As I sat and listened to Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam , Mountaintop , and I Have A Dream speeches, I began to wonder how much we have realized of Dr. King’s dream? American society has come a long way in protecting people based on their race, gender, marital status, disability, and age, but it has not fully realized equality beyond the scope of the law. On a daily basis, people are still condemned for these characteristics, as are those people with other sexual or gender orientations, who are not covered by the same laws. Economic stratification has become a social topic as many in the middle class lose their jobs and join the ranks of the working poor or those who straddle the poverty line. Social stratification has become blurred in the superficial homogeny of materialism; fashion, hygiene, transportation, shelter, entertainment and communication all distract people from their social positions and responsibilities by being held out as a carrot by the corporations for which they work. Peace between the races has been nullified by gang warfare and the powerful tools of non-violent demonstration and grassroots activism have been adulterated by organizations which seek to limit people’s rights. Although environmental problems were not within the scope of Dr. King’s speeches, he understood the destructive nature of the greed that causes these and had he lived, he would probably have continued to speak out about them. Most important to me, however, is that no religious leaders of a comparable reputation of Dr. King’s magnitude have made the clear connection of Jesus’ teachings of love, non-violence, activism and integrity.
It’s been 42 years since Dr. King’s death, and we have made some headway toward his dream. However, we have much father to go and much less time in which to acheive it. We can no longer afford to teach our children the simplistic version of Dr. King’s life. Public schools do not teach Dr. King’s speeches against war. How can we, as a society, begin to grasp the meaning of equality at the level that Dr. King understood it until we begin to listen to and discuss all of his speeches? My local radio station has been broadcasting these throughout the day, giving me an opportunity that I might not have otherwise had. This is an awesome begining.
It would be easy to focus on and become angry about the injustice and blasphemy of celebrating a national holiday for Dr King, as I have done on many other levels in my life. But rather than focus on that, I find that the integrity of the dream can only be upheld with patience, compassion, determination and faith. It is not hard to find that compassion in my own life story, as I have spent the better part of my life on the fringes, feeling a false sense of separation from my brothers, sisters, and mother earth. It is not hard to find the patience, as it has taken 1/3rd of my life to heal from the first two decades (which is still in process). It is not hard to find the determination, as I know what it is to hit bottom, slide down further, then find the strength and power in Spirit to help me step up into a better version of myself. And it isn’t hard to find faith… for my life tells me that whatever I have truly needed has always been provided for me, and I have no reason to believe that would change now.
The truest part of Dr king’s vision of equality is that you and I are no different than he or any of the thousands of peaceful warriors of the civil rights movement. We can no longer afford to worship a hero without truly listening to what he has taught us. We all feel the same fear. We all feel the same sense of injustice. Our society tells us to ignore this fact, to focus on how we feel and behave to fit in and become legends in our own minds and circles. Our society distracts us from the injustice that pervades the food we eat, clothes we wear, and trinkets and appliances we buy. It even distracts those who are conscious of these things by lulling us into a false sense of security and stereotyping where consciousness is equated with perfection, which ultimately feeds the ego.
I haven’t realized Dr. King’s dream either. For as many faults as I can point out here, I am either guilty of it or have another to replace it. The point is that there is hard work to be done, that must take precedence in our thoughts, our careers, our relationships and what we teach our children. Now is the time for the personal revolution to meet the global, spiritual, economic and political revolutions of the world.