"You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit." You see, Charley, you did not care. You ran after power and money. You broke his heart and made impossible your younger brother's opportunities to fulfill his life, his dream. And all little children have a dream. They "want to be somebody" -- a nurse, a teacher, a firefighter, a soldier, an astronaut, a carpenter, a truck driver, a hair stylist, etc. The list goes on as endlessly as there are children. Their work is their play is their dream on the way to being somebody.
And it is our responsibility to support these dreams, to help our children become somebody. Not only is it a family responsibility, it is our human opportunity to support life, to nurture it as part of a larger social contract. We have known this since at least the enlightenment when the idea of the Natural Law blossomed into an affirmation of human rights.
Remember our own Declaration of Independence?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
(Inspired by Thomas Jefferson and passed by Congress, July 4, 1776)
"Inalienable" means not subject to be taken away from or given away by the possessor. The rights belong to each human being, regardless of nationality, creed, ethnicity, or race. Toward that end, the United Nations on December 10, 1948, in General Assembly resolution 217A, set forth its sweeping statement of human rights, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The framers of this magisterial document began their encompassing articulation of human rights with these words:
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and
inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation
of freedom, justice, and peace in the world ...
In other words, this document, as well as our Declaration of Independence, sets forth a social contract in which each child and each adult is entitled to be recognized as having a right to strive "to be somebody."
It is what we all want, and -- I believe -- each of us wants to live in communities and cities where no one is hindered because of religion, race, or political persuasion from becoming somebody.
But something went terribly wrong the week of September 21, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C., when a black citizen, Keith Scott, was shot and killed by a Charlotte policeman in a confrontation that remains clouded in a web of videos and statements, some of which have been released to the public and some of which have not. Protests erupted, a suspicious package mailed to the police department prompted an evacuation of the area, the Charlotte city council meeting was stormed by protestors shouting profanities, the mayor and police chief were assailed by demands for their resignations, etc. Leaders of civic organizations and faith communities rushed into the streets to dialogue with protestors and plead for peaceful demonstrations, met by chants, "No justice, no peace." To the credit of all the leaders, a calm did prevail, but not without a recognition that business could not return to normal.
And business is what Charlotte is about. Founded in 1768, Charlotte is one of the 25 largest cities in the U.S., the largest city in N.C. with a population of 1.5 million people, home to over 10 Fortune 1000 companies, known for its trees and its hospitality, driven by its Calvinist work ethic, and generally recognized for its efforts in race relations, having elected two African-American mayors, and home of a prominent civil rights attorney with a firm known to do more "to influence federal civil rights law than any other private law practice in the United States," extending the legacy of Julius Chambers.
In other words, this Charlotte described above, is a credit to the emerging New South. The people of this Charlotte would say indeed that the city makes possible a way of life where each person "can be somebody." But the center does not hold. Its shining surface can deceive, but its center is stressed as are many of the urban communities in our world today.
For race remains as a great force that still divides us. So much has been accomplished, but segregation remains in our institutions, in our facilities, in our churches, and in our hearts. So much progress has taken place, but alienation remains as a cancer in our center, and as long as this prevails, as long as there are children who "fall through the cracks," we will be haunted by Terry's words to Charley, "You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit." We cannot do that behind the walls of our gated communities; we cannot do that as long as the poor are paralyzed, the middle class immobilized, and the "one percent" sanitized within an ideology of greed, materialism, and superiority that supports economic policies with no soul.
Strange combination of words there -- an economic policy with no "soul." So let me return to my opening theme. If indeed, all persons are created equal, if each person is endowed by his/her Creator with inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if the duty of government is to recognize those inalienable rights, and if our corporate interests must not be allowed to violate them -- then there could be a coming together of power and justice that might make possible a beloved community. This is where the soul flourishes.
This is the potential that governmental and corporate interests share in directing their power toward the common good for a new social contract. But of course, as you realize, you and I are the government and the corporations. You and I must hold the social contract if it is to exist.
As Martin Luther King said, power ...
has the strength required to bring about social, political, and
economic change. What is needed is a realization that power without
love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental
and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of
justice, and justice at its best is power connecting everything that
stands against love.
("Where Do We Go From Here?" King's presidential address to the
Southern Conference Leadership Conference before his death.)
It will not be accomplished easily, but it is possible. And when power, love, and justice come together in the center of our communities and our hearts, each child's dream of becoming somebody will be respected and honored. At its most elementary level, this is what the voices of protest in Charlotte were asking for, to be somebody.