When Martin Luther King had a dream in his 1963 speech, it was more a vision of racial equality than anything else – a nation where his children would, “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by their character.” And for his era, it was an immensely lofty dream.
Nearly 46 years later, most blacks stated in a recent poll that they felt Dr. King would be pleased with the current situation in this country – namely the election of a black man as President of the United States – arguably the most powerful position in the world. Yet this is not just a victory for blacks. It is a triumph for us as a nation.
In order for racism to properly die, color-based bias must necessarily be omitted from a child’s rearing. Indeed, it clearly has been. Visit nearly any playground in America for an illustration. Children are not innately racist; they are taught it.
Just as much as this is a victory for blacks struggling for racial equality, it is a victorious testament to the improved character of those who have set aside their prejudicial inclinations. It is a victory for whites because they have shunned once-common social norms and racial segregation. Collectively, they have proven for all the world to see that they are more concerned with the leadership and direction of their nation than with the ethnicity, name, or skin color of the man they freely elected to lead it. I, too, think Dr. King would be pleased.
In large part due to his efforts and with the assistance many others, an era of unfair treatment is dying a natural – though belated, death. Tragically short though his life may have been, his words have left an indelible and hard-earned mark in the history of this country. I am personally pleased to witness, years later, the triumphant culmination of his efforts.
Yet there are still innumerable victories unrealized within our borders, and some are perhaps worse than they were in Dr. King’s days.
Free speech is still very much in jeopardy, as one group or another, clamoring to prevent the offense to others, will muffle the speaker. Yet it is our right to offend others, and our right to be offended. As Americans, we take pride in our resolution of differences not through violence, but through compromise, collaboration, due process, the free election of our political representatives, and a healthy dose of thick skin.
Freedom of religion is also threatened in this country, as followers of various faiths are labeled zealots, terrorists, inherently violent, or perhaps simply ignorant. And, having been unfairly demonized, they struggle for justifiable advocacy. In many ways, a new kind of racism has risen from this discrimination. In short, the first amendment to the Constitution has yet to be fully applied.
Additionally, the second amendment is a source of continued, rabid debate, leaving the vast majority of citizens wishing the founding fathers had been more clear with the articulation of their intent, and members of both camps perpetually at each others’ throats.
Undue increases to the power of the executive branch of the federal government have resulted in the legalization of law enforcement agencies acting without warrants, and threatening the right to privacy and due process that every U.S citizen was intended to enjoy. Furthermore, continued, ambiguous interpretations of the eighth article of the Bill of Rights has permitted the construction of foreign prisons that practice questionable interrogation and confinement guidelines.
Similar directives have signaled the death of the Posse Comitatus Act, permitting various political leaders to deploy United States troops domestically without popular, judicial, or congressional consensus – another threat to the belief that the government is intended to advocate the People, not quell them.
Misinterpretations of eminent domain rights in the fifth amendment have paved the way for some localities to evict land owners in pursuit of tenants that provide greater tax revenue – shaking the very foundations of the universal right of land ownership.
Unclear writ in the eleventh and twelfth amendments has caused state governments to carelessly cede some sovereignty to the federal government, and the federal government to voluntarily erode the nation’s collective sovereignty to international organizations, giving rise to the concern that the country cows to pressure rather than stand firm in her convictions.
Lastly, the nation is still at war against various state and non-state aggressors who harbor unfounded hatred towards innocents worldwide. It is questionable if these matters will ever be resolved, yet ignoring them is all the more disastrous. Regardless, in consequence to these conflicts, the nation has lost many of her sons and daughters for the preservation of our safety, and struggled to accept more than one million surviving veterans with varying degrees of disability and discontent, burdening an already-overworked veterans administration. There are many battles still waging, and many more yet to be fought.
Tomorrow, this nation will bid farewell to one president and swear in another, ushering in a new administration, a new ideology, and a new era for this country. Yet even as the cheers for the death of racism still echo, we should fall to our knees and pray this:
That as our recognition of color fades further, our vision sharpens to what history has already revealed and what the future will undoubtedly soon present us. That we will have the wisdom and foresight to carry our country in whatever direction we uniformly deem appropriate, and that we will continually reference the Constitution as the profound and inarguable document it once was and still remains today. And that above all else, we act righteously, as citizens and patriots, and demonstrate love for our fellow man as we carry our nation forward.
God bless the efforts of Dr. King, the leadership of President-Elect Barack Obama, and may God bless this country, which, regardless of the direction it is taken, stands poised to write a critical chapter in global history.
Copyright © 2008, Ben Shaw
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