“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today many people will reflect on the message of Martin Luther King Jr. Today the world will ponder his “I have a dream” speech and his legacy, and their will be abundant responses to how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
Today, I believe, Martin Luther King Jr. would weep, because in many ways it seems his dream is farther away than it has been in a very long time. I don’t have the right words to express this, but others do in more powerful ways such as Chris Lebron in “What, To The Black American, Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?”
Today, I reflect on my own dream–of a world where the voices of all matter, and we find alternative, non-violent solutions to the challenges that face us.
“I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I’m interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.”–Martin Luther King, Jr.
Perhaps some will say my dream is a fantasy. But is my dream any more of a fantasy than MLK’s? True, he had more power of words and faith than I do. He was a man who lived his life more bravely than I. His are footsteps that are difficult to follow.
But that doesn’t invalidate my own dream.
Two years ago, NPR asked people to contribute their own “I Have a Dream” speech, and I wrote one. Follow this link to read my whole dream, but I want to point out one section of what I wrote:
I have a dream of creating a world where
. . . safety is more important than guns.
. . . love is more important than the sanctity of marriage.
. . . healthy food is more important than bottom lines.
. . . teachers are more important than politics.
. . . fairness, justice and equality are more important than hatred, war, and violence.
Those are still very important aspects of my dream. While some of them seem to be moving towards coming true, most of them have a long way to go. On any given day you can find evidence that these and more issues are not going to be solved soon. Just yesterday I read this article that discusses the rise in female pregnancy related deaths in the U.S. Here was my response when I shared the article:
“I hate the headline for this article because I believe it promotes divisiveness and entrenched views. However can we please stop pretending that these policies are for the health and safety of women and children?”
You might be asking, what does this have to do with my dream? I usually avoid discussion about this particular topic here in the blog, because it is such a complicated issue. But, it is clear from the numbers that laws limiting access to abortion do the most harm to women of color and the poor than to the wealthy and that is the type of social injustice I can not remain silent about. Not if I want to see my dream come true.
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.“–Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sometimes, though, it all seems so hopeless. Sometimes silence is so much easier. Sometimes it seems useless to dream. So why do we bother dreaming then? When it all seems futile, and things only seem to be getting worse, why bother dreaming for things to become better?
“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”–Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is one important reason to keep dreaming and keep believing in the possibility of making change. There is one important reason to keep speaking and not hide behind what is easy. I cannot allow these beautiful girls to grow up in a world where their voices are not valued. I cannot allow them to grow up in a world where people are judged by their race, religion, sexual preference, gender identity, etc. etc. etc. rather than “the content of their character”. I cannot do this without at least trying to make a difference and make things better.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.“–Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have a dream to make this world a better place, and P.O.W.ER is just one tiny step in the direction I need to go. (With every book sold I will be making contributions to causes that support women and children around the world).
What is your dream? What steps will you take to making that dream come true?
You’ve been warned! Today I have the urge to ramble about things in the news and other topics. I welcome discussion and comment, but reserve the right to ignore or delete anyone who attacks or offends others. If this concerns you, feel free to ignore this post.
I don’t claim to be an expert on any of these subjects, but I’ve had a lot of random thoughts flitting through my head this week, so I thought I would share.
I was listening to NPR the other day and they were discussing relief efforts after one of the tsunamis and how much of the money had gone to rebuilding houses for the wealthy and very little went to the poor people who needed it the most. Someone mentioned that old adage “If you give a man a fish. . . ” and I suddenly wondered, do the owners of companies, the big money makers, know how to fish? or Do they simply know how to hire the people who know how to fish? What would happen if the people who actually did the work, and knew how to do the work, got paid for what their knowledge and skills rather than the people who know how to control the imaginary world of money?
Moms Demand Action, posted this image and story on Facebook the other day:
Basically, people were made to remove sticks from their American flags before entering State Houses in two states because they posed a security risk, while gun-toting people were allowed in, no questions asked. In what world does this make sense? Can we make change by carrying big sticks? I’m ready to try it.
Mike Huckabee had this to say recently:
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it,”
Now, I’m not saying Democrats are perfect. They aren’t. Our whole political system is a mess right now, and has been for a while. But, this whole attitude toward birth control just confuses the heck out of me. Birth control benefits men almost as much as it benefits women. Period. What would happen if condoms became as expensive as other forms of birth control and required a prescription? At this point, I think women should just stop having sex with men who don’t believe in equality. I’m ready for a Lysistrata type rebellion to begin.
I could go on and on, but frankly, I’ve had enough with hypocrisy in this world. It’s time to move on from the insanity.
Who’s ready to join me in a world that makes sense?
P.O.W.ER, the manuscript that I am in the process of submitting, tells the story of a girl who lives in the land of New North:
“Almost 30 years ago, New North had been part of a much larger nation that suffered the delusion that it was the greatest nation on earth. For complicated reasons that I never fully understood, the country tore itself apart as men clamored for more power and control over women, money, and resources. Finally, civil war broke out and the country split into smaller nations led by the men who had the most money and could control the most media. Rom Sandovar, who would become the Supreme Prime Minister of New North, had not only money but also something even more powerful—the power of persuasion.”
In this imagined world, one of the first things the government does is prevent girls and women access to the written word. They can learn things like homemaking, painting, music and so-called feminine arts, but they are not allowed to read or write. My main character, Andra BetScrivener, defies this law and learns to read at a very early age, without anyone teaching her. The story begins when Andra faces some other laws of this land, which say she must either marry or enter a Women’s Training Program before her twentieth birthday. When she discovers that her facility with words extends beyond the ability to read, everything changes, and Andra finds herself fighting for a society that is truly free.
