The speeches, sermons and lectures of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are being broadcast today on WPFW (Pacifica Radio).
Strength to Love may be one of King’s most important works. I picked it up at the recommendation of a guy browsing, like me, in a Borders bookstore. I was looking in the religious section at the Buddhist shelves, then moving on to King’s work. This guy pulled Strength to Love from the shelf and told me Strength to Love was one of the most important books he’d ever read.
I encourage you to read the “I Have a Dream Speech” in its entirety.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
Before We are Democrats or Republicans, We are Americans.
If anyone has been paying attention (and that’s somehow rare these days), it’s quite clear President Obama has been consistent in his message about unity and a civil discourse as part of a flourishing democracy. In his remarks at the memorial service in Tuscon last week, and his weekly address, you can trace the themes back to Obama’s keynote address as a newcomer on the national political stage at the 2004 Democratic convention; or the night he claimed victory in the Iowa caucus in 2008. Obviously these are not “feel good” lines in search of the right theme song for Obama. It’s part of a core set of values and a personal narrative.
It seems appropriate to post both the memorial remarks and the weekly address.
Transcript of Remarks at the Tucson memorial service
And I give a nod to Senator John McCain (AZ-R) for his op-ed,
“After the shootings, Obama reminds the nation of the golden rule” published in today’s Washington Post
Our political discourse should be more civil than it currently is, and we all, myself included, bear some responsibility for it not being so. It probably asks too much of human nature to expect any of us to be restrained at all times by persistent modesty and empathy from committing rhetorical excesses that exaggerate our differences and ignore our similarities. But I do not think it is beyond our ability and virtue to refrain from substituting character assassination for spirited and respectful debate.
And to the Senators who are “seating” an example and advocating that the parties sit together during the State of the Union address January 25.
Peace, be still.
The late great Gospel music artist Rev. James Cleveland’s “Peace Be Still” captures my thoughts surrounding recent events from Tucson to Tunisia, and also the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth.
This past week, poet Nikki Giovanni made a visit to DC. My first introduction to her writing (as a child) was the recording, “Truth Is On Its Way,” released in 1971. “Peace Be Still” is performed by the New York City Community Choir with Isaac Douglas — who takes some poetic and musical liberties — as the solo vocalist. It is the prelude to Giovanni’s reading of her poem “The Great Pax Whitie.” This rendition of “Peace Be Still” swells like the storm in the lyrics.
First verse and chorus:
Master, the tempest is raging.
The billows are tossing high.
The sky is o’er shadowed with blackness,
no shelter or help is nigh.
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
when each moment so madly is threat’ning,
a grave in the angry deep?
The winds and the waves
shall obey my will, peace be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
or demons, or men, or whatever it be.
No water can swallow the ship where lies
the Master of ocean and earth and skies;
they shall sweetly obey my will,
peace be still, peace be still.
They all shall sweetly obey my will;
peace, peace be still.
Truth Is On Its Way” has followed me for many, many years. It’s always Cleveland’s “Peace Be Still” that I return to especially in turbulent times. For those of us who went to Sunday School, Cleveland’s lyrics are inspired by the story of Jesus and his disciples who are on a boat in the middle of the sea. Jesus is asleep, no doubt from the labors of his work. A violent storm brews. The men in the boat frantically try to wake Jesus before they’re all crushed and drowned by the waves. When Jesus wakes up, he calms the storm with the words “peace, be still.” (with comma)
This video on YouTube interprets the “Peace Be Still/Great Pax Whitie” cut from “Truth Is On Its Way.” I’ve never put images to the recording, but some people are moved to create in the new digital medium.
Nikki Giovanni wrote “The Great Pax Whitie” in 1968 and published it in Black Feeling, Black Thought, Black Judgement in 1970 in the toss and turn of the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movement. The poem trails and marks the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, El Hajj Malik El-Shabbaz (Malcolm X), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy in 1969.
So the great white prince
Was shot like a nigger in texas
And our Black shining prince was murdered
like that thug in his cathedral
While our nigger in memphis
was shot like their prince in dallas
And my lord
ain’t we never gonna see the light
In more recent years, Givoanni, a distinguished professor, was at the scene of the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech. Some might say, “How could the author of The Great Pax Whitie speak to a community like Virginia Tech?” It was Nikki who gave the closing words/poem “We Are Virginia Tech” at the Virginia Tech memorial in 2007.
We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does the child in Africa dying of AIDS; neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by a rogue army; neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water; neither does a Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.
We are Virginia Tech.
Judging by the response, the message was clear. Truth is on its way.
The album “Truth Is On Its Way” sold over 100,000 copies in the first six months. Somehow one can’t mention “The Great Pax…” without the song “Peace Be Still.” They’ve become linked at the hip. Speaking from my music brain, I’ll dare to say “Peace Be Still” made the poem or the poem was written to further inspire James Cleveland’s masterpiece. And in the heat of the word, the movement, and the moment, Nikki says,
The rumblings of this peace must be stilled
be stilled be still
You will be comforted by just how much anonymous goodness there really is in the world. You read about these people and realize that people you don’t even know are leading lives of real dignity and goodness, and you hear about crazy, but it’s rarer than you think.
