I watched the Inaugural celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. There were singers singing about freedom, and actors reading the words of great Americans from the past. And above it that great stone effigy of Lincoln scowling down like a great prophet who had delivered his message of freedom and was waiting to see how badly we’re going to fuck it up.
And I have to admit it, I got a little choked up.
And I thought,
Am I being cynical enough?
Do I need to keep my guard up?
Am I being suspicious enough?
Will people think me a fool, if I’m earnest in my hope?
Then I realized, I wasn’t choked up
Because of the Rosa Parks story
Or the Lincoln quotes
Or the talk of a nation built on an idea.
I was choked up because I was tired.
Ever been that tired?
So tired you feel like you might weep?
I was tired of being lied to, and manipulated, and treated without respect,
Like I was some sort of moron.
I was tired of freedom and love of country being thrown in my face
Like ads for soap, in order to sell an unjust agenda.
I was tired of my patriotism being questioned because I had the audacity
To point out that I was being lied to.
By leaders who became avatars of cynicism, and doubt, and mistrust.
And yes, death.
I was exhausted.
Shouldn’t I be?
Because if I go into this new era,
With a heart clear of cynicism,
I could get hurt.
I could look the fool.
I could get heartbroken.
Cynicism seems so attractive when compared to heartbreak.
You could be cool.
Heartless, but cool.
When I was talking about Death a lot.
I talked about how we may not all charge the machine gun nest
Or save the passengers from the freezing water
Or carry the child out of the burning building
But we would, we will, all face death
Maybe many times.
And how we behave at those times
Is the measure of our courage, of our character.
And so maybe now,
Like taking the chance to fall in love,
We face another one of those moments,
But instead of facing it one at a time
Small, trying moments, large in our little lives
We face this together.
We can be cynical. Hold back. Be safe.
We can be suspicious, and doubtful,
Or we can go forth openly, hopefully
With a heart
Clear of the cloud of cynicism.
A crystal heart.
And if I were still on speaking terms with God,
That’s what I’d pray for.
A crystal heart.
Clear in purpose,
Clear in righteousness
Clear in resolve
For us all.
And it might get broken.
And it will take courage to face that.
And it will hurt like a bitch if it does.
But then again,
Have you ever fallen in love?
Pure, sweet, illuminating, edifying love?
It makes us better than we could ever be.
Stronger, taller, kinder, more generous.
Tolerant, patient, and assured.
Should I be more cynical?
Should I be more suspicious?
Should I keep my guard up?
I think not.
To be right, to save face in retrospect, to live for the hope
Of profitable hindsight.
Is safe, and shallow and cowardly
And more likely to bring about a future darker than today.
No, I think I’ll go into this fresh American future
With a crystal heart.
Take the risk.
After all, you guys will all be there.
We’ll all be there.
Thanks for helping me think this through.
Happy Martin Luther King Day