Mossadegh had not been killed for nationalizing oil in Iran? What if millions of dollars of our taxes never got spent trying to overthrow Fidel Castro? What if we had let Salvador Allende rule Chile without interference?

What kind of world would we be living in now? What if we hadn't decided, years ago, that it was okay to hand over oil rights to private individuals, instead of ensuring that, as a national resource, the profits from such were plowed back into our nation? What if, as we started to run out, instead of going to war to secure more oil, we instead spent the same amount of money to create a green economy, inventing new technologies, employing hundreds of thousands of people in a life-making effort, not a death-making one?

For most of my life, I've seen evil triumph over good, hate trump love, incompetence edge out brilliance, disinformation bury truth.

Can someone please make it stop? Remove the noose from our real future?

As I watch Obama and listen to him, it's not that he's as good as Kennedy. Yet. But for the first time in my life, I feel I'm watching someone who has the capacity and desire for greatness, who isn't just trying to win at all costs, but who wants to change the paradigm, to lead by example, to have a lasting, positive impact on the world. I feel like I'm seeing the future that was stolen from us 40 years ago by the assassinations of RFK and MLK, and earlier, JFK.

I want our future back.

When King and the Kennedys were in the media, we heard John Kennedy say, "ask not what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," and this:

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim--but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

We heard Dr. King say: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'" And we heard him say this:

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Bobby Kennedy told us:

We must recognize the full human equality of all of our people -- before God, before the law, and in the councils of government. We must do this, not because it is economically advantageous -- although it is; not because the laws of God command it -- although they do; not because people in other lands wish it so. We must do it for the single and fundamental reason that it is the right thing to do.

He also spoke these words upon the death of Martin Luther King:

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love - a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

For the first time in my life, someone living is talking boldly about the values I hold most deeply. I support Barack Obama not just because he's intelligent, an experienced legislator, someone who has traveled the world, and is himself a mirror of the multicultural world we live in. I support Obama because he gives me hope, and in these dark times, when hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and loyal Americans have been murdered in my name, that is no small feat. Obama inspires me. He caresses my mind. He evokes something from my soul, that better part of myself, that says, yes, this is possible. Yes, we can.

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union...

Those words never fail to inspire. Our founding documents contain some of the most beautiful collections of words on the planet. When Obama opened with those words, I felt my heart leap a little. I was on my way to work, grateful for once that I had a long commute, so that I could listen to his entire speech.

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy.

Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least 20 more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution -- a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

I'm still in awe of his speech yesterday. Don't just read it. Hear it. See it. It's no wonder it's had over 1.6 million views and is the number one video on YouTube.

I feel strongly that, years from now, we'll see this as a major turning point in the national character of racial divisions and discussions.) It was so frank. So direct. So clear as to the pain of so many fellow citizens, unfairly judged simply because of the color of their skin. And then there are the white citizens who would never consider themselves racist, but who nonetheless make insensitive comments and truly don't understand the depth of the hurt some of our multicolored family members have suffered. Our country is one big family. Like it or not, we're all stuck with each other. We should try harder to get along.

I have said things that were insensitive before, and frankly welcome being called on it, because I do not intend to hurt. If I say something that causes someone pain I want them to let me know, that I may avoid it in the future. But I also want them to own the pain they inflict on others. I have no patience for those who come to remove the plank in my eye while sporting one of their own, unaware. We all need to remember it's easier for someone outside our immediate circle of comfort to see our flaws. We have to be brave enough to listen to them, and consider what truth may be there.

In nearly all the elections I've been old enough to vote in, I've essentially held my nose and picked the lesser of two evils. Not this time. This time, I have a real chance to vote for someone I want. Someone who inspires me. Someone I long to learn from, who would be a teacher not just to this country, but to the world. My most frequent comment to people about Obama is that he describes the world I want to live in. His vision is a beautiful one, but not a naive one. He calls upon us to challenge ourselves to do better, to be better people, and I'm listening.

