That infamous moment when the music stops, the scrambling, clawing, kicking and screaming begin. This chaos is in sharp contrast to the preceding time that was spent making the necessary preparations to ensure that survival; alliances were struck to overcome stronger opponents, friendships made, plotting, planning and even scheming were all employed at some point. But in the end there are only a limited number of chairs which are cruelly disproportionate to the many who would lay claim to them. And only in that moment does Death reveal itself as an elemental player in this woeful game that has been with you throughout the whole time you were playing. We then realize that there will be no more days left to waste without even a thought of tomorrow. To not say the words we wished to say to someone because we simply cannot find the right time for them to be spoken. Or to make the preparations that are needed to ensure the ease of those left behind. Death is the moment when everything ceases. It is a natural response that does not favor any one person or time over another. Death will lay its claim to us all at some point, some before their perceived time and others too late to be offered any justice.
On August 28, 1963 beneath a sweltering Washington D.C. sun resumed a journey for redemption that had begun nearly four hundred years earlier across the mighty Atlantic Ocean. As a people who, stripped of their pride and dignity were utilized as an expendable resource in a foreign land to carry out the tasks that seemed to be beneath the doing of white hands. These “tasks” that those slaves were burdened where the toils of enduring harshness that have built the very bedrock of our land. And from that land over three hundred thousand men and women of all colors and religious denominations have congregated at our nation’s capitol to embody a growing outrage that was not being given proper remedy. Those that gathered where; of assorted and varying race, unified with one another, and peaceful but thunderously demanding that an end be brought to the injustices that had been delivered to them through the cold motions of indolence and dispassionate action from their government. Here in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King would have seen the masses that collectively gathered and displayed no sense of individuality or apparent distinction from one person to the next. Here, all is how he must have envisioned in his dream. And from this place of turbulence and roiling unrest articulated and with all the soothing nature his clerical background could muster he imparted an ever hopeful plea into what was to become a lighthouse beacon shining through the darkest of nights. A plea that Illuminated even the most bewildered and lost souls to usher in a new chapter of peace and brotherhood for every person who would call themselves American.
Although, in light of the many advances and tolerances we now enjoy in today’s society there is a small, creeping notion to uphold the walls of indifference that were built up so long ago. Though the fires of racial injustice have been all but extinguished, beneath those very ashes smolder the embers of dissension and mistrust. We are now faced with not reigning in the fiery content of a person’s speech or ending the malicious content of their actions, but to try to open the most important of all conduits; our minds. We have now in recent times seen such blaring examples of the old world that still fester within the very halls of justice. Actions that sharply contrast our popular ideal of what equality and progress have come to mean. Travesties such as the “Jena 6” in which there is an obvious bias in how ” law” is metered out to even our own children. And unbelievably, no clear resolution was made to correct these missteps until the verge of a civil thunderstorm was brought to bear on the small town of Jena. This abhorrence of justice was a flashpoint to causing old familiar labels to be made again and giving those who had not yet been burned by hatred a chance to stir those ashes and unearth that underlying intolerance renewed.
And still, after almost forty six years, those prophetic words of peace and harmony that Dr. King spoke to us have struggled at times but certainly have endured. We are no longer a country openly divided which can sanction arbitrary laws that limit the expansion of a person’s intellect or bar an individual from using the common facilities that are public and located at reasonable distances or means. We have learned to co-exist and become the richer for it. The examples of our cultures merging is apparent and all around. From seeing couples of mixed racial background freely enjoying each other’s company to school children sharing their lunches at recess. The time for wholesale bigotry has been brought to a much needed and abrupt end. We have, in less than fifty years, done much to level the partitions that stand between unity and the union of improving our lives together. We are making strides to uplift the status of the most exalted of all religious teachings, fellowship. We have proudly claimed a victory to that end with the overwhelming election of our forty-fourth president. These are extraordinary times that would surely have made Dr. Martin Luther King very deeply satisfied with the evolution of his aspirations. Time is the healer of all wounds but the ointment which promotes a strong and healthy recovery is the faith of the people who carry their vision high and share it for all to see.
But still in this pursuit of companionship there have also been many casualties along the way. Good men and women who have at their end compiled a portfolio of understanding and compassion for even the ones who have dealt them their final blow. We have lost irreplaceable minds in senseless acts. These losses have incited everyone at one time or another to question whether or not the cause is lost. We are reminded of the sting that accompanies the departing of heroic icons that brave the unrelenting odds and the void in which they leave in their wake. To have shone so brightly and burned out so young is a painful transition for all to comprehend. But within that grief there lays a strong testament to the validity and urgency of the ever widening chasm they had given their lives to span. For across that great divide lies the sweet tranquility of the Promised Land. And in that sense their struggle seems duly justified.