That night, in one city where violence was expected but did not erupt, Robert F. Kennedy, gave an unplanned, unwritten and amazing speech calling for calm and understanding at a time when fear and anger abounded. Kennedy pleaded with the mostly Black crowd not to resort to violence and to instead pick up the baton that King had handed to them in order to continue his work for peace and racial and economic justice:
"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."In other words, one small, seemingly insignificant act, word or event can start a revolution.
Over the years -- especially after Ronald Regan began to dismantle the social safety nets that were constructed to protect the poor, elderly, the children, the disabled, etc. -- we've wondered when Americans (as Tracy Chapman predicted) would finally rise up against injustice:
"Poor people gonna rise upWith the economy spiraling downward, an illegal war raging in Iraq, record job losses, foreclosures at an all time high, a crisis in health care and education, with criminals holding the highest offices in government with little or no outcry or oversight from Congress and the media, finally and at last, we're talkin' about a revolution.
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take whats theirs"
By "revolution" we do not mean a gigantic social conflagration. We are not advocating a violent revolt. Instead, we dream of a revolution resulting from an ever growing dissatisfaction with an oppressive status quo. This dissatisfaction (we hope) will exert so much pressure on the political and economic system that is currently so incredibly unjust that it will crumble from the force and the numbers of those who are no longer willing to accept systemic injustice.
Are we seeing that revolution now? Is the Obama candidacy an example of a new kind of revolution? How else to explain a phenomena whereby millions of poor and disenfranchised American's have pooled their otherwise paltry economic resources to support a grassroots candidate who has managed to become a front-runner in a race for the highest office in the land?
Especially when you consider the odds against such a thing happening.
Of course there are those who believe that Obama's campaign is not actually a "bottom-up" phenomenon. They suspect that there is a nefarious and powerful force that has propelled Obama from obscurity to top-ranking presidential candidate in just a few short years. Others believe Obama is beating Hillary Clinton in the primaries because the media and his supporters are misogynistic. Some believe Obama supporters have been mesmerized by his Svengali -- or even Hitleresque -- orating skills.
But in order for the above to be true, Jimmy Carter, Teddy Kennedy, Bill Richardson, Alice Walker, Caroline Kennedy and many other thoughtful and intelligent folks (including us) would have to be duped or in on the conspiracy. I can assure you we are not misogynistic, mesmerized or hypnotized, nor are we part of a grand conspiracy.
Could it be that voters are so accustomed to powerful political parties -- with the help of big corporate money, easily hacked-into voting machines and the media -- choosing our candidates for us that can not bring ourselves to believe in a real grassroots revolution?
After 7 years of Bush saying and doing whatever he wants while Congress and the media say and do nothing, American's may be suffering from "battered spouse syndrome."
Perhaps we have come to believe we deserve another abusive, political party anointed candidate who will rearrange a few chairs and perhaps do a few things differently but who will ultimately still be accountable to the big donors and party fat cats who paved his or her way to the presidency.
But what if a candidate manages to rise up from the grassroots -- supported by a majority of the people -- to overcome the party machine and win?
Will we join the revolution or belittle it?