THE BEST PARTS OF WE… by Patrick McClure
So as usual on this day, I try to remind my boys what this holiday is about, not just missing school. I read the speech to them. It is important that they learn, and it is truly moving to hear it in your own voice, because it is not for any “they”. It is for “we”.
My boys are getting older. They are beginning to understand. They ask questions about how militias of the state can turn fire hoses on little children. How ordinary citizens can justify burning a cross in their neighbors’ yards. How devils in white hoods can threaten the lives and dreams of our communities, black, white, red, or yellow with dripping hatred, violence, and murder.
I have to answer that they are cowards. They may stand on big stages, but they are still too low to take the pillowcases off their heads and let the world judge them. They may have turned in their sheets for screen names and avatars, but their cloak of cowardice is just as great, and far more reaching.
However we must consider that they are also the woman who walks down the other aisle at the grocery store because they don’t like the look of the guy buying bread. They are the juror who decides a man’s guilt when he walks in the trial, not at the close of evidence. They are the lawyer who begins his work assuming he knows what happened based solely on where it happened and with whom. They are me. They are the worst parts of me.
But this man we celebrate today represented a hope for a better time, a better soul of this nation, this grand experiment. He died in Memphis not waging a war for race, but speaking for sanitation workers, many of them white, trying to alleviate deplorable conditions. His life was not only about race, but about a social breakdown that caused people to lose faith in what we CAN do; what we CAN be. He did not speak and he did not die for one cause, but for many. He did not just fight “them” in their sheets and armour and vitriol. He fought me. He fought for ideas and temperament because all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
So he wrote, he spoke, he marched, and he preached not for us, or for them… but for WE. The best parts of WE.
Don’t ever forget it. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. So as we look back today at the horrors of the 19th and 20th centuries, let’s not be so arrogant as to think that shameful thoughts and evil deeds, along with the apathy of the good children of light, do not persist. Reject the unearned fears, the reticence to accept all our neighbors as friends and brothers. Remember to look first at the content of the character of the man down the street, in the courtroom, in the grocery; so that WE the people can let freedom ring. The best parts of WE.