Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Dream Lives On

For a high school graduate member of the class of 65, a college graduate class of 69 and a law school graduate class of 72, those 11 years are seared forever in my memory bank. Out of the fog of protests over the Vietnam War and the iconic struggle for equality epitomized in the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. is almost a legendary figure rising above the violence to pursue nonviolently the end of racial discrimination. It is right that we honor him on tomorrow's  January 20, 2014. I only hope this poem in a small way extols the virtue of the man and his nonviolent policy.

The Dream Lives On
We honor all the warriors like Cincinnatus who left the plow to wield the sword,
But only the few—Christ, Gandhi, King and Mandela who bent the sword into the plow we should forever reward.
Each city has its faded, green, moldy statutes, swords held high by past warriors on a bronze horse,
Or weathered markers of epic battles where for a moment the rivers of history turned course,
Too often, the monuments are flags and eternal head stones on well preserved lawns,
Row after row of young men in eternal rest, never to see again the morning dawn,
Cross after cross, star after star and even a few crescents, all gleaming white
Standing mute, silent lives ended too soon in a barely remembered Martian fight
What of the battles not for gold, oil or lands to reclaim?
But rather for a simple seat on a bus to the work cramps tame
What of the battles not for resources or taxes to forcibly extract?
But rather for a simple seat at a counter instead a lunch shoved into a sack
What of the battles to claim minds and souls not by reason but by torch or by sword?
But rather for a simple seat in class with enough books for the learning train to board
What of the battles where human lemmings raised the bridge and widened the moat?
But rather for a simple seat in a curtained booth to pause, reflect and cast a vote
What of the battles not to claim cities and residents into ghettos to evict?
But rather for the freedom to live where one desires and by covenants restrict.
Our land of Camelot and Cities of Lights on a hill
Has sadly been also sheets in the night to burn, maim and kill
Separate but equal Jim Crow at its crushing, demeaning unequal best
How many years did it finally take us to such discrimination arrest?
Wrong battles, wrong glory, wrong hell to honor, even if then for the right reasons
But rather a simple song to overcome without guns even if to the warriors seems near treason
Battles somewhat alike in innocence lost and civility left to bleed
But King’s nonviolence proved to be in the end more than a slender reed
Who among us seeing the dogs and water hoses and the church burnings in the dark of night
Could turn the cheek and as men not drop the plow and charge head long into the fight?
Who among us could upon hearing the injustice and oppression screams?
Stay the nonviolent course and instead share to millions “I have a dream”?
Spied on and wiretapped by the FBI to discredit the man to hinder his cause
In so doing the FBI discredited us all with acts beyond the rules of law
Such a shame and such a waste for him to be taken from us far before his time
But even as his aides pointed from a balcony, something is far worse than such a crime.
God save us all if after so few years of progress, a Black President, we go lax and forget his deeds
Turn our backs, close our hearts, let racism on both side revive and shed his nonviolent creed.
But if on his day we carry within our hearts an oral, beating monument to his dream,
Where only character, honor, and integrity will determine the members of a team,
We will have a chance to put more minds and swords into the productive plows
More men to see the character dawn, and the growth that their Creator has endowed.
                       © January 19, 2014 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

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