Racial matters. They rouse the nation once more. In Dallas the President spoke yet again about the issues.
You may feel differently. But I have no sense his words moved and inspired many Americans. Neither his words now. Nor his words about race in previous speeches.
My sense is that the world will little note nor long remember what he said there.
If it is true that his remarks do not resonate, why might that be? I suspect it is because he so often invites us to focus on the past. To focus on grievances. To focus on injustice. Rather than to focus on the road ahead.
Yes, we must recognize the grievances, the injustices. We must. Yes, we must see clearly the bias and discrimination. (On both sides of the divide, by the way.) And the uneven playing field. But what is the focus for the future?
The President has often said his Chicago minister inspired him. Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. Read the minister’s rants. You will see diatribes. And condemnation of America. Hate speech. The same from Malcolm X. The same from many black leaders. You see a paucity of hope and promise. Except the promise of vengeance.
There is a pattern to the President’s remarks on race. Basically it is that blacks and other minorities have grievances. He leads you in that direction. He leaves you there.
Read his Dallas remarks. Yes, there are expressions of hope. But you have to search for that hope. As in so many of Jimmy Carter’s speeches the hopeful comments are shrouded in dismal thoughts. He and Jimmy seem to enjoy portraying despair and disappointment.
The English treated Irish like swine. Do you think Ireland would have progressed as much as it has if its people focused on the injustices? And never looked forward?
I love the spirit of the people of Anguilla, a tiny Caribbean island. British island. The Brits bought and brought them as slaves. And withheld freedom for centuries. Do today’s Anguillian leaders focus on these injustices? Do they remind their people the Brits were cruel? No. They focus on the future. Their attitude is that the cruelties suffered by their ancestors have made them tough and innovative. Their message is “Let’s move forward to better lives for all.”
Here is something that might inspire you today. After you read the President’s Dallas speech read Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. He delivers this during the depths of injustice for black Americans. He cites the many grievances. They were far more devastating than typical grievances of today.
He leads us in that direction. But he does not desert us there. Instead, he turns our focus to the future of his dreams. “Nineteen-sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.” He dreams of the day when “…the bright day of justice emerges.”
America was home to vicious bigotry in 1963. Bigotry of church burnings. Of dogs loosed on innocents, fire hoses, killings, rigged juries, utter humiliations. Yet King urges his people to avoid distrust of all white people. Many “…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.”
He implores his people to avoid “…satisfying thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
And then he touches the heart of humanity. He takes us soaring with his dreams. “I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” He makes clear he loves his country. And that he dreams it is good enough to do right by all of its people.
He then enumerates his many dreams for Americans of all races and creeds. Few of us can read or hear his words without choking up. And without sensing his oration will resonate down the ages.
He leaves us with hope. He urges us to draw resolve and fierce determination from past wrongs. And so armed, to move forward, ever forward.
Now read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He is in the midst of a horrible war. He is commemorating fallen soldiers. In a cemetery. The air seethes with despair. Yet he urges hope for the future. “…we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Hope. It is why we revere his words. It is why we cherish King’s words. It is why, I believe, we disregard those of our President. King and Lincoln urge us to focus on a brighter future. On what we can and should achieve. Our President too often urges us to focus on our past and present injustices. More is the pity.
From Tom…as in Morgan.