Sunday, August 25, 2013

I still have a dream.

You may recognise much of this.

Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech. Delivered 50 years ago this month.

Reworked a little.

The changes are actually small. (I have revised perhaps 10% of the text. And mostly local references to 1963 America - the ones which could not be recast on a world stage of today.)

The need,
and the pain,
and the hope,
huge.

*****************

Six and a half decades ago, forty eight nations came together to sign a declaration which stated that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. That declaration, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, came as a great beacon light of hope to millions who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice and the unimaginable calamity of war. It came as the hope of a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But 65 years later, we must face the tragic fact that the transgender person is still not free. 65 years later, the life of the transgender person is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. Sixty five years later, all over this world, transgender people live on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. Sixty five years later, transgender people all over the world are still languishing in the corners of the society and find themselves exiles in their own land.

And so we join together to dramatise an appalling condition. In a sense we've come to cash a cheque. When the architects of that declaration wrote the magnificent words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they were signing a promissory note to which all citizens of the world were to fall heir. This note was a promise that all would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of “life, liberty and security of person.”

It is obvious today that the world has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her transgender citizens are concerned. Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, the world has given transgender people a bad cheque which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this world.

So it is time to cash this cheque - a cheque that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We also remind the world of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquillising drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.

Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of justice.

Now is the time to lift our nations from the quicksands of injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood and sisterhood

Now is the time to make justice a reality to all of God's children.

But there is something we must remember, we who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: in the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvellous new militancy which has engulfed the transgender community must not lead us to distrust of all others, for many of our cisgender brothers and sisters, as evidenced by their support, have come to realise that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realise that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of transgender rights: "When will you be satisfied?"

We can never be satisfied as long as the transgender person is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the world.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the transgender person’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. Or to the isolated and lonely margins of society. Or from a brief life without chances to an early death at the hands of others or, driven to despair, at their own.

We can never be satisfied as long as our young people are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by practices including arbitrary dismissal from their work, or even assault in the street, without reason.

We cannot be satisfied and we will not be satisfied as long as a transgender person in Rio de Janeiro cannot find a job simply because of who they are and a transgender person in Kampala believes there is no point even trying.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. I am not unmindful that some of you have experienced great trials and tribulations. Some of you have spent time in narrow jail cells. Some of you come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.

You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Guatemala, go back to Turkey, go back to Russia, go back to Nigeria, go back to the quiet bigotry of Europe, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the dream of equality. I have a dream that one day this world will rise up and live out the true meaning of the creed established that day after that appalling war - we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all are created equal.

I have a dream that one day in the poorest barrios of Mexico City the next generation of transgender people and the children of those who used to murder us with impunity will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood and sisterhood.

I have a dream that one day even the nations of Brazil or Honduras, states sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that children will one day live in a world where they will not be judged by their gender identity but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, in parts of Africa, with its vicious bigots, with its politicians having their lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Africa children will be able to join hands as sisters and brothers without the poison of hatred towards transgender people driving them to bully and cast out the one whom their parents say is “different”.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the world with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of England!

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of Canada!

Let freedom ring from the heightening peaks of the New Zealand! 

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped volcanoes of Iceland!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of Argentina!

But not only that.

Let freedom ring from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica!

Let freedom ring from Mount Ararat of Turkey and Mount Athos of Greece!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Nigeria and Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uganda, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every nation and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black people and white people, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and all others will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

**********

With full acknowledgement to the King Estate, and The King Center. 

Martin Luther King's original text is here. There are some small additional passages which he seems to have said on the day but weren't in the original text

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