Posted by howard in nyc
I haven't posted for months, because events are just the same ol' same ol'. Waiting for the end of the House of Cards Economy (not a knock on Netflix, which is dead if the net neutrality case stands). Most that I might record here is just repetition. And the failure of the nation to respond rationally to the Edward Snowden disclosures of how our privacy is utterly stolen and gone leaves me nearly speechless.
Let me wallow in the past today. I posted this on the sportsfrog:
MLK Day 2014--How Long? Not Long!"…because no lie can live forever"
What the heck, let me say something good about a black man in a position of power.
The deep love and hope I hold for my country is deeply rooted in the revolution of civil rights and freedom that unfolded before my young eyes across the late 50s and the entirety of the 60s. The rapidity of change, from a segregated, two-tiered society that featured regular lynchings and drastically different economic and employment opportunities based solely on skin color, to statutory declaration and broad enforcement of equality before the law and before the power of government, shaped my little mind as well as the direction of our country.
Our nation did not establish perfect equality of opportunity in a fifteen year period. But damn if we didn't make phenomenal progress toward that ideal, over a time period no more than a mere blink of an eye on the scale of history. And we continued to make phenomenal progress for at least another two decades.
Our nation did not erase racism in the hearts and minds of the people overnight, or over the six decades since Ms. Parks refused. But damn if we didn't erase such a vast amount of that irrational hatred that the thought of a lynching in Mississippi going unrecognized, much less unpunished is ludicrous. That a man with brown skin has been elected president by the power of the vote of millions of white American citizens.
What I have seen my nation achieve over the course of the first half of my lifetime is nothing less than a miracle of human action. As far as I know, unparalleled in recorded history (and I welcome correction to this conclusion, please.)
We are not a racially equal society. We do not have fairness and colorblind opportunity (economic and otherwise.) But we are so much closer to those ideals than we are to the status of black and brown Americans in 1950.
I am troubled not by the failure to make more progress, much less by the failure to achieve a colorblind society. While I am cheered by and grateful for the freedoms I enjoy daily in this society, so different than the society of the recent past, I am troubled by my sense that we have ceased to progress, and that we are moving in the wrong direction, regarding not only race, but regarding other measures of fairness, equality and opportunity.
However, few things in nature or in human history move in a straight line. I was spoiled because the 'arc of the moral universe' appeared to move in a steep, straight line during my youth. Sections of that curve were quite straight, if observed from a vantage not too close and not too far. Probably an illusion, magnified by my temporal bias.
Great forces of masses of people interact with individuals, great and small, to create historical changes. Segregated America was bound to change, based on the forces embodied in the masses, black and white, forces build up over decades if not over centuries. But the time, place and expression of those forces were shaped by individuals, some whose names are famous, some whose names are unknown.
No individual shaped and directed those mass forces with more import than Dr. King. Pretty damn skillfully too; the positive effectiveness of his acts are undeniable. Perfect he was not, as a strategist, as a tactician, as a human being, he made plenty of mistakes. Hell, even as an orator he erred (but not very often). But that is just nitpicking; his record and his legacy as the leader of the movement toward civil rights for all Americans establishes him as one of the most important historic individuals of 20th Century America. No non-president and few presidents were more important individuals in shaping our recent history.
I always liked this speech.
Full text and audio, about 30 minutes (click):
Text only (click):
Video of end of speech (with money quote):
Video of first five minutes(click).