" 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 '." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Born in Newark and raised across the Passaic River in Kearney, I knew Newark before and after the 1967 riots. I worked and shopped downtown, as we referred to Newark. So I had frequently traveled through Central Avenue and the Third Ward, the home of the projects. These would be housing projects built by the government to provide more decent housing for the black community but ultimately turned into a hub of crime and I believe were eventually abandoned. The intentions of President Johnson's "The Great Society"were good.
During the days of rioting, I saw the National Guard roll out of the Newark Armory, jeep after jeep, into its streets. During and after the riots, I saw these soldiers with their rifles not slung over their shoulders but cradled in the crook of their elbows as they patrolled from roofs of apartment and office buildings. Here the impoverished morality of racism and its consequences gripped you. You could not escape it. It was something for this somewhat inexperienced woman to see: our soldiers poised to shoot…at people… as we moved about the city.
The 1960’s was a time of change and activism. The insistence to end racism was certainly one of the’60’s better legacies. Those who instigate for change are responsible for seeing that the change is for the better. Perhaps we '60's people have not done the best of work on other things we tackled. I am haunted by the concern that some of what we changed did not bring America to a better place. Today through the evolution of thought from the ‘60’s, our deeper moral codes have given way to a shallow political correctness. Instead of having courage of our convictions, treating others the way we want to be treated or being honest, we have buff body image and taking our Valtrex to prevent the spread STD’s as the moral virtues of the new millennium. A lot of us no longer seem willing to suffer inconvenience or discomfort to uphold American principles.
Instead of one of the most educated generations yielding diverse thought, we practice group- think from the university level to the marketplace. Deeper moral principles are permitted to falter and flounder because through the social pressure to be politically correct, we must surrender our moral autonomy to the one and only correct point of view, as if it were some sort of unchallengeable given. There is no questioning the president lest we be deemed traitors. Individual expression is no longer hailed. We are now an evolving collective, a trait we once abhored about communism.
Along with China, Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, the US has been recently added as a torture site to a Canadian manual that was submitted to Amnesty International.
Did we take to the streets over Abu Ghraib or the torture issue in general or over the constitutionally dubious wiretapping until we prevailed? Now the CIA has destroyed tapes of harsh interrogations. There will be a hearing. Yawn.
In the ‘60’s our leaders inspired by their hearts with word and deed. Today, we have the inspiration of spin and spin- doctors. I wonder--- do we still have those hot- blooded American citizens who just insisted on changin’ the bad times? Can we be bothered to do the right thing, not the easy thing? Would American citizens push for racial equality today with the same intensity we did 40 years ago?
When he delivered his signature address, Dr. Martin Luther King perhaps did speak to the largest demonstration for freedom our nation had ever witnessed. In a dangerous climate through immense personal suffering, Bible in hand, he worked to unite blacks and whites with the dignity of the principles of love and forgiveness. After his death I witnessed a little of the stunning grief of his supporters in Newark as they marched in disbelief. It was indescribable. The sadness was suffocating at times. Not only does Dr. King deserve honor but so do the peaceful principles he invoked to change the course of our history. So do the courageous Americans who stood with him deserve honor. Still, I fear his death ended an era when people felt a personal obligation to protect America and the ideals it bespeaks at home and worldwide. There was a time when we all felt we should defend our country by demanding it follow through on its principles, no uniform required. I am concerned that the American dream Dr. King dreamed for all people may be in jeopardy.
To hear and see once again the “I have a Dream “speech visit
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