• 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, 2011

I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is once again the Winter of America’s discontent. America is angry. The same anger that was unleashed 43 years ago by the assassination of Martin Luther King has again been unleashed in the wake of the Tucson shooting.

America is heartbroken by the shootings last week in Tucson, just like we were heartbroken on that tearful April night when King was murdered. Our hope has again been shattered. And we are again angry, like we were in 1968.

We are angry over so much. So much seems not to be working. The economy sucks. We’re broke and over-spending. There aren’t enough jobs. Some people are making out extremely well while the average worker has fallen far behind. Entitlements are killing us. Our cultures are at war. And we are angry, we, the people. It doesn’t take a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowin’.

And, being angry, we seem to have reverted to back to how we were before kindergarten, before we learned what it means to be civilized. We act like selfish narcissistic four year olds. We refuse to play nice. We cheer our team on while booing our opponents, as if politics were some winner-take-all football game. The only media we follow is our side’s media. And of course, we would never talk to the other side. Why bother; they aren’t “true” Americans.

Where is that more perfect union the founders bequeathed? Where are the blessings of liberty they secured for us, their posterity?

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.’
Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Do we, the people really believe the dream? I mean like “really” believe, like Peter Pan and Tinker Bell believe. Or is it just a bunch of nice sounding words on a piece of paper? It is at times of tragedy that our dreams are put to the test. This is one of those times. It’s important that we, the people keep the faith with America’s creed.

Is America’s 223 year experiment in government of the people, by the people, and for the people destined to crash-burn? On our Watch? Is America destined to be studied in the past-tense, like we study ancient Rome? Are we witnessing the end of America’s exceptionalism?

Is this to be our fate? Or can we do better?

I believe we can do better. I believe that we, the people can do a whole lot better. We, the people do not have to allow ourselves to fall victim to our heartbreak. We don’t have to fall victim to our anger. We don’t have to continue hardening our hearts to each other.

We, the people can rise above our current heartbreaks and anger. We can soften our hearts. We can listen for each other’s truths. We can accept our share of the sacrifice. And, as Dr. King reminded us, we can care for the weakest among us.

All we have to do is live the dream, live out the true meaning of our creed: all of us, created equal. That’s all of us … even the politician from the other side of the aisle and the news commentator on the other network … all of us, created equal … each of us worthy of the same respect, understanding, compassion and community that we wish for ourselves.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s not easy. Not now. Not after the anger that was unleashed last week in Tucson.

That’s what makes today Tinker Bell time. It is times like this, when our faith is most tested, that we have to dig down and find those places where we really believe. Do we really believe?

For if we stop believing in the dream, then we stop doing all the little things that give us a chance to make the dream come true. And the American dream will wither and grow old and die.

But when we believe in the dream, when we keep our faith that one day America will rise up and live out the true meaning of our creed, that’s when we are ready to step up and do our part to make it happen. Imagine if we, the people committed to treating each other with respect, with understanding, with compassion and with that special feeling that we are part of a shared American community. Miracles occur in the strangest of places.

Our problems won’t vanish simply because we live America’s creed. There are no silver bullets in a world as complex as ours.

But as we live America’s creed, we unleash our imagination, our creativity, our ability to work hard, our sense of community, our readiness for shared-sacrifice, our entrepreneurial spirit; all those qualities that define what is exceptional in America.

In December of 1964, Martin Luther King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize with words of faith that are as necessary today as they were 46 years ago.

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

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

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 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 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.

We miss you more than ever, Martin, as we miss those who died last week in Tucson. You are our North Star, guiding us on our journey towards peace and brotherhood, love and compassion, community and hope. You showed us how to live our creed; with love, with compassion, with courage and with an unyielding belief in liberty and justice for all.

And on this day when we celebrate the anniversary of that glorious day when the universe brought Martin Luther King to us, we commit ourselves anew to the sacred task that lies before us; to live out the true meaning of America’s creed, our creed, yours and mine, we, the people.

Let freedom ring.

Copyright © 2011. 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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