On an April evening a finger pulled backwards on a lever, a mechanism clicked, an ignition was made, a projectile flew, a sound rang out and, by the time the sound reached the ears, a body laid slumped on the ground. The day something died. Something powerful and amazing that would not live on the way it should have to change the world. That day a man died. To be frank, every day a man or woman dies. Some leave lasting effects while others aren't even recognized for their lives. There is no guarantee that the man who was shot that day would have lived past the day in the first place. While many people think his death was the issue I, over years of thinking about this, have come to a different conclusion. The projectile that flew across that parking lot and pierced the flesh of Dr. King didn't just kill the man; it killed something much more important: the Dream. Now, I am not saying the life of the man wasn't important because every life is important. What I am saying is that the killer's mission was to stop the Dream because anyone could lead a cause but not just anyone can share a vision or in this case a Dream. On that April evening a dream was forever altered and, in essence, killed along with the person given the gift to carry it to the world. That is what I'm sitting with this morning as the sun rises through my window. I'm thinking about the Dream.
When I think of Dr. King I always think of the term "mountain top" which is taken from his, "I Have a Dream" speech. I think about what he may have meant when referencing it. I then think about
what it means to get to the mountain top. It means you climbed, struggled, battled and yet found a way to get up there. You overcame obstacles and challenges that may have broken others but it didn't break you. Then I pictured standing on the mountain top and, oddly enough, I connected it to the game, King of the Mountain. See, the King of the Mountain is up there by him- (or her) self. Daring anyone to knock him (or her) off the throne or, in this case, mountain top. When I picture it in that aspect it feels wrong. It feels like conquest which is what we already have in this world. It feels like, for one to be at the top, he/she must vanquish all those who are already there and defeat those who would try to take the throne. That doesn't fit what I feel when I think of Dr. King's message nor what I feel when I think of the mountain top.
The mountain top isn't about conquering but about the view. It is about the heights that we all can attain. It is about making the rarified air not so rare. It is about getting there and then turning around and helping someone else to get there too. It is about building the steps upward and paving the path forward, not just for self, but for the better of all of us. That seems pretty easy to see when we look at Dr. King's messages. Yet, so many seem to miss what I believe is the point he was trying to make to' and for' us all. It is also the thing that brings me to what is happening today in our world and how far we are from that Dream of his. I guess I should talk about the now first.
I saw this picture I took some time ago of a tree. I thought about how old it might be and how
much life it has seen. I wondered what battles it would have witnessed and what stories it could tell if it could talk. I wondered if it was 5 years old, 10 years old, 100 years old, or some number in between. As I sat thinking about the tree and the lifetime it has spent in that spot, I thought about how far we have and have not come as a nation, a species, and a world for that matter. These past few years we have seen protest and marches against many of the things Dr. King and so many others fought to end. Right now there are protests against police brutality, protests against election fraud, protests against the protesting. The thing about it is people don't see what they are fighting for and it reminds me of the lost message in Dr. King's speeches. I wonder what the tree would say? Unfortunately, its wisdom is lost because we, as people, can only hear words instead of feeling what the universe is teaching us. But that is a different conversation. Before I go into Dr. King's lost message let me talk about what we are doing right now.
Today, just like in the past, people are fighting for what they want, for what feel they deserve, and for what they need. They are vocal and energized with a focus to get what is coming to them. They band together and stand up to the "system" which ever that particular system may be, and they are prepared to do it forever if need be. But unlike the past, the protests of today are single-minded, short-sighted, and often full of more energy than ways to improve the situation. Don't get me wrong. There have been many amazing strides that have come in the wake of the past few years of protesting and forcing changes in the way we "do" our world. In no way am I condemning activism. What I am doing is pointing out the missed message Dr. King, in my opinion, was giving us. So let me finally get to that point.
The biggest thing Dr. King wanted was equality. I know you aren't shocked by that statement, right? We all know this. This is the battle cry for most protest. Look around today and you will see it all comes down to equal treatment. How we see it today versus what he, in my opinion, envisioned is where we got lost. Dr. King wanted equality that was "NOT BETTER THAN" anyone else. He wanted EQUAL TREATMENT for everyone. Today, we want, what I call, Equality Plus where we have equal treatment but just a little better than "them people" (whoever they may be). See Dr. King didn't want Blacks to be better than Whites or anyone else, just to have the same chances, same respect and same opportunities as others. Not Better Than! That's it. That is the lost message a bullet stole. The piercing of the flesh of a single man on an April night would take the lesson out of the air and from the ears of those who would be able to grow it and carry it on. Not better than!
We lost the message because we got to the point where we look at "them" and know they aren't "us," which we hate. We look at each other and know with our hearts that they are going to take more and more until we have nothing. In reaction, we take more and more so we don't risk losing what we have. We think they want to have better than us. We got to the point where we only saw us versus them. We circle the wagons, we call in the Calvary and we arm ourselves with whatever weapons we can to defeat our enemy. What we don't see is the enemy is in the mirror, and the walls we build around our "beliefs" are nothing more than a self-created prison which, in the end, kills equality for all of us.
Now, that may sound bleak, but the truth is this, a bullet can kill a person but it cannot kill an idea once it is shared. It cannot destroy belief that we can accomplish something. It cannot break the chain of work that was rooted in the blood, sweat and tears of those many silent background workers that no one ever sees. A dream doesn't die; it just gets forgotten or misunderstood over time. But I think it is time to bring that DREAM back to life. It is time to pull death from it and let it breathe again.
How you ask? It's You! It's Me! It's Us! It's We! It starts right here and I'll go first:
I am Sean and I have dream that my voice will be heard and the words I share will be taken on their merits alone. My skin color, my size, my orientation, my religious beliefs or non-beliefs and my financial capabilities are not the first things I am judged on. I have a dream that you will shake my hand when we meet, hug me if I was sad and stand by me if I was scared as I would do for you. I have dream that you will tell me your story, your history and share your joys of life with me not to brag but simply to invite me into your world so I can understand you and I would do the same. I have a dream. And now you have my dream too. and now I remind you this...
On an April evening a finger pulled backwards on a lever, a mechanism clicked, an ignition was made, a projectile flew, a sound rang out and, by the time the sound reached the ears, a body laid slumped on the ground, but a dream, the magnificent dream, was picked up today and now we carry on...
LETME show you my mountain top.