Inauguration Day 2009: Not the end of ‘The Dream’ but part of it!

There has been much talk as of late as to whether or not the election and swearing in Barack Obama is the fulfillment of the dream of Dr. King. Apparently, for many within America, and specifically a large percentage of those in the African American community, this is the dream.
While you will find no greater proponent of Obama, or lover of King, I have to say that I actually hope this is a long way from the truth. Why? Well, here are a just a few thoughts:
1. What the exclusion of the airing of Gene Robinson’s Invocation says about the dream. The reality is that there is still a great amount of work to be done in a place as diverse and dissonant as America. When one encounters the words of King for the first or 100th time, you realize that he is talking about more than a dream for a racially acceptable country. While this is a huge part of the celebration of the Inauguration, one must believe that King’s dream, or the hope which he had for America, extends to every marginalized group that remains disenfranchised and oppressed by corrupt and/or unjust systems. To quote MLK, “Injustice anywhere is threat to justice everywhere.” What happened to Bishop Robinson wasn’t right. What happens to LGBT folk daily isn’t right!
2. What the percentage of homeless (specifically children) in America says about the dream. That there were over 100k children sleeping on the streets of America last night in the cold, ought to be a wake up call to everyone with shelter and a warm blanket that things are not all finished in the memory of King’s dream. Indeed, as Jesse Jackson said last night, “The poorest in America, mostly white not black, get 5 free meals a week at school, and 21 free meals a week in jail.” This wasn’t King’s dream. In fact, what he hoped for might be heard in this quote: “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
3. What America’s involvement in war says about the dream. Dr. King was a proponent of non-violent activism. The next few months and weeks will be an interesting space to watch as President Obama begins to negotiate the wars that our country is fighting abroad. Obama will make some decisions that make people happy, but he will also make decisions that upset some of those who have truly come to trust him. Yet be not mistaken, it is not the actions of Obama that make this another example of King’s dream not being fulfilled, but the ethos of America towards war in general. As King’s words still challenge so convincingly, “A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
All in all, I have been very excited about the Inauguration events of today! It has been huge. It has been important. It has been communal. It was, is, and will be a day to celebrate, to remember, to dream, and hope for that which has been accomplished in America’s short history. However, it is also a day to take the charge of the new American President seriously; namely, to experience that our work is not done, that there are still those who need our self-sacrifice in order to experience health, and a day where all people of every faith have been challenged to try to believe in the right way (that is with our actions) “that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up.”
Finally, in case you missed it, below is Bishop Robinson’s Invocation:

(HT: Taylor)
Plotting goodness,
Joshua Case
Inauguration of President Barack Obama
January 20, 2009