Tom Paine wrote that our new nation had the opportunity “to begin the world over again.”
This election year, voters seem to want to do just that – but the ratio of incomprehensible noise to common sense has been five to one.
The Reverend Martin Luther King said, “Let us be those creative dissenters who will call upon our beloved nation to a higher destiny, to a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humaneness.”
When marchers walked on Martin Luther King’s Day from the court house to the school house. the diverse community of warmly bundled marchers, were conscious that their only inconvenience was the wind and weather.
The march in Selma, Alabama, however, was conducted at some risk, and helped to win the voting rights legislation in 1965.
Selma succeeded because, as King described it, a “stubborn sheriff” acted so wrongly in handling that protest, he “stumbled against the future.”
The Reverend King was focused on what was just and fair, on equality, and the guide for his activism was the non-violence of Jesus and of Gandhi.
After Selma, King said that, “Occasionally in life one develops a conviction so precious and meaningful that he will stand on it till the end. That is what I have found in nonviolence.”
Anticipating his own death, King said in the Ebenezer Church in Atlanta, that he identified with those who were poor and hungry and, “[i]f it means dying for them, I’m going that way, because I heard a voice say, ‘Do something for others.’”
The challenge for our nation, in his mind, was human rights.
Though we have enjoyed some progress, human rights remains a challenge.
We have had a rebirth of misery, with officers of the law killing persons of color, and walking away from bodies fallen in our streets.
In this presidential election year, decades after the Reverend King’s words, we have a need and the opportunity to concern ourselves with the collective misfortune of our friends and neighbors.
We must therefore scrutinize what our Republican presidential candidates are offering.
At the head of a narrowed array, we have a bully billionaire fixer who gave to every other candidate he’s run against, while claiming he’s fighting the establishment, when he’s plainly an integral part of it.
There is a cognitive dissonance among many Trump’s voters who decry the programs that save or relieve working men and women from hunger, illness, ignorance, discrimination, disability, unemployment, and a poverty stricken retirement.
Is this presidential year really so different from Mitt Romney’s myopic view in 2012 that our constitutional imperative regarding the “general welfare” really means only the top 1%.
The Republican primaries prove what the Rev. King said years ago, that “[o]verwhelmingly America is still struggling with irresolution and contradictions.”
The Republican presidential candidates celebrate the filthy rich and resist any system that dares to regulate the favored moneyed elite, even though, to borrow from King again, the current regulatory “[l]egislation … is evaded, substantially nullified and unenforced [making the effort in recent days] … a mockery of law.”
The assistant director of the office of economic opportunity, Hyman Bookbinder, back in 1966, said that “the poor can stop being poor if the rich are willing to become even richer at a slower rate.” Same for the Middle Class.
Given the Republican indifference to the general welfare and preferences for their “stealth supporters,” and costly foreign entanglements, for this presidential election, it is critical we resolve to climb King’s “plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humaneness,” and that we “begin the world over again.”