But many are not listening. Sean Hannity is not listening. Rush Limbaugh is not listening. Or rather, they are listening with only their hateful ear open, their heartful ear missing, or blocked, or too long closed.

How can such people be reached? Because we must reach them. Hate begets hate, and with so much of it on the airwaves our country is in peril. This country will not perish through famine. It will not perish from disease. It will not perish in self-defense. But it may well perish from hate. Hate is the most destructive force on earth, but not the most powerful. Love is stronger still.

Obama offers love, purely and simply. Not a fairytale kind of love, but the deep love that comes from knowing we are all connected, that if I cut you, I bleed. Love that sees the positive instead of the negative, that sees hope and opportunity instead of cynicism and despair. Love that breeds selflessness, not selfishness.

The housing crisis is born of hate, manifesting as greed. The loss of connection. People thinking if they can rip someone else off, they will improve their position. But as so many of them are finding out, if they gather all the wealth for themselves, who will be able to buy what they want to sell us next?

We have to think bigger. We have to work together better. We have to be open to those who disagree with us. They may have some truth we haven't yet seen.

But most of all, we have to open our hearts. I have always felt that this is the key to our future. Anything less leads to a future I do not want to enter.

I want the future Obama gives us a glimpse of. I want to live in the country he describes. I want to have that voice giving me the weekly update on the country's affairs. And most of all, I want that calm, sound judgment, questioning, thinking, articulating, persuading us to do the right thing.

I don't think he's perfect. I'm sure we'll learn more about him that will disappoint. He is, after all, only human. But he is of the kind that aspires to be something more. And for that, he has not just my vote, but my heart. I want the future that includes him in it.

Please, powers that be. Please, give us back our future. You deprived us of it 40 years ago. We want to pick up where we left off.

There are three things that will save this planet from self-destruction. One is regaining an accurate vote. Right now, our system of elections is so frought with possibilities that we cannot now know if our votes are being counted as cast. I believe strongly one of the reasons our future was taken from us was that elections were gamed, without our knowledge.

Another factor is the media. If you spew hate all day, how are people to learn to rise above? I fear for a nation that considers Hannity and Limbaugh anything more than fringe freaks. They speak from fear, hate, and ignorance. These are horrible things to allow to enter your mind on a daily basis. Our Democracy is only as safe as our access to good information. Hannity and Limbaugh imperil that access.

The third element is love. It's not "all you need," contrary to popular culture. But any two of these without the third will not get us to the promised land. We have to have an informed electorate whose vote counts, but whose vote is informed by compassion and connectedness.

Thanks for listening. That's an act of compassion in itself, and I am deeply grateful.


Blogger Dawn Meredith said...

Thank you for that beautiful inspirational message. If only it would be read on hate radio and hate tv.

There is sooo much truth in what you wrote; clearly a labor of love. (Gee maybe you were a pastor in another life :)

Last night's news gives me hope too. (Covered only on MSNBC) The Obama passport breach. Anyone who does not see this AS a conspiracy is beyond blind. AND it got the talking heads off Obama's pastor. With whom I happen to agree, but I know Obama has to smart in how he dealt with it , and he was! Brilliant. He did us proud.

And so did you girl. What a great way to begin Good Friday. (Pun intended).


(Now to see if this thing will let me post this....!)

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, you speak for me on this as well. The chance to step back from the brink, as it were, to in some sense once again hope. To find some of the good that was stolen from us, to find a leader who can bring out our best...I hope we, as a nation, are good enough to make the right choice.

Though too, we have already learned... it is we who must act, to make our country what the best that it can be, especially amid so many voices of greed and hate.

And it is we who must reach out, to all other Americans, regardless of politics and race and whatever... to keep our democracy, and our dream alive. To not let the thieves of our future succeed any longer.

It is time, indeed.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Thank you both.

I was so heartened to see Governor Bill Richardson endorse him today. There's a light rising on the horizon, and it's shaped like an O....

6:10 PM  

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