This past April, we took our kids to Washington, DC for Spring Break.
It was so inspiring to be in the place where all the action is, where our government is at work, where so much of our nation's history is stored and remembered... We could have stayed for weeks to take it all in!
The trip was also a great teaching moment for us for so many reasons. Though our country and nation's capital is full of American ideals, they are really more like our hope, what we want to aspire to, and that doesn't always carry over in to what happens in real life. This is a hard lesson for children and adults alike to grasp.
As we walked around the Tidal Basin, taking in the glory and splendor of hundreds of Cherry Blossoms in full bloom, we wove in and out of massive monuments dedicated to the early founders of our country, to the Presidents that laid foundations, Presidents that built upon them, and Presidents that sought to make changes for the better. Standing tall amidst these memorials to the early American "giants" of our country--Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt--was the memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.
It brought tears to my eyes to see this man's image and all that he stood for among the (white) Presidents of our country. It was a testament, a proclamation, a commitment to remember all that MLK Jr. fought for, and it is also a promise, to keep fighting for all that he hoped and dreamed our nation could one day become.
It is heartbreaking how much work there is still to do. Breaking down systems of oppression, institutions and structures that have made it impossible for people to be treated equally, fairly and with the dignity that every human being deserves. If we're not speaking up and doing something about it, we are complicit in its continuation.
Here's an excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr's letter from a Birmingham Jail, 16 April 1963:
Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.
Tension is necessary for growth. I love this so much. Without tension, there is no change. Without speaking up, reading and talking about, without listening to and engaging others, we will not able to get to the place where we can confront the issues in our country head on in a meaningful way that brings forth systematic change.
As you are enjoying a day off with your kids, I hope that you are telling them and teaching them about MLK Jr. I hope that beyond that, you engage your kids and your friends in looking around and SEEING that there is still work to be done in our towns, in our schools, in our laws. Will you ask yourself, where can I provide some "tension" in order to facilitate conversations towards change?