Thursday, August 28, 2008


Every day on the entertainment page of the local paper, they hype one show or another as must see TV. Usually it’s just another episode of “Win-a-Million” or “Rambo XVII”, but last night was and tonight the TV fare truly is a MUST SEE. The Democratic National Convention did indeed make history last night, and will do so again tonight.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, an Independent or an apolitical, burned out citizen. It seems to me that what matters is that what is happening in Denver this week is the culmination of the last sixty years of effort in the civil rights arena and more than 140 years of daily living since the Proclamation of Emancipation.

For most of my 65 year lifetime, the struggle to end American apartheid has dominated the civil rights forum in this country. I was born in 1943. In 1947 Harry Truman’s administration published “To Secure These Rights” a treatise designed to open up equal opportunity for federal employment to all races, and in 1948, aided by Hubert Humphrey’s fiery liberal oratory, Truman’s civil rights initiative was adopted into the platform at the Democratic Convention. Truman and Humphrey fought to outlaw lynching and were shouted down on the Senate floor, but ultimately won the argument and began to erode the Jim Crow laws that had legalized racial discrimination under the Plessy v Ferguson case of 1896. In 1950, that case was overturned by the Supreme Court, and the doctrine of “separate but equal” began to collapse.

In 1955, Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged as the primary American civil rights leader of the century by managing a year-long bus boycott which, in 1956, culminated in a Supreme Court finding that discrimination like that on bus lines was illegal. That opened the door for the great marching movement that led through Selma, Alabama to the 250,000 person march on Washington, D.C. where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech and on to Memphis, Tennessee in 1968 where he was struck down by an assassin while supporting a strike by that city’s sanitation workers.

Four years before that, in 1964, Lyndon Johnson accomplished passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which enabled Dr. King to carry not only the moral righteousness but also the legal right to march in the face of this nation’s obstinate refusal to recognize the right of every American to equal treatment and equal opportunity.

The law alone cannot change the thinking of a nation, but years of enforcement of such laws can erode the bigotry they address to the point where, as is the case today, overt discrimination is looked upon as outrageous by the majority of the population.

I cannot say that in my lifetime I have seen racial discrimination eliminated, but I can proudly say the I have lived long enough to see it at least suppressed to the point where a man who would not, in the time of my childhood, have been allowed to rise to the level of alderman in his home town of Chicago, can now be and has now been nominated to the presidency of the United States by a major political party. (THE PARTY I would point out that has consistently led the nation in this direction in the face of direct opposition from the other major political party. The LIBERAL arm of which has led this country out of its darkness every time it has chanced to peek out of the cave of repression, suppression and illegitimate warfare.)

So I saw last night’s Democratic Convention as a historic occasion that should be celebrated by every American regardless of his or her political affiliations. Unless you are a member of the KKK or some other racial supremacist group, in which case you obviously have no understanding of the constitution, you have no reason not to rejoice in the great distance we have traveled in the course of one man’s lifetime, and THAT made last night’s convention MUST SEE TV.

Tonight will be another evening of MUST SEE TV when Barack Obama stands on the stage alongside Congressman John Lewis, who is the last living person who stood alongside Dr. King throughout his marches into history. John Lewis spoke from the same podium as Dr. King the day he delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. Back then Congressman Lewis was a young man and chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. As such, he was labeled by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI as a dangerous subversive. Today he serves as Congressman for the 5th Congressional District in the State of (of all places) Georgia.

I hope he will speak again tonight because the occasion of tonight as the 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s great speech and the achievement of Barack Obama is far too great a juxtaposition to ignore. And, certainly, no one is better qualified to speak to the meaning of that juxtaposition than John Lewis, who has seen it all.

I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Nor will I miss the opportunity to assist in Mr. Obama’s campaign as best I can. I hope you will do the same.

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

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