Why did I restrict access to words as part of the premise of my story?
“Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility.” (Robin Morgan)
We all know the premise of my story is viable, or at least the part about denying education to women. It happens in our world, and young women like Mulala Yousafzi pay the price of wanting to learn.
What will happen in a society where all knowledge and access to knowledge is controlled by a few? What happens in a society where education is controlled by people out to make money (through testing and other means) rather than by the people who have the knowledge to educate others (like teachers)? What will happen when corporations decided which information is more worthy of access, which websites they will support, which voices can be heard from?
We’re about to find out, aren’t we?
I find it fascinating that so much time and money is spent by people concerned with the right to carry a weapon because they think it gives them power. Or people fighting against the rights of others to marry, because they fear that giving equal rights to someone who they see as different will somehow take away their power. Or people trying to control women’s bodies and access to healthcare because women are a threat to power.
Meanwhile, web neutrality disintegrates before our eyes, and we lose free access to the thing in this world that gives us the most freedom and the most power.
What happens when the people who want to control the world control access to knowledge, to thought, to opposing arguments and dissension?
“Her questions, after all, are Miss Anne’s questions (though taken to dangerous extremes), as pressing now as they were almost a hundred years ago: Can we alter our identities, and, if so, how? What, if anything, do we owe those with whom we are categorized? Does freedom mean escaping our social categories or inhabiting those that don’t seem to belong to us? (Carla Kaplan, Miss Anne in Harlem, 341)
I was fascinated by the story of these women, whose voices have, to some extent, disappeared into the untold annals of history (as women’s stories are wont to do). Each of them chose to venture across color lines for their own reasons, some from a genuine belief that color does not matter and some for more complex reasons. All of these women, in some ways, defied the social norms of their time (the 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1940’s) and many of them faced the criticism of the populace for behavior that challenged the accepted roles of upper class white women in a world where those roles were clearly defined.
As I read, though, I began to realize that as much as some things seem to have changed, the voice of Miss Anne still lives in our society. Perhaps racial lines have changed. Perhaps the roles women can take on have grown. Perhaps the stigma of “miscegenation” has disappeared somewhat (as more mixed race people become part of the population). Perhaps these things have changed to some extent . . . but I began to wonder how much has really changed in the face of the (ridiculous) challenges occurring right now in our government–challenges that I would argue are based on race, women’s rights, and religion more than anything else.
I’m sure many of you have seen the above images. The first is of the sexist campaign buttons that appeared at the Republican convention. The second is of Miley Cyrus and her now infamous twerk-ing episode.
Now, I’m not using this as an argument about Democrats vs. Republicans (frankly I am tired of the failed two party system and don’t want to discuss it). Nor am I in anyway arguing that Cyrus’ choice was anything but distasteful. However, both these images are important because they reflect on how little things have changed in some ways.
[Nancy Cunard] never succeeded in erasing the taint of sexual lunacy from her embrace of black politics and culture. Almost every aspect of her life has been pathologized and chalked up to selfishness, neurosis, attention grabbing, or worse. Her racial politics come in for even more condemnation now than they did in her own day, when her dedication–if nothing else–won her respect. (Kaplan, 334)
Miss Anne did not have role models. No one was doing the things she tried to do. Even today, her combination of qualities is frowned upon. Women who are politically impassioned–Emma Goldman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton–are lightning rods for criticism and are caricatured as masculine and unnatural. It is still considered unseemly, evidently, for a woman to take too much pleasure in her politics. And the pleasure of identifying with others has always been suspect.(Kaplan 339)
It seems that women who put themselves out there in non-traditional ways still face the ostracism of some members of society. In addition, race still plays an issue, although the lines are blurrier now.
As I was reading I kept asking myself this question, “when did I become white?” You may think that’s a strange question to ask, however, during this time period Jews were not considered white:
For Jewish women like Meyer, there may have been particular temptations associated with activist work in Harlem. Jewish activists might become “white” people in Harlem, when many had never before experienced themselves as “whites” in the larger American culture.(Kaplan 178)
This intrigued me, as someone who was told (when I wrote my doctoral dissertation that looked at issues of diversity in theatre for young audiences) that the nature of my “whiteness” invalidated my speaking up for concerns about diversity–even though I clearly define my “Other-ness” based on my experiences growing up Jewish as well as my time living in Japan. According to Karen Brodkin Sacks in an essay called “How Jews Became White”, “it was the biggest and best affirmative action program in the history of our nation.”
It is certainly true that the United States has a history of anti-Semitism and of beliefs that Jews are members of an inferior race. But Jews were hardly alone. American anti-Semitism was part of a broader pattern of late-nineteenth-century racism [ . . . ] The picture changed radically after World War II.
If my Jewish heritage could suddenly shift across color lines, then is race an actual thing? Does race go any deeper than skin color? In the same sense, other than honest-to-goodness biological differences (such as the ability to give birth) is gender something that can be redefined and re-imagined so that people are seen as people, not defined by the color of their skin, their gender identity or their sexual politics?
I am a woman who crossed racial lines. I know it doesn’t matter, and most people don’t even see it. I also am an outspoken woman with strong leanings towards justice, politics, and the value of identifying with others.
Does that make me a modern day Miss Anne? If so, I’m glad, and it’s time to make my voice heard.