JIM CREES: A message from the past

This is a column about Dr. Martin Luther King.

I’m announcing this up front so as to give some readers the opportunity to stop now and find something else to do. I don’t say that cynically or despairingly. Rather, I know it’s simply an unfortunate truth of life. I’ve found that if you mention Dr. King or anything he wrote or preached, many people immediately shut down the lines of communication — even so many years after his death.

Too bad. He had some good things to say.

Fifty years ago, during the now famous March on Washington, Dr. King offered a talk which has been called the “I Have A Dream” speech. It was a great piece of preaching and is considered by many one of the most influential speeches in American history.

Too many people, however, have never read or heard it all the way through.

They’ve never given it a chance because it came out of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Basically, that’s the only reason.

There are a lot of “reasons” people give for despising this man. He was a “radical.” A “commie.” The FBI investigated him. He was arrested on numerous occasions.

“Well,” they say, “If the FBI and the police had a problem with him there must have been something wrong.”

Or was there? Maybe the FBI was wrong, and yes, cops make mistakes. It wouldn’t be the first time.

When we get down to brass tacks, Dr. King was, (and is), so hated because he was a person of color looking to change the status quo.

He made a lot of people feel uncomfortable with their petty prejudices.

Many, many people just hated the ‘whining’ of the social minorities struggling for the equalities promised them in this great nation. Dr. King was one of those ‘whiners.’ Still today people shut him off before they ever hear what he really had to say.

What he had to say on Aug. 28, 1963, was not ‘whining’ for black Americans. It was the powerful expression of a dream for ALL Americans. King spoke out for every American – white, black, Asian and Hispanic. Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and whatever.

His dream was not only the dream of a black, Baptist, man with a family in the south back in the troubled times of the 1960s. He described what should be the dream of white men and women in Mecosta and Osceola counties as well – people of any race, religion or gender.

So, what did King dream?

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.

“It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal ...’

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character ...

“I have a dream. This is our hope.

“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

“With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

“With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together... to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

“This will be the day when all God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing ...

“When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing ... ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”

In the “I have a dream” speech Dr. King didn’t only address the needs of black people. He expressed a dream for “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners ...”

He dreamed of the day when “... little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as brothers and sisters.”

He spoke repeatedly of “all God’s children.”

Still, 50 years later, people shut the message out – often specifically because it was offered by Dr. King.

Is Dr. King’s dream meaningful only to minorities? Is the message of brotherhood, justice, charity, freedom and unity strictly directed to one race or the other; to one gender or the other; to one denomination favored over the others; to liberals more than conservatives?

Do only ethnic, racial or religious minorities need to strive for equality and unity around the United States?

Shouldn’t even those living in predominantly white, Christian communities, such as ours, be struggling for the same thing in order to better realize the hopes and aspirations of this great nation.

In the words of Dr. King:

“Now is the time to make justice a reality for all Gods children.”

ALL God’s children.