These are the times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues. When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman. -- Abigail Adams
I saved the quote above from Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams, years ago. Today, however, it strikes a powerful chord. We are indeed living in tumultuous times; times of fear and apathy; of slick villains and burgeoning heroes…a time when the gauntlet of hatred, reinforced by 21st Century propaganda, woos the fearful but ignites courageous opposition.
Mrs. Adams’ words resonate because bizarre, “animated scenes” engage the heart, elevate the minds and form the character of true statesmen. While a frightening number of sheep respond positively to a front-running, megalomaniac’s call to build walls based on racial and religious biases, a long-dormant giant rises to shout: “Hell No!”
It’s reassuring that, once again, the call for conscious and compassion is emanating from the minds, voices and actions of untarnished young people. We live in a time where politicians and police have manufactured narratives that justify the inexcusable shootings of mostly unarmed black boys and men. Apathy swells despite the litany of videos depicting lives snuffed out within seconds without fear of retribution. With Nazi-like disinformation "pro-police" forces rely on stereotypes and the woes of the meek-minded to blunt a basic demand for accountability. Still, from the hallowed halls of academia to gritty, ghetto streets of urbana, a chorus of young voices insist “Black Lives Matter”…too!
We live in a time where, once again, millions have retreated to that ugly place where acts of terrorism urges them to shred the tenants of our Constitution. Today 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide are ostracized by the acts of a few. This while believers of “Christianity” and the Confederate flag escape typecasting. Melanin-deficient malcontents, armed with government-sanctioned automatic weapons, can shoot up movie theaters, schools and clinics yet the media is still hesitant to apply the “terrorist” label upon them.
Thankfully, the laureates, singers, rappers and spoken word aficionados offer voices of reason and resistance in the midst of heated hysteria. They relentlessly remind us we've traveled this dangerous, divisive path before. It was the state of race-based madness that sparked riots in the early 1900s when thousands of blacks migrating from the south lost their lives. It was an environment of unfettered fear that led to the deportation of immigrant and naturalized American Mexican citizens in the 1930s and the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s. It was the primitive quest for revenge, emboldened by presidential cowboy swagger in 2003 that instigated the bombing of an entire country-which had nothing to do with the downing of New York’s Twin Towers.
We live in a time when pandering politicians suckling at the teat of the almighty One-Percent have the power to dictate priorities and manipulate the media’s agenda. Ours is a rich country that's able to ignore the poor and the disproportionate mass incarceration of impoverished people of color. We are a society fueled by corporate greed and warmongering politicos. They arrogantly pontificate under the simplistic notion that God loves America more than any other country and sanctions our atrocities at home and abroad.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a real life martyr, urged us to live lives that matter. Shortly before his assassination, in a soul-stirring 1967 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King said we aren’t fit to live, if we haven’t found something “so dear and so precious” to die for.
“You died when you refused to stand up for right, you died when you refused to stand up for truth, you died when you refused to stand up for justice,” King preached.
Let us not die a metaphoric, unrighteous death. Yes, there is a measure of comfort in Abigail Adams words but we cannot rest on the laurels that people of “great character” with “great virtues” will rise up and counter the fermenting insanity in our country.
As the year ends on another racial and religious divisive note, let us answer that clarion call to stand up. In these times of great necessity, let us stand up for our children; let us stand for truth and justice but most of all, let us stand for what Dr. King declared “so dear and so precious...” Let us stand up for what’s right.