January 20, 2015, Prescott- “We may have arrived on different ships, but we are all in the same boat.” This was one of the messages being carried by the some 400 marchers in Prescott, AZ, yesterday, during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march, from Prescott College around Courthouse Square and to the United Methodist Church, where a rousing rally, with gospel music and a stirring address by Reverend Michael Cannon awaited our assemblage.
My parents raised us to regard each person we met, on an individual basis. They were prisoners, somewhat, of their generation’s tendency to fear “the other”, but my folks desperately wanted out of that box, and looked to us to show the way towards a more inclusive world. There were classmates of Asian descent, in my high school, who were congenial. I did not, however, have friends who were African-American or Hispanic until I was in the Army, and it was much later that my circle grew to include Native Americans and people who hailed from the Middle East.
We are in a far more open world now. My son does well with people, regardless of ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation, as do I. The Baha’i Faith, to which I adhere, enjoins anyone from acting out of prejudice. Our task is to root out the bias and replace it with an understanding of the people whose backgrounds differ from ours. The thing to be opposed, in this great Age, is an unseemly character.
That was the bedrock of Dr.King’s speeches, and actions, in the 1950’s and ’60’s. It was the overriding theme of Rev. Mr.Cannon’s address, yesterday morning and again last night, at St. Luke’s Ebony Christian Church, where he is Associate Pastor. It is the foundation of that which every person who seeks uprightness in this life, does every day. Imperfect souls own their flaws, and still march towards the light, casting the burden of foulness aside as they go. I know of many people, myself included, who have aspects of their past which, if left unaddressed and uncorrected, would serve as a personal Tar Pit. On we go, though, grateful for forgiveness and grace.
This is huge boat, and we each have a part to play in its successful voyage. So, if you are African-American, come to the table. If you are a lower-income, or lower-middle-class person of European descent, come to the table. If you are of a family indigenous to these continents we call America, come to the table. If you are from the world’s most populous continent, anywhere from the eastern Mediterranean to the western Pacific, come to the table. If you came from Africa, during the past century, or from Australasia, come to the table.
You may be, like me, attracted solely to the opposite gender- and you belong here. You may be drawn to those of the same gender, or both, or may feel you need gender reassignment, or already have had it- and you belong here. Regardless of age, ability level, or employment status, you belong here. Whether you are Liberal, Conservative, Moderate, Tea Party or Occupy Anything With A Corner Office, you have a part to play.
We need to uphold the rule of law, AND the law has to be humane. We surely need to expect those entering our country to respect and obey our laws, just as those of us Americans who visit other countries must adhere to their laws. We do best to remember that the task of the individual is to show mercy, and that of the human institution, from the family to the nation-state, is to show justice.
The great boat will not list, will not leak and will not sink, so long as we all remember: Each has a place.