I use that phrase a lot – “The world changed again today,” to get across the protean nature of my current work. Objectives seem to change on a weekly, capricious basis, rendering large percentages of work previously done superfluous, if not useless. Ah, well, it’s a living, even if the smiling “Well, you’re the genius! You figure it out!” is wearing thin.
But then, there are other ways in which the world changes; real perceptible ways. While driving into town at lunchtime to find out how the world changed this week, I was listening to 740AM, it being one of the very few hours of the day it was actually allowed to broadcast news. They took twenty minutes to play Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech in its entirety.
Rarely has that drive seemed so insubstantial, so common. This was history I was listening to, history that occured during my lifetime. I remember watching this speech on TV, Dr. King standing before the statue of Abraham Lincoln, resonant and iconic. This image will always be in black and white and scales of gray in my head. I am sure there are color versions somewhere, but this is the way I experienced my history.
How old was I then? Ten, eleven? Yet even then, I somehow knew this was Important. That this was a struggle between good and bad, and with that sort of imagery, that sort of pure, unadulterated presence, bad didn’t have a chance.
You can say that the struggle still goes on, because it does. You can say not that much had changed, and in a lot of ways, you’d be right. But that moment, that moment lives in the heart, and it keeps me warm at night.
Long ago, almost twenty years ago, I remember being asked outside a grocery store to donate to a foundation, or a monument, or something for Dr. King – regrettably, I was in danger of becoming homeless myself at the time, and had to say no. The young man with the can in his hand cursed me for that, then the woman behind me cursed him, because – and I quote, “My daddy told me Martin Luther King was the most evil man who lived!”
But I thought of that moment, that glorious black and white moment, and felt a weight lift from my heart. I saw these two as the sad, hateful creatures they were, and went on with my life. Dr. King argued for the dignity of all