Courage. No fear. Fearless. Those words were repeated over and over this past week by those who commented about the commemorative March on Washington. Only a few of the speakers actually participated in the original March. The overriding profile of attendees was two and three generations removed from the original marchers. It was a young crowd. Again.
Therein lies the hope for the future that will be led by the young, fearless, courageous crusaders who will continue to take this idea of a democracy into its next, and higher, level.
During the March on Washington commemoration, President Barack Obama said that 50 years earlier, Martin Luther King Jr.’s words held power and prophecy. The power was to move people to act – then. The prophecy was that once America’s “long-slumbering conscience” was awakened, it would light a flame of conscience and courage that would sustain [them] through campaigns for justice … to make America more free, more fair for all.
I have no doubt that the crusades for justice will be led by a younger generation. And I have no doubt that they have all that it takes to be effective.
They are already known to dream differently. Their brand-new world has broken past the artificial barriers of geography and time zones by use of the Internet and other technology enabling social networking that continue to bring us closer by the day, by the hour, instantaneously.
The younger generation is unfettered by not having had any direct experience of Jim Crow laws. And they suffer no memories of direct violence against their humanity from use of dogs, fire hoses and police batons on them.
I especially loved what Maya Angelou had to say during her interview with Anderson Cooper for a CNN special: Courage is the greatest of all the virtues; without it, all the others are meaningless. But humans are primarily motivated by fear (so that it takes effort to behave courageously).
The young voters, in their preponderance, were the ones who elected Barack Obama the first African-American president. They are also the generation that helped support the tweeted and televised revolutions in Middle East nations.
No, I have no doubt that this generation of young people sees the “other” as being human, more like them than dissimilar. They have moved beyond the Skittles description of a generation ago when that was a common reference for the mixed race/multicultural proliferation in their classrooms and in their communities.
What I am most concerned about is that this young generation will not be given easy passage into the ranks of leadership and that their imagination for something better will be squashed before reaching the masses. There is the threat that new ideas will be left to dry on the vine despite all the current forms of communication – even in 140 characters or less.
My concern is that those who are motivated by fear – fear of change, fear of loss of power, fear of the “other” – will use the weapons of mass oppression to keep the courageous from acting on their conscience.
One of the greatest weapons being used today is the seated do-nothing Congress, a group of dinosaurs who are fighting to maintain their control over our nation.
Too many of them are shackled by their throwback thinking, holding onto their romantic imaginings of a time when everyone was toting a gun in defense of property (including slaves) and their little women; where “over there” was only of concern if it directly affected life over here; where anyone who did not conform to the prevailing moral and religious dictates of the time (married, hard-working white people) was unwelcome to these shores and/or put in stockades or publicly humiliated with a painted letter.
These old fashioned thinkers need to go. They epitomize what Maya Angelou referred to as those who, lacking courage, fail to behave with courtesy toward one another, to their fellow humans, yet claim to represent the most powerful nation on earth. Shameful!
Move those relics out, those who continue to pay homage to a past that never was just to begin with. A revolution is in order for the next generation to seize the moment ignited by the flame of justice to act with courage, awakening from the slumber of the American ideal that has kept us all lulled by its promises – unmet. King talked about that still unpaid promissory note.
Amend the Constitution? No, just rewrite the whole darn thing!
It is time for the new generation of thinkers, leaders, innovators, brand-new world thinkers, beyond-the boundaries idealists, to take over.
Me? I’m ready to let it go.
Antonia Williams-Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org