It's been a long, a long time coming

Words can move people.

On January 6, President Donald Trump’s words moved people to violence. 

“We’re gathered together in the heart of our nation’s Capitol for one very, very basic and simple reason, to save our democracy,” Trump said.

He wasn’t saving democracy. He was trying to save himself. In a speech laced with lies — about “fake news,” “weak Republicans,” and most of all a “stolen” election — Trump incited his followers to storm the Capitol.

For four years, his words — often reaching his followers directly through tweets — had inspired bigotry and moved people to hatred.

Also on January 6, results were announced in Georgia’s run-off Senate races. Two Democrats —  a Jewish filmmaker and a Black pastor — were elected, negating the Republican dominance in that house.

Georgia’s first Black Senator, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, in the midst of the siege on the capitol, tweeted words of love, not hatred. Warnock is pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. was once pastor.

Warnock tweeted: “In this moment of unrest, violence and anger, we must remember the words of Dr. King, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.’ Let each of us try to be a light to see our country out of this dark moment.”

When I read those words, I was whipped back in time: A white kid in upstate New York listening to my father reading words from his newspaper, words that King had delivered to another huge crowd in our nation’s capital.

The words in Trump’s speech will soon be forgotten because they had no soul; the violence that followed will be remembered.

The words in King’s speech, delivered for the March on Washington in 1963 have already resonated through the last half century and will continue to shape us as a society. King began his speech with the Emancipation Proclamation but noted that Black people were still not free.

Sadly, that is still true today.

But King did not alienate white people like me. He educated and inspired us. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” he said.

When Mahalia Jackson called out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin,” King responded with words that reached across the country and around the world. “I have a dream” he repeated again and again.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

He defined a dream — a vision —that we all could share and work toward.

In my childhood, the images that we saw on our black-and-white TV or in the newspaper were of peaceful marchers being attacked by police dogs or knocked down with blasts from fire hoses. But the protesters — humbly courageous — kept on marching, sometimes singing or chanting.

Peaceful protest had power. Words wrought change.

Warnock was wise to invoke King’s wisdom in the midst of the dark hatred that engulfed us all on January 6. Trump set up a false dichotomy in his four years as president.

When Trump defended his executive order in September, barring federal agencies, branches of the armed forces, and federal contractors from conducting diversity and inclusion training, he said that such initiatives are “teaching people to hate our country.”

That statement can only be true if you believe “our country” is made up solely of wealthy white men. But we have evolved since the day our founding fathers — land-owning white men who didn’t recognize the rights of all the people who built our nation.

As King said and Warnock tweeted: “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 

When I was pregnant with my second child I was deeply worried about how I could love her as much as my first since I had given my heart to my first. What I discovered is that love can grow; it isn’t a limited commodity to be parsed out or used up.

I am writing this on King’s actual birthday, January 15, ahead of our nation’s celebration on Monday. Although my words will be posted online, because we are a weekly newspaper, they won’t be printed until after Wednesday’s inauguration.

But I am writing with faith that Joe Biden will be true to his word and work to represent all Americans.

I have hope that we will enter an era where love will drive out hate, where we will see our differences as strengths and not cling to false and hurtful ideas of supremacy from the past.

I have hope we will enter an era where light will replace darkness where truths as shown by science will illuminate a future that leads to preservation of our Earth.

I have hope we will come closer to King’s dream in embracing our common humanity.

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