Would you put everything at risk to stand up and do what’s right?
Would you be willing to lose your job, friends, family, or your very life to fight for what you believe in?
I’m truly in awe of people willing to do whatever it takes to stand behind their convictions and pursue change. They are not only willing to be publicly criticized, ostracized, imprisoned and attacked, but in the end, far too many give up the most precious gift of all – life.
We’ve all heard the stories of everyday people stepping up and demanding more respect and the freedoms every human being deserves. The ability to live life free from harm or discrimination regardless of race, ethnicity, faith, gender, sexual orientation or color of your skin.
How many times have we seen individuals just like ourselves dig deep and find heroic abilities when they were thrust into a horrifying situation? Some of us can relate to that because of the powerful impact Gabriel Gifford’s attack here in Tucson had on our community.
Knowing the degree to which people will go to maintain the status quo makes most of us pause. Sure, we may call our congressman, join a protest or speak to friends and family about the injustices all around us. But, it’s those remarkable few who refuse to cower in the dark and say- “no more”. It’s that incredibly courageous few who believe to their core it’s worth paying any price to make others see the light.
Martin Luther King Jr. was such a beacon. I often wondered how he dealt with the inevitable consequences of his incredible fight for equality. How he continued to remain front and center, never wavering in voicing his beliefs, having to know it could only end one way. He spoke of love, freedom, and embracing all members of humanity, yet those filled with hate couldn’t listen.
Martin Luther King Jr. lived a short 39 years, from January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968. He was a Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1954 until his death in 1968. He advanced civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience inspired by Mahatma Ghandi.
Many years ago I stood in the same place he stood when he delivered his ” I have a dream” speech in the 1963 March on Washington. It’s estimated over a quarter million people heard his powerful words of a remarkable future for all people. Just standing there, on the plaque where his presence is memorialized I could still feel the energy, breadth and far reaching impact of his words. On October 14, 1964, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.
I give thanks to those willing to fight. We must honor their sacrifice as far more than just a footnote in history. Unless we also stand up and say “enough,” they are just relegated to the history books, to be dusted off once a year and honored.
Years ago, I saw a magazine cover showing a black man holding a mask of himself smiling to the public. The private face behind the mask was filled with the true underlying anger and frustration simmering below the surface. The question back then? Have we really progressed as far as we thought in the last 50 years? Or did it just go underground, waiting to spew forth again with the right provocateur?
We have moved forward, but not nearly enough. We can no longer accept lip service without action. Not when a man is thrown out of the hotel he’s paid for, or arrested because he’s sitting in a Starbucks, just because of the color of his skin. I’m naive enough to be shocked this could happen today. To believe it’s still possible that those different from me could be denied the very right to eat, drink, or pray. But, that’s exactly what’s happening. That’s the ugly truth. And no amount of hope or idealism will change it.
We have to step up. We have to see what’s happening and say “enough!!”. Not just by refusing to let a racial slur or bigoted joke go unanswered. But, by calling it out and refusing to let it grow roots. Ignoring it is tantamount to acceptance.
I’m not Martin Luther King Jr.. I cannot change the minds, heart, and soul of a nation. But, I can start with myself, and those around me.
I have seen incredible things in my lifetime. The end of the Berlin Wall, the break up of Russia. A man walking on the moon. Sending data from one place to another via a fax. Or using a phone the size of a credit card that puts the world in your hand. Not in our wildest dreams did anyone think those could exist. The impossible is possible when there are enough people willing to pursue it.
Everyone needs to say- “no more.” We will not tolerate indecency, violence, and hatred. We will not stand by while the very values our nation and all the ideals men and women throughout our history have paid the ultimate price to protect, fall by the wayside. We must stand up and say in one, loud, enduring and focused voice- it’s no longer acceptable to dream, it’s time to make this a reality.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness
Only light can do that
Hate cannot drive out hate
Only love can do that
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1/15/29- 4/4/68)