Wednesday, July 02, 2008

marching to harare

It was 28 August 1963. A Wednesday. I was within four days of being a freshman in high school, and had ridden my fancy two-speed Huffy to see my friend, Mike, who lived right next to the brand new school. We were going to take a look at the building that would imprison us for four years.

I cannot recall if we ever made it onto the school grounds. What I do recall is that he was watching television. And it was not a baseball game. It was a huge rally in Washington, DC, and there were speeches. I remember only one of them -- Martin Luther King's famous "I have a Dream." We sat mesmerized.

But those are the nice pictures I remember. I also remember news footage of a young black girl walking bravely to class through taunts and jeers in Montgomery. Of Birmingham fire hoses, truncheons, and dogs coming in force against unarmed men and women who only sought a better world for their children. And of committed young men and women from the north who came south to be freedom riders -- some to die in dark piney Mississippi woods.

Neither Mike nor I could have possibly known how those brave Americans would help give birth to new social attitudes -- a better America. Where the natural God-given rights of the Declaration of Independence would continue to show their power.

Today I wonder if anyone is ready to make the same commitment that the freedom riders made to help the captive people of Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe is a far more malevolent force than Bull Conners, George Wallace, or Orval Faubus. He is every bit as fascist as Fidel Castro -- and with none of the limited charm. The brave people of Zimbabwe believed they could use democratic processes to remove him from power. They were wrong. He responded by literally burning children and hacking young wives to death.

There is rash talk of deposing him with military force. I hope the world has learned that military force solves problems only if you are willing to use that force over a long period of time -- and to be met with more force.

Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi, and Jesus had a different idea. You must meet evil with civil disobedience, but not with arms. That is what the lunch counter sit ins and the freedom riders were all about.

But where are they today -- the freedom riders who will go to Zimbabwe? Where is Barak Obama? Where is John McCain? Where are the churches? Where are the civil rights leaders?

Yes, of course. They give moral support. But where are the sandals on the ground? There is an opposition in Zimbabwe. They simply need to know the world is with them -- and that people will physically stand beside them.

I wonder if there is another 14-year old boy who is watching the terror of Zimbabwe unfold -- who is asking whether there is a better future for us all?

[Note: OK, Steve. Why are you asking all of these good people? What are you going to do?]


islagringo said...

Oh Steve, please do NOT tell us that you are heading to Zimbabwe to try to do something!

Steve Cotton said...

Probably not. But I just feel as if I have to do something.

Babs said...

I understand your frustration Steve- I feel it also...I don't want to sound cynical BUT if their land had oil, we would be there! Look at Darfur, Rwanda and now this. Why are SOME people more important then is so tragic.
My way of "dealing" is to do something for someone in need around honor of the people I can't do anything for....It's not much, but it's something.......

Steve Cotton said...

A friend just called and asked me if I had gone nuts. "I thought you libertarians wanted people to mind their own business," said he. Well, we love liberty and we love other people being able to enjoy theirs. And Babs is correct. I cannot control what happens in Zimbabwe, but I am responsible for the opportunities that God puts in my path -- right here, and right now.

Psyche said...

You write very well.