Monday, January 15, 2007

With This Faith

It's Martin Luther King Day, so there is no school, the banks are closed, and the mail service is haulted. That's how we honor people and events here--we take the day off.

I was raised by people from the segregated south, and in northern Indiana, they seemed pretty pleased that our little community was just as segregated. To my parents, Martin Luther King was nothing more than a pot-stirring communist and undeserving of honor.

It wasn't until I was in college when I heard the full "I Have A Dream Speech" as part of an American Government assignment. I remember sitting in the audio room of the school library, wearing those big brown headphones, and MLK's voice was booming from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I was so captivated, I listened to it over and over again. "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence"--those are words of inspiring leadership to some, but to my parents, they were words that represented threat, not because my parents were full of hate, but because they were full of fear. They were full of misunderstanding and generations of misinformation. They were full of thoughts and ideas that are more complicated than I could understand.

Had my parents grown up in a different time in a different location with different opportunities--isolated library audio rooms where they were free to form their own opinions--they might have felt differently about Martin Luther King, and they might have thought he was deserving of at least a day off.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."


dive said...

The "Autobiography" of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read (and you know I've read an awful lot of books, Robyn).
It's one of the very few books that makes me want to stand up and shout while I'm reading it (best not to read it on the train).
That's a great observation on your parents' misunderstanding of Dr. King's message of non-violent resistance to segregation.
He was indeed a great man. Although the bouts of soul-searching the US goes through, both on this day and as each of his colleagues passes away (especially with Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parkes) shows that a great deal of Americans still have a long, long way to go to rid themselves of fear, ignorance and bigotry.

Robyn said...

We do have a long way to go, but I think a lot of the angst we voice when someone like Rosa Parks dies is not based on lingering prejudice as much as it is based on wanting to remember where we have been.

And prejudice relates to so many issues other than race. It's such a part of the human condition, I'm afraid it can't be completely irradicated. I've got my own short list of people I snub. Too bad there isn't a vaccine--ha.

Sassy Sundry said...

New Hampshire was one of the last states to recognize the holiday. We did a lot of protesting to get that turned around.

Of course, I don't have the day off.

Gina said...

Yes, even though it is a federal holiday, not even everyone gets it off.

It is interesting how geographic location and (I think personally) age can have such a profound influence on your views. Even though I would consider my grandmother a very loving person, she has a prejudice against Hispanic individuals, and my husband is half! Of course she adores my husband, but she has a certain mindset against those that she doesn't know.

sister # 1 said...

Robyn, You represent us all well.
It is a big holiday here in Atlanta.

lynn said...

We only get the day off if the queen dies, and she's looked pretty healthy for years now.

Ame said...

Nice post Robyn...very insightful...we're off here in CA too....good thing, I need an extra day to regroup from this chest cold I'm nursing!

Dive, Lynn...don't get ANY ideas! LOL! ;)

BTW Robyn, how is your back these days? Hope better!

Old Knudsen said...

Rosa parks was of scots/Irish blood, you can't tell them where not to sit.
Lynn don't scud the Queen, if I find you've blogjinxed her we're through.

We won't really be through I'm just very dramatic.