At the end of his comments Monday evening, Jon Stewart said his monologue was probably more helpful to him than to us. Actually, Jon, what you said is helpful. A must watch.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Arizona Shootings Reaction|
Yesterday’s shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 20 other victims (to date) at a meet-and-greet your Representative gathering outside a Safeway in Tucson, AZ left me speechless.
The Congresswoman is currently in a medically induced coma after being shot in the head at point blank range. The chief neurosurgeon at the University of Arizona Medical Center is being cautiously optimist. Sadly six people lost their lives including federal court judge John M. Roll who was put under 24 hour U.S. marshal protection after receiving death threats about a decision in an immigration case in 2009, Gabe Zimmerman, a member of Congresswoman Giffords’ staff, nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, retirees Dorothy Morris and Phyllis Scheck, and Dorwin Stoddard.
22-year-old Jared Loughner has been charged by federal prosecutors for attempted assassination, 6 counts of murder, and attempted murder charges in the shooting. He’s been described as a “loner” who lived with his parents. While biography trickles in from various media sources in search of a motive, the debate over whether or not Loughner’s motives were political, psycho-babble or a combination of both, will be in the interests of his legal defense and the continuing political hyperbole. If convicted, Loughner will in all likelihood face the death penalty. After all, it’s Arizona.
In the meantime the families and friends of the victims must come to terms with the shocking reality of their tragic losses while family, friends, staff, colleagues, and constituents of Congresswoman Gifford hold vigil as the Congresswoman fights for her life.
In times like these, the people who have to report the story go in desperate search for a lead narrative. So far that narrative in this story appears to be the call for civility in the political discourse. And perhaps, the state of Arizona itself is part of the reason why the civility narrative is standing out. Key issues that were part of the discourse are inching their way into a larger picture as to why this happened. Is this a reflection of the country over the past two years?
A few responses stand out:
Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner eloquently responded…
“I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff. An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society.”
Today, the House Speaker Boehner added:
“To the members of the House and their staffs, I ask that you on this Sabbath day that we keep Gabby and her staff in our thoughts and prayers. Public service is a high honor, but these tragic events remind us that all of us in our roles in service to our fellow citizens comes with a risk. This inhuman act should not and will not deter us from our calling to represent our constituents and to fulfill our oaths of office. No act, no matter how heinous, must be allowed to stop us from our duty.”
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik represents the people who have the responsibility of maintaining law and order, justifiably expressed his frustration:
I think the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business and what (we) see on TV and how our youngsters are being raised, that this has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in. And I think it’s time that we do the soul-searching… The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.
Artist, activist and restaurateur Anas “Andy” Shallal made this observation via Facebook:
You’ll see/hear/read more about the “troubled” Loughner. Will religion, ethnicity, or gender be part of his psychological or sociological profile?
Don’t Retreat, Reload!
In the heat of the 2010 election, team Sarah Palin issued a map of state political races and the opponents or “targets” of her pac. The identifying icon was a bulls eye.
David Wiegel of Slate writes:
Palin doubled down, and she had a lot of support from conservatives for doing so, because a lot of them considered the “target map” criticism a bad faith attack on her. Were some of the attacks in bad faith? Maybe. But Gabrielle Giffords had specifically raised her concerns about the target map. Palin had many, many months to stop using the “reload” line, or to identify the targets as “surveyor’s symbols,” and she didn’t do that.
Were surveyors or cartographers the “target” audience for SarahPac? Since Saturday’s shooting, Sarah Palin has offered an on-line call for prayers in support of Congresswoman Giffords and her family. While her team spins and scrubs the map, what remains is this will be a defining moment for the former Alaska governor and communications major. It’s been a challenge for Palin to come out fresh when her opponent, interviewer, critic or in this case, political target is another woman. It’s a situation and dynamic she can’t flirt, flatter, or wink her way out of. In this case, Palin can’t quite use the music/movie influence pass due to the fact that Congresswoman Giffords’ name is on this target chart, and Congresswoman Giffords herself responded to it. Shouldn’t, the 7-year student of communications know better?
GUNS, GUNS & MORE GUNS
The Washington Post has just posted an article about Arizona having the most lenient gun laws in the U.S. Congresswoman Giffords is a long-time gun owner and has supported the Supreme Court ruling to overturn the gun ban in Washington, DC. Lougner had no criminal record. He purchased his gun legally. Yet…
“Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed a National Rifle Association-backed bill repealing a state law requiring gun owners to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. State law now permits anyone 21 years or older and legally qualified to own a firearm to carry the weapon without a concealed-to-carry permit.”
Remember that guy Christopher Broughton or Chris B. who showed up with an assault rifle at an Obama rally in Phoenix, AZ in 2009 at the height of the health care town hall meetings?
And, check this out….
“A Washington Post analysis of data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shows that Arizona is a net exporter of guns that are seized in crimes. In 2009, 1,637 guns first purchased in Arizona were recovered at out-of-state crime scenes, according to an analysis of guns traced by the ATF. That means for every 100,000 state inhabitants, 25 guns were exported from Arizona.”
At this point I, and I hope many others will refrain from using the phrase “nuclear option.”
And from E-Notes:
There is now an urgency to love more than ever before.
President Obama will initiate a moment of silence for Congresswoman Giffords and the victims of the shooting, Monday, January 9 at 11 AM EST.
Prayers and other expressions of support, sympathy and love to the families, friends, and people of the shooting victims in Tucson, AZ.