Dreams of freedom

I feel like I want to post again because yesterday I was so full of complaint that I didn't even mention that it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. An important thing. Too important to miss.

Last night Chinua and I made up a little song about how we couldn't be together if we lived during those days. Our song was silly, but full of sad things. I don't take the era I live in for granted. A short time ago my children would have had a much harder life. A short time ago my marriage would have been illegal. A short time ago, as in, during my father-in-law's lifetime. My father-in-law lived in Alabama in the sixties, as did his family. Considering that he has experienced Jim Crow laws and injustices, it is nothing short of a miracle that he holds the kind of forgiveness that he does, that he can see outside his own heritage of oppression. He is one of the kindest people I know.

A short time ago, my husband may have been one of the freedom riders, getting off the train to have his face and ribs smashed with iron pipes and wooden clubs.

We can barely imagine a place where women and children would have dogs set on them. Dogs set on them. Where they would be mangled, killed, beaten, spit on, insulted. We can barely fathom it. But the reason this is not a part of our life, the reason that our experience as a country doesn't include thi a dream of truth and beautyngs like this on a regular basis is because of the determination of many men and women to lay their own well being down for the hope of seeing change in the future. We owe a lot to their unwillingness to settle.

We think of Martin Luther King Jr. as a great leader. We honor him. What I forget is how many times he was beaten himself, and how many times he ended up in jail, being mistreated by the "authorities", by people who were "upholding the law". He knew he answered to a Higher Authority. And his life was ultimately taken because of his pursuit of justice.

I forget that the dream he had was unthinkable, that the idea of brotherhood between black men and white men was impossible. It is a very hard thing to speak a dream of truth and beauty into a void of injustice. He was inspired by God, and what was done then has effected my life now, perhaps nothing has effected my children more than this.

We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, and the safety and privilege my family experiences is a direct result of the sacrifice of men, women, and children who didn't have that safety, who were beaten and hurt for their purpose. They had a vision that was given to them by God, and they had strength to pursue it that was given to them by God. I don't take it for granted.

"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 believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word." Martin Luther King Jr.