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Dream lives on in minds, hearts

Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CREATIVEOUTLET.COM - Martin Luther King Jr.Innocent people are tortured or killed every day in countries around the world; in places such as the Middle East, Africa, Asia and recently France.

These innocents are being crushed under the collective feet of a supremacist ideology. They are being thwarted by the quest for power. They are being stunned by unbridled greed.

All of this suffering and death is an affront to the dignity and value of human life.

JIM HARTI know; not many would disagree.

But to some Americans, the struggle for human rights might seem thousands of miles away — in an unknown foreign country.

Oh, how fast the events at Oklahoma City, New York City and Boston fade from our collective memory.

People of my generation, however, cannot forget an earlier war against injustice and hatred that reached its pinnacle in the 1960s on American soil.

Even though life for those on the edge improved slightly in the ’70s, that war to achieve human rights for every American boasted no winners.

In fact, the war did not end when federal legislation made a difference.

That war continues today when people are banned from living near others who don’t look or speak or act like them. That war goes on when closed-door schemes limit the voting rights of those who are not of the party in power.

Has anyone noticed that the governors and legislatures in the Southern block of states is now controlled by the same party that controls the nation’s Capitol?

Seemingly buried in our country’s past, the U.S. civil rights movement hit its peak only about five decades ago. To some of our youngest citizens, it was a lifetime away — a topic they slept through in their American History class.

The mid-1960s was a time in U.S. history that few can speak of with pride. In those years, our nation’s shame was spread across the face of the globe.

At a time when to be American meant to be free, some “Americans” continued to deny common freedoms to other U.S. citizens.

The victims couldn’t eat in restaurants with those who opposed them; they couldn’t use the same bathrooms; they were forced to ride in the back of buses or give up their seats; they couldn’t vote in local elections; and they couldn’t attend the same schools as their adversaries’ children.

They couldn’t because they had been born with dark pigment in their skin.

If you weren’t white with money in your pocket, you were shunned.

For years, blacks were servants to whites. They were kept essentially as prisoners, forced to work at the will of their “owners” and sold as slaves.

Changing times

Then, as if by design, that stigma on our society began to turn around.

Beginning slowly in the ’30s, that reversal spread across a part of one state.

It began with one small voice — the voice of a 6-year-old child in Atlanta.

The child simply asked his mother why he had been denied playtime at school with his lifelong friends.

He didn’t understand the words of his friend’s mother, who said: “You’re colored, and we’re white.”

Young Martin didn’t understand why, now that he was attending school, he couldn’t play with his friends. He knew that the sky is blue, grass is green and his skin is a medium-brown color.

But, he asked himself, ‘What does that have to do with friendship?’

For the next 33 years, Martin Luther King Jr. carried a Christian banner, constantly asking, “Why?” whenever black Americans were denied something that white Americans were given.

He was destined to preach nonviolence; to stand up for equal rights for every citizen of the country; to lead hundreds of thousands of people of every race, protesting the actions of a few in power; and to die for the preservation of that cause.

He had a dream which drove him constantly into the face of the enemy. He was not controlled by pride. He would not turn away from humiliation because he knew he could not hurt another person to defend his views. He also could not run from whatever punishment his adversaries prescribed.

That dream, which places white and black side-by-side in a brotherly-love relationship, was a force that drove him to lead a constantly growing multitude of followers.

He was followed and supported by people of every color, creed and background who participated in his nonviolent protests, no matter the cost.

Those challenges included the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala.; restaurant sit-ins; children’s marches in Birmingham, Ala.; a march on the nation’s Capitol; a march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery; the bombing of his home; the bloody Watts riots; and the final sting of James Earl Ray’s bullet.

A dream lives on

But the dream did not die with King’s last heartbeat.

“So, it really doesn’t matter what happens to me now,” King said the night before his death, “because I have been to the mountaintop. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land.

“I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

Martin Luther King Jr., was not just a leader of black people; he was a leader of people of all races, creeds and colors who subscribe to the principle that love and compassion are the two strongest forces.

King called it “the sword that heals.”

Selected as Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963, King was truly a man for all times.

Monday, Jan. 19, is the day set aside for the nation of Dr. King’s birth to celebrate the anniversary of his birth, Jan. 15, 1929. If he had lived, he would have been 86 this week.

Monday’s holiday is a celebration of the immortality of ideas and ideals.

King’s dream continues to spread to the minds and hearts of people who are not black, not American and not oppressed.

When the war is finally over, his dream will cause people of all nations to join hands in celebration of King’s words:

“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Jim Hart, who lives in Boring, has retired from a 30-year career as a journalist.

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