Dream or Fantasy?
I was eighteen years old when I watched the original "march" on TV in 1963. There was a march, but most of it was speeches at the Lincoln Memorial, most famously King's "I Have a Dream" speech. I had only a passing interest in the Civil Rights Movement in those days, but was more interested in folk music, and read that Peter, Paul and Mary, Odetta, Joan Baez, and an upstart named Bob Dylan would be appearing there, so I had the television set on for the whole array of speeches and performances. It was an amazing day.
I remember Martin Luther King's speech, and was moved by it, but didn't fully appreciate his greatness until a few years later. He appeared on a late-night talk show in Chicago in 1967, and spoke in profound terms of his opposition to the Vietnam war. I remember being in absolute awe at his depth, eloquence and pure understanding of why the war was such folly. I wish I could see that show again. I wonder what he would say today.
What I find most frustrating about the commemorations is not how boring the rhetoric is, but how frozen the conversation is. In 1963 there was a clear "racial" divide, with bigotry and violence against people with dark skin. Great progress has been made since then, but King's dream of people being judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character is sill largely a fantasy.
I could rail on about the "right wing," the "Bible belt," the corporatocracy, the Koch brothers, ALEC, the "Tea Party," Fox News, and whatever other forces of darkness exist in "America." It would be as boring as today's speeches. And wouldn't move the conversation.
What would move the conversation is for those advocating change to change the way they look at and talk about the problems we face. When Martin Luther King talked about not judging people by the color of their skin he inspired a new way of looking at people. Look at the person first. It takes a change in perception. It isn't easy, because even "blacks" refer to themselves as "blacks" and "African Americans." If you identify yourself by skin color, then that is your criterion for how you present yourself to the world. Even Obama calls himself "black," though as a politician he does it for reasons other than identity.
I did a color study in "Photoshop" way back in 2007, and found Barack Obama's skin color to be closest to "burlywood," "rosy brown," "tan," and "peru" (see Words). "Racially," he is mixed. That is assuming you believe there is such a thing as "race." Scientific research indicates that "race" is a myth. There is no such thing as "race," but almost everyone is fixated on the erroneous belief that it exists.
Here in Madison there is a "leftist" radio station that I listen to from time-to-time, but only a fraction of what I used to. I got tired of the rigid, politically correct language and the stifling conversations that go nowhere, and continue to this day. Code words and terms, like "racism" and "people of color" predefine who can join the conversation. And typically on their noontime public affairs show, that conversation is limited to the same five or six people who call in every day. These people don't have anything to offer, but spout-off in the same self-focused manner as the day previous.
Typical of that limited conversation is the ongoing singalong at the Wisconsin State Capitol, where protesters arrive at noon every weekday to sing labor songs and other little ditties making fun of the governor. Police are arresting the protest singers, and behaving with an increasingly heavy hand.
The cops of course are behaving like jerks, but that's what cops do. Police brutality is, sadly, part of their culture. In an uncompromising standoff with police, they will inevitably resort to brute force. Of course, the governor and his hand-picked chief of the Capitol Police play a huge role, but the singalongs are obnoxious, self-aggrandizing and don't communicate a goal or plan to the general population.
This is where it stands in "America," as we gallop to extinction. A lot of chest-beating, but little real conversation. Each "side" is absolutely right and the other "side" is absolutely wrong. N'er the twain shall meet. At least not in time to avoid catastrophe.
Here's the I Have a Dream speech.
Here's Bob Dylan and Joan Baez at the March on Washington. Here's Peter, Paul and Mary. I thought Dylan did this song too, but couldn't find the performance. This compilation of performances fills in the blanks. This fills in a few more blanks.
Here's a song that fits.