Tag Archives: malcolm x

Speeches We Didn’t Hear On August 28, 1963

25 Aug

Let’s not commemorate – let us debate.

Also note some modern perspectives.

Post-Inaugural Thoughts

22 Jan

gty_inaugural_ball_obama_caketop_nt_130121_sshAll men are created equal?

We’re dug in the deep the price is steep./The auctioneer is such a creep./The lights went out, the oil ran dry/We blamed it on the other guy/Sure, all men are created equal./Here’s the church, here’s the steeple/Please stay tuned–we cut to sequel/ashes, ashes, we all fall down. (via R.E.M.: “Bad Day”)

From the Capitol:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional, what makes us American, is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed. (via President Barack H. Obama’s Second Inaugural Address, January 21, 2013)

I think I forgot to blog President Obama’s First Inaugural, and I didn’t vote for him in the 2012 general elections. The Inaugural spectacle is one of those discomfiting examples of why these united states sink to a reality that does its best not to ascent to the rhetoric of their citizens. “We, the People, in order to form a more perfect union…” Let’s not forget that, although Alexander Hamilton wanted to make George Washington an actual king – alright, elected monarch for life unless impeached by the Senate – and got the frostiest reaction from his fellow Convention delegates in Philadelphia imaginable, the notion of a ceremony and the need to surround the presidency with pomp didn’t repel many. Most of these aristocrats liked a little color and to step out for a party once in a while. These were the same firebrands orating apoplectically about Federal tyranny, because they opposed state governments having to pick up the tab for the wine. I think I forgot about the First Inaugural, the Second, and every other spectacle on that third January of the quadrennial, because I’m trying to stay true to the Preamble and the notion of equality.

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Happy MLK, Jr. Day

21 Jan

Martín Espada articulates the rosier vision of what Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy for America:

This is the longitude and latitude of the impossible;
this is the epicenter of the unthinkable;
this is the crossroads of the unimaginable:
the tomb of Frederick Douglass, three days after the election.
This is a world spinning away from the gravity of centuries,

where the grave of a fugitive slave has become an altar.
This is the tomb of a man born as chattel, who taught himself to read in secret,
scraping the letters in his name with chalk on wood; now on the anvil-flat stone
a campaign button fills the O in Douglass. The button says: Obama.
This is the tomb of a man in chains, who left his fingerprints
on the slavebreaker’s throat so the whip would never carve his back again;
now a labor union T-shirt drapes itself across the stone, offered up
by a nurse, a janitor, a bus driver. A sticker on the sleeve says: I Voted Today.
This is the tomb of a man who rolled his call to arms off the press,
peering through spectacles at the abolitionist headline; now a newspaper

spreads above his dates of birth and death. The headline says: Obama Wins.
This is the stillness at the heart of the storm that began in the body
of the first slave, dragged aboard the first ship to America. Yellow leaves
descend in waves, and the newspaper flutters on the tomb, like the sails
Douglass saw in the bay, like the eyes of a slave closing to watch himself
escape with the tide. Believers in spirits would see the pages trembling
on the stone and say: look how the slave boy teaches himself to read.
I say a prayer, the first in years: that here we bury what we call
the impossible, the unthinkable, the unimaginable, now and forever. Amen.

Here’s Espada on Bill Moyer’s reciting “Litany at the Tomb of FD”.

And, don’t forget the other half of America’s legacy of freedom.

(I apologize to readers and the poet for the unsightly code. If anyone knows of a simple tutorial for code, to post poems, please email me or post the link in the comments.)

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