In the same boat now


(1/18/2006)

by Frances Edstrom

Sometimes it's hard to make sense of life. Children of loving parents die, while others live to be abused and ruined by those who should love them.

In one of the richest countries in the world, some of us just can't seem to catch the gold ring while others seem to be golden themselves.

In looking over some of the speeches given at Martin Luther King Day observances throughout our great nation, we are reminded again of the inequities in life, and of the horrible burden of past slavery that still weighs on us.

Two speeches stand out in my mind. One given by the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, and one by Democrat Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. Both men are black.

Nagin, perhaps unable to see beyond the ruined walls of his city, told his audience that God is mad at America, and listed the war in Iraq as one of the reasons for His anger, and mad at the black community for "not taking care of ourselves." He vowed to rebuild New Orleans as a "majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be."

He created an imaginary conversation with King in which King said, "I don't think that we need to pay attention any more as much about other folks and racists on the other side. The thing we need to focus on as a community "” black folks I'm talking about "” is ourselves."

Lewis, on the other hand, in a speech in Minneapolis, chose to avoid the temptation to use his political opponents as whipping boys, and eloquently recreated for us a Martin Luther King who still lives.

He told a story about being with a bunch of other children in his aunt's tiny "shotgun" house when a huge storm came up. When the wind threatened to lift up one corner of the house, his aunt prevailed on the kids to run to that corner to hold it down. When another corner was threatened, they rushed there to hold it down with their weight, and they and the house made it through the storm.

"We all live in the same house," he said of Americans. "Our forefathers and mothers might have come here in different ships, but we're all in the same boat now."

There are many issues that divide Americans, and, though I might be at odds with Rep. John Lewis on some of them, I think he has the issue of solving our racial problems right. It is not a matter of building black cities, as Mayor Nagin would have it. We are all in the same boat, we are all one people, and it is up to every one of us to see that it doesn't founder in the winds of trouble.

 

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