Today is the day to commemorate a hero, a true lion of hope and equality. So many, like him, have fallen at the hands of known and unknown purveyors of fear: Malcolm X, JFK, RFK, Gandhi, John Lennon, the students of Tiananmen Square and Ohio State, Rachel Corrie, and the Greensboro Five. Some theorists feel that Paul Wellstone could be added to that list. Still others are driven from their homelands around the world, their lives spared but their hopes for freedom dashed.
Famous or completely unknown and unsung, so many have dedicated their lives to the freedom of others, and to equality and justice. Actions small and large accumulate and exponentially multiply the effect.
At times I wonder if I'm not doing enough, if my candle should be burning more brightly. If we all cared enough, wouldn't all the problems already be solved? We can't all be Martin, John, Mother Teresa, or Rigoberta Menchu, but we can all be who we are, enacting change by embodying love and compassion in the world. Some do their part simply by living quiet lives of meditation. Others march in the streets and speak truth to power. Still others send money, write letters, or speak up for those without a voice.
And the others, you ask? Yes, there are still others who do nothing but fend for themselves and take all that there is to take. But even for these there must be compassion somewhere in one's heart, even if for now that place is closed and inaccessible. As for those who are purveyors of fear and sowers of division, must we not also feel compassion for them as well? Some of us are capable of such compassion, some even attain the bliss of true forgiveness. Still others even more enlightened might realize that those brokers of fear are no different than ourselves and fully deserve our compassion.
As for me, I continue to struggle to forgive some in the world who have wronged me, like those who murdered my closest friend in the prime of his life and the rest who did their best to obfuscate the truth. My hatred and anger are still not dissipated, and I know that these emotions will only cause me harm in the end, no matter how human they may be. I also have strong vitriolic feelings for those who I feel are responsible for the raping and pillaging of our country, our culture, our economy, our ecology, our very soul as a nation. Will I some day feel compassion and forgiveness for them? It is a tall order, I must say.
But in the spirit of Martin, today is a day to hold forth a vision, even if the more difficult emotions serve to cloud that vista from time to time, like an emotional cataract. Without that vision, all is lost, and only the clouds and darkness hold sway. I'm sure Martin forgives his transgressors and sees the bigger picture from the vantage point of enlightenment. We can all catch a glimpse of that picture from time to time, and when we do, it's a breath of fresh air. It may be a mad, mad world out there, but to paraphrase and twist the words of W.C Fields for my own purposes, "there's a hero born every minute". Let's prepare the way for the the heroes of the New World, the world that's just around the bend, the one which Arundhati Roy says that she can hear breathing.