Monday, January 17, 2005

The Dream

This is my most favorite holiday.

You don't have to buy anybody anything.

You don't have to eat dinner with anybody.

You don't have to decorate your house with all kinds of sillyness.

You don't have to do anything.

In Texas, I kid you not,

If you don't want to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King,

you can celebrate Confederate Veterans Day.

If you choose to, you can listen to perhaps some of the most inspired oration in the history of the geographic state of the United States or for that matter, the World.

Last year, I saw a really great MLK parade.

So you might want to find a parade where you are.

Otherwise, just listen to the speeches.

Here is the audio link with the text of the Dream Speech.

It always gives me shivers up my spine and then I cry.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves, who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must ever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?"

We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

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.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with.

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning, "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring -- from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring -- from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring -- from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring -- from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring -- from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that.

Let freedom ring -- from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring -- from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring -- from every hill and molehill of Mississippi,

from every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,

"Free at last, free at last.

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

Christ! This is good.


Blogger Urban Denizen #512 said...

I woke this morning to my weekly Monday ritual. Rituals have a way of tempering my anxiety, setting the mood for the day, giving me a bit of inspiration for all of my perspiration. On this day, like the three Mondays since being introduzed to OZ's blog, I came across the King speech and realized that ole OZ and I are kindred in more respects than I care to acknowledge. I did a quick system search on my old hard drive and came across this op-ed I penned, years ago. I noted the similarity in my own style, noticed the differences too, and further realized that I am still working away at the same problems. Please find said op-ed enclosed. (Note: The original op-ed is published herein with permission, unchanged. Editorially speaking, I find it ironic that one of the primary founders of the Neo-conservative movement even referenced King, but by virtue of the fact that Kristol was a Jew, maybe it is not so ironic, afterall. Funny how perverted concepts become in the face historical redrafting.)

Preface aside, a tip of the hat to Mr. OZ, to Dr. King, and to my past,present and future Self.

It has been eight years at the writing of this since I was academically introduced to Dr. Martin Luther King, and thirty-five years since his name became a household allusion to an unrepentant purity in the context of the American political tradition. I was reading an essay on equality by Irving Kristol, an essay assigned to me by one of my favorite high school teachers, and therein found a kernel of truth that adhered to the front of my conscience, though at the time, I was unaware how vividly it would remain with me. By way of a footnote, Kristol referenced Dr. King, and being wholly uninterested in Kristol’s schematics (though extremely curious as to why I was assigned the material,) I researched the reference and made the discovery that has stuck with me since.
Dr. King, in response to a letter received from a conservative member of Southern academia concerning segregation, quoted Abraham Lincoln in writing, “[They] invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps, through all the incidents, to the complete destruction of the Union." Dr. King went on further to explain that the sophism Lincoln enumerated to Congress in 1861, still promulgated itself under the hospices of rational thought in higher education in 1963, and that without its removal through careful, concise but altogether constant discussion, the irrationality and subsequent evil segregation represented, would remain. In short, it was evident King believed, not unlike Lincoln, that so long as attention to the evil of racial and economic oppression was placed before the minds and thoughts of the American polity, oppression of any kind, could not long endure. And though Dr. King was almost certain the legal and legislative shackles that bound the “oppressed children of our Nation,” would be soon removed, and the subsequent legal and legislative wounds swathed and remedied, he was sullen at the thought of a quick remedy to the cultural and sociological wounds that would, no doubt, remain. Dr. King, prophetically so, wrote he was certain he would not live to see both the former and the latter come to fruition, though he implored the professor to never stop thinking and fighting for First Principles, generally, and the Ultimate Justice that needed neither reason nor sophism to stand on, specifically. King’s charge is no less relevant today though the totems of inequality and oppression are far less visible; American Sophism still abounds under the hospices of protectionism. Today, like yesteryear, The Dream is thwarted.
Because of that self-searching moment when I came to understand how and why a black preacher from Atlanta, Georgia came to violently shake the foundations of the American Conscience through non-violent, yet vigilant protest, I have never thought it an accident that We, as a people, celebrate the life-work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Likewise, I have never hesitated in conceding the fact that though the tangibles of Dr. Martin Luther King have largely been accomplished over the last four decades, there will always be a battle of ideas that must be waged on the side of First Principles and Ultimate Justice. For in the end it is America, and its people that we love, not King’s considerable gifts in showing them to us. The dream King charted for was there long before him and continues on long after his tragic passing. Dr. King was a great enough rhetorician and ideologue to tap our most common nightmares, political misgivings and social goals, but he never invented them either: he found them a place to live in the Pantheon of All that is Right and Good in Hopes and Dreams. We are raised to honor all the wrong explorers and discoverers—thieves planting flags, murderers carrying crosses, sophists employing [il]logic. On this day, and as we press on in the days to come, let us praise, work, and live for the colonizers of dreams.

6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the audio link. I listened to the speech several times today. it was a truly special moment, and just like he said "will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation."

7:27 PM  
Blogger oZ said...

it has been another wonderful MLK day. thanks for your comments SG.

10:13 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home