I am disappointed today.
As I read over MLKâ€™s I have a Dream speech, I realize, that while I know things have gotten better, and I also know things are not what they should be, I do not really know the status of the African American today. I realize that while I preach and pontificate what I consider to be a mandate; treating all people equally, regardless of the color of their skin, religious denomination, gender, sexual preference, etc. I do not really know how far this country and this world have progressed in this journey. For that, I am disappointed.
I had intended to copy the I Have a Dream speech into my blog, then intersperse within it “progress reports” on how we are doing, 45 years later. However, I am unable to do so. I am ignorant of the detailed knowledge I would need in order to do so responsibly. For that I am disappointed.
I am confident that this country is far closer to a “land of the freeâ€™ than it was 45 years ago, and continues to move in that direction. What I do not know is whether we have picked up the pace or slowed down the wheels of progress during my adult life. I also question whether this country has taken its “issue” and simply transferred it to another target, outside of our borders. In other words, have we really made any progress, or simply changed those that we oppress? I do not have those answers either, and for that… I am disappointed.
I should know these things, I once did. I once had my fingers on the pulse of bigotry as well as the pulse of human rights. I was once intimate with both oppression and tolerance. These concepts are all acquaintances to me now, the intimacy is gone. I move though my life with a purpose, but it is a narrow and focused purpose. I have a business to run (and with any luck to sell), I have a job to maintain, I have children to raise, and the list goes on. Where I once worked for a cause (or at least to understand a cause) I now just work. For that, I am disappointed.
I still give my little stump speeches on negative stereotypes et. al. to anyone who will listen, but, increasingly, I am preaching from an outdated book. I know this, but I have not done much to update my text. For that, I am disappointed.
When I was a very young boy (probably around second or third grade), my mother told me the story of Ishi. Ishi was what we today would call am American Indian, or a Native American, depending on your level of political correctness. He was significant, because he is believed to be the last Native American to live outside “Western” civilization in California and because he was the last living member of his tribe. Ishi was not his real name, noone knows his real name, because it was taboo in his tribe to say ones own name. As such, he took it to the grave with him. I took that story and ran with it, making Native American rights my cause celeb until I was about 17 years old. Today, I do not remember the name of Ishiâ€™s tribe, and other than water agreements that come through the state legislature (where I work) I am oblivious to what is going on in the world of Native Americans. For that, I am disappointed.
It has been said that social advocacy is a job for the young, the invested, and the soon to be committed. .Meaning, as life goes on, life takes over your time and attention. Sadly, I can see where this phrase come from in my own life. However, I have two children. Fantastic children with brilliant heads on their shoulders. Perhaps next time we are sitting around the living room, I will tell them the story of Ishi, and talk with them about the changes I have seen in the world. I will tell them of Dr King and his speech and maybe together we can forge our own dream. A dream they can track as fervently as I did mine. With any luck, theyâ€™ll do so at least long enough to inspire their own children to do the same. Leaving the world a better place than they found it. For that, I am hopeful.