West Asheville. Hank Williams, Jr., David Allen Coe and Waylon Jennings.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Let Freedom Ring

50 years ago today.

I first heard this whole speech when I was in college.  One of my assignments in a business class was for us individually to go to the Civil Rights Museum in downtown Birmingham and then come back together as a class and discuss what we learned.  The experience of looking at all the exhibits, and taking in all the history that I hadn't been taught - not in any serious way- in high school, my community, and my church really impacted me.  I later picked up a book of Dr. King's quotes, and even after I graduated, would read the quotes from time to time.  I still have the book, in fact.  What struck me was just how more consistent Dr. King's views about humanity and ethics and freedom were with Jesus Christ and our Declaration of Independence than the actions of my own state and my own people (not all, but lots), who suited up for church on Sundays and proudly waved the American flag.  It really jarred me, and it was a "Galileo moment" that pushed me to learn more.  A bit before then, in Germany, on a trip ironically I was taking with an uncle to Russia, we stopped off in a museum. And one of their exhibits had life-size cutouts of blacks, up against a wall, being hosed by police taking Bull Connor's orders. And then there was another of snarling dogs barking at and biting scared protestors.  All the iconic Civil Rights protest pictures, really. At first I got offended. This was Germany, the place where Hitler and the Holocaust originated! How dare they?!?!?! But this "sting" stung for a reason. It really didn't matter who was delivering the news. The message bothered me. The message about my past, my people, my state, my country and what that might say about me, or perhaps, much worse, what aspects of that condition still lived in me, and in those around me. The indoctrination, the prejudice, the indifference, the denial, the guilt, the sin, the shame, the embarrassment.  Now, in my early forties (three years older than King when he was assassinated) I have grown to greatly admire people of King's stature - Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.   And others.  Some whose names are not significant.  But I think to myself, if I could be a little more like these people, who sacrificed far more than I could even contemplate, I would be very pleased.

For another writing I did about Martin Luther King, Jr., click here.  And, for a look at an earlier post I did about Alabama landmarks, go here.

Here's a young lady worth emulating.   Imagine how she "upsets the apple cart."
This girl has amazing courage and a message of hope for those trapped in fear in any culture. These cultures are not just in Islamic countries, where Malala's story comes from. They are here in the US. They are very likely in your own family. They could be anywhere, really, where freedom of expression and inquiry are suppressed. It's where you're told what to think rather than encouraged to learn how to think. It's where individuals self-censor themselves and their thoughts and ideas out of fear of offending, out of fear of retribution or simply out of fear of standing alone. It's where groupthink is predominant. But there's always hope when you pursue truth. And young Malala epitomizes this.

 "Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born." - Malala Yousafzai

And here's a great quote.  One of my cousin Beverly Espy Dayries' favorites:
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke

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