I have a dream that I will never hear that damned “I Have a Dream” speech ever again. I hate the namby-pamby sentiments in the “content of the character” line that is misappropriated every year on Dr. King’s birthday by lazy journalists and sinister right-wing politicians. I change the channel whenever I accidentally see clips of the dreaded speech on TV.
When I learned that “I Have a Dream” was Dr. King’s sappy go-to speech, one that his staff had asked him to retire but that he delivered anyway at the 1963 March on Washington because the crowd was hot and restless, I began to hate it even more.
I hate that the kewpie- doll version of Dr. King that is trotted out every January conveniently omits his calling out of this society’s triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism. I hate that this American hero has been sanitized almost as much as I hate the Motown sound after I found out that Berry Gordy stripped the Black out of it to make it more palatable to a wider audience.
If you want to know more about Dr. King, read his speech against the Vietnam War. It will transport you from the 60s right to today. Nothing dreamy about that. Here are a few lines:
“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
On last Sunday Dr. King’s elder son, his wife Andrea and daughter Yolanda marched in Arizona, the state represented by a senator who has been obstructionist and plain dishonest about why she will not release the filibuster to the dusty annals of history where it belongs, along with the statues of General Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. Said Mrs. Waters-King, and I paraphrase: “When our daughter was born 13 years ago Black people had more voting rights than they do today.”
Hope that when the Senate meets today or tomorrow some of the holdouts on voting-rights legislation will make the right choice–for themselves, for the country, for posterity. But the devil is a liar and hope is not a plan. Dream about the devastating consequences of disenfranchisement, because that is where we are on today January 18, 2022, 57 years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
To read the full text of Dr. King’s speech on the Vietnam War, please click this link: Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence ~ MLK Speech 1967 (crmvet.org)