• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Martin Luther King Day, 2009

“To every thing there is a season.”

Ecclesiastes

 We are in the season of war. American men and women are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have enemies in a nuclear North Korea and perhaps soon-to-be nuclear Iran. Al Qaeda remains active. Israel and Hamas are again at war. Arch enemies India and Pakistan are as close to war as they have ever been. Russia is no friend, neither are Syria and Venezuela. Cuba remains our enemy even after nearly 50 years. So much of the world is not at peace: Darfur, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, the list goes on. The night is dark and seems to be getting darker.

In December of 1964, Martin Luther King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to make the words of the Declaration — that ALL men are created equal — ring true in America. It was a time, as King said, “when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice.”

“I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.”

The night was dark then, forty four years ago, but it was also full of hope as King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize “on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood.”

The night grew darker four years later. King had been murdered. Our cities were in flames. Bobby Kennedy shot, like his brother, the President. We, the people, divided, deeply divided, over a war in Vietnam. Then Kent State. The night was very dark.

The last eight years have added to the darkness. As it was for so many, 9/11 was the darkest day of my life since those dark times forty years ago. It is, indeed, the season of war.

 For myself I am an optimist.
It does not seem to be much use being anything else.

Winston Churchill

  While this may be the season of war, it is also the season of great optimism. On Tuesday, the day after we celebrate the memory of Martin Luther King, we, the people, will inaugurate our 44th President, a man who carries the legacy of Martin Luther King just as he demonstrates the truth of King’s faith in America.

In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, King spoke of his faith.

 I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind.

 I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.

 I refuse to accept the idea that the “-isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him.

  I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him.

 I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

 I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction.

  I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

 I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.

 I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.

 I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.

 I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up.

 I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.”

 I still believe that We Shall Overcome!

 This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom.

 When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

 King’s faith is our faith, we, the people. It is a faith born out of our religious traditions, our shared experiences, our sacrifices and our successes. It is a faith that lives strong in our hearts — infused by our creed that all men are created equal and reflected in our responsibility, we, the people, to form that more perfect union, to establish justice, to secure the blessings of liberty to us and our posterity. It is a faith that knows no color, a faith that knows no gender or sexual preference, a faith that resides in red states and blue, for King’s faith is the faith of America.

This faith — the faith of and in a free people — has brought us from the despair of King’s murder to the mountaintop of Obama’s election.

And this is the faith that can light our path out of the season of war into the season of peace, the faith that can illuminate our imagination, infuse our creativity and transform the world.

President Kennedy said in a speech in 1962 “…we must think and act not only for the moment but for our time. I am reminded of the story of the great French Marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow-growing and would not reach maturity for a hundred years. The Marshal replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose, plant it this afternoon.’”

So it is with us. The road to peace will be long. But the need is great and our faith is strong. The time to act is now.

Let Freedom Ring.

 

Copyright © 2009. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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