Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 9:01 PM on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Some touchstones to help in these troubled times

By Tim O'Leary

How is domestic tranquility to be preserved when the prevailing moral authority sets population against population, as Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer did by falsely accusing one population, Mexicans, of beheadings in the Sonora Desert?

Sweet Jesus, so much for moral authority, so much more for our Republic. Have we no more a sense of collective responsibility, of collective repugnance? Or is it that we dwell now in a vacuum?

In the wake of Jared Loughner's bloody rampage in Arizona, listen to two provocative thoughts of Martin Luther King Jr. I recently came across. They might help serve, in this troubled time, as a touchstone:

"The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people."

And: "We may have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now."

With Martin Luther King Day having fallen just last month, it seems we'd do ourselves well to reflect hard and long on the triumph of the African American experience, coming from slavery and, from but only a few decades ago, Jim Crow relegation, to Barack Obama ascending to the presidency of the United States of America.

Its pure beauty gives me the shivers.

On further reflection, let us pay homage to our forefathers for our living, breathing Constitution that allowed for the 13th Amendment that banned slavery and the 14th Amendment that applied our precious Bill of Rights to the states, lest any one state, like liberal New York, arbitrarily take its citizens' guns away or a conservative state, like Alabama, especially with its present governor, impose the Baptist church as the state's state religion.

Let's be profoundly grateful to the Bill of Rights, especially with the Ninth Amendment, (though far too overlooked) for setting the roots of a living, breathing Constitution.

Alas, with memories of Martin Luther King Day still fresh, let us have recalled how that brave pioneer of the American spirit was so senselessly stricken down.

On further reflection, let us recall Lincoln's Gettysburg Address of the wrenching struggle "to form a more perfect union." Let us recall the horror of the Civil War, the gruesomeness of brother against brother from which, at one another's hands, the river of blood that flowed: some 600,000 lives — before mothers, wives and children — rendered to molder, and, afterward, how many of the living were left to spend the rest of their days to wrestle with the soul-seizing horror of the war?

Thus, let us not forget the magnitude of our debt.

Let us have rejoiced in the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, rejoiced in the 1963 "I Have a Dream" march on Washington, rejoiced in the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts and let us have rejoiced, apart from our politics, in a black man standing before us as our president.

Let us have resolved, especially with such sacrifice before us, to stop fooling ourselves that troubled and murderous behavior operates in a vacuum. Let us fully appreciate just how, all too easily, it is fanned.

It's worth repeating: "We may have all come on different ships, but, indeed, we are in the same boat now."

God bless America and see us through today's troubled times. Let us get on with the beauty of the voyage of our singular American story of plurality within unity. I hope these sentiments aren't, to some, too appalling.

Longtime Homer resident Tim O'Leary describes himself as a natural-born anthropologist.