Friday, April 4, 2008

The Body Of Work

And I come by here to say that America too is going to Hell, if we don't use her wealth. If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty, to make it possible for all of God's children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to Hell. I will hear America through her historians years and years to come saying, "We built gigantic buildings to kiss the sky. We build gargantuan bridges to span the seas. Through our spaceships we were able to carve highways through the stratosphere. Through our airplanes we were able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. Through our submarines we were able to penetrate oceanic depths....

America hasn't lived up to this. She gave the black man a bad check that's been bouncing all around. We are going to demand our check, to say to this nation, "We know that that check shouldn't have bounced because you have the resources in the federal treasury." We are going to also say, "You are even unjustly spending five hundred thousand dollars to kill a single... soldier, while you spend only fifty-three dollars a year per person for everybody categorized as poverty-stricken." Instead of spending thirty-five billion dollars every year to fight an unjust, ill-considered war... we need to put God's children on their own two feet.

Much has been made over the past weeks about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and some hateful language that he has used at times. The hateful language that has been played and shown everywhere comes from a couple of short snippets from YouTube. Wright, who otherwise most famously delivered the "Audacity of Hope" sermon, has been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion for being racist, insane, and anti-American. It took one of the great speeches in recent memory for Senator Obama to overcome this controvery. Reverend Wright is now damaged goods in public opinion, no matter how many people he inspired or how many positive messages he delivered from his pulpit.

Read the top two paragraphs closely. These are the words of someone who feels betrayed by America. These are words that you would expect to hear played again and again on any number of radio shows like Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly, along with derision and attack.

Focusing on the quote that "America is going to Hell," the person who delivered those words, O'Reilly or Beck might say, is someone who ignores the "real" America that promises freedom to all, that was born on the idea that "all men are created equal." This is a hateful person who sees only the bad. Anything good that this person ever did or said has to be tainted by these beliefs. We don't have space, they would say, for people who are poisoning our society with hate.

We live in a society where too many people see everything only in absolutes -- you either love America all the time and speak positively of her, or you hate her. Frederick Douglass wrote in his 1846 Letter to Horace Greeley that "I am one of those who think the best friend of a nation is he who most faithfully rebukes her for her sins—and he her worst enemy, who, under the specious and popular garb of patriotism, seeks to excuse, palliate, and defend them."

Look at the top two paragraphs again and think about how we judge people based on a soundbite or a couple of paragraphs that we read. Think about what you would think about the person who spoke those words. Those are words that would be reviled by many in today's society. Those are words that would bring much anger and hatred upon the speaker.

Those were the words on March 18, 1968 of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. May his memory be for a blessing, zichrono l'vracha.

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