Reckling: Making inroads for the greater good
September 5, 2013
Last week, our country spent a day commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. It brought a flood of memories of various times throughout my life when I've heard his famous address, a milestone for our country in its struggle for racial equality and a strong reminder we must strive to be better.
I was a young girl in 1963 when King's words electrified the country and helped turn the nation's heavy tide of racial injustice. Because of my young age, I have only vague wisps of memories surrounding that monumental day. The gravitas of his words, the determination in their delivery and the unforgettable cadence of King's voice still send chills down my spine and bring tears to my eyes. An inspirational vision that one man had for our country, conveyed with such eloquent profundity, serves as a powerful reminder of this country's creed: that all men are created equal.
The "I Have a Dream" speech contains many unifying messages, urging our nation toward a more integrated and just society. Although his rhetoric specifically addresses the racial inequality of that era, his message is universal in that it also can be applied to other challenges we face. One of my favorite passages is that we "will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood." A seat at the table of brotherhood sounds very inviting, indeed.
With today's bipartisan animosity, it seems that the vitriol and intolerance exhibited between opposing members of political parties almost equates with the judgmental ignorance of racism. Where has our sense of brotherhood gone? The fear that our country is permanently severed due to political factions and the absence of any efforts toward seeking common ground have left us in an incongruent pile of resentment and anger. This was not King's dream for America racially or politically.
There will always be ideological differences between parties, especially on sensitive social issues. Debate is a natural, beneficial exercise in a vibrant democracy, but the acrimonious blame game that many fall into, is an ugly exercise in futility. King reiterated the beauty of unification in one line, "We will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."
If you've ever heard an orchestra warm up, you know it can be a disconcerting cacophony of noise. But when the conductor assumes his position and taps his baton, the room falls silent. Then the music opens up like the rising sun, and magically, the sounds generated by the multitude of different instruments merge into one symphonic splendor. The common ground is the music each musician follows, and each instrument is a unique, individual voice, but they come together in harmonic success.
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It is the common ground of human struggle that can bring people of different opinions, religions, cultures and political parties together. As poet Maya Angelou wrote, "We should all know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry …" The world would be so boring if we all believed the same thing and expressed ourselves in the same way. It is in that spirit that political differences need to take a backseat and a determined search for common ground must ensue. "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline." What better way to honor King than to emulate his noble ideals?
I read Benjamin Franklin's autobiography a couple of summers ago; he wrote about a powerful opponent he faced in the House. This adversary would not speak to Franklin, and the two men had differing views. Franklin thought long and hard how to handle his foe — instead of competing with him, he asked for his help.
The man was in possession of a rare book that Franklin was interested in viewing. He penned a personal note to the man asking him to lend him this special book. The man sent the book, and after enjoying it for a week, Franklin returned the book with a kind note of sincere thanks. When the members of the House reconvened, the two men finally greeted each other and spoke for the first time. Franklin had found the common ground that they shared, and in making this effort, the men were, from that moment on, rewarded with a lifelong friendship.
A seat at the table will be ours if we listen to the reasoning of others, seek common ground and recognize the music we share. Let's follow King's urging: "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."
After all, it is in the reservation of our own thoughts, and consideration of another's, that we will realize our destinies are tied together.
Margaret Reckling lives in Woody Creek and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.