Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Times...

they are a-changin'. Forty-five years ago this week Bob Dylan released an album by this title, which included the song of the same name: The Times They Are A-Changin'. His words captured much of what was brewing in the hearts and minds of a nation. It was 1964. Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive and won the Nobel Peace prize that year. President Johnson announced the War on Poverty and signed the Civil Rights Act into law. The Beatles released their debut album, Meet the Beatles. Nelson Mandela made his "I Am Prepared to Die" speech. Comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested for saying "schmuck" on stage...and comedian Eddie Murphy was born. The times...they were a-changin'. In 1964, I was 11 years old and lived in Nashville, Tennessee. We had a maid - that's the term we used - a young black woman named Jean. She came to the house once a week to iron, mostly, and to give my mother a break. She couldn't read or write, but she sang all day long. She drank hot, black coffee...and told us we should never pick up the coffee drinking habit, because it would turn our skin black like hers. We loved Jean. One night in 1964, my mother was late getting home, and Jean missed her bus. Mom decided we should take her out to dinner somewhere between our house and hers. But I could tell as they talked about the plan that there was a problem. My mother pulled me aside and asked me to call the restaurant to find out if "they serve colored people." I still shudder as I recall the response I received from a loud, angry man: "Yeah, we serve 'em. We have to. It's the law." We didn't stop at a restaurant that night. By 1965, we had combat troops in Vietnam and our war was no longer focused on poverty. Selma, Alabama and the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles had become locations synonymous with the words riot and racism and fear. Malcolm X was murdered. Rodney King was born. The times...they were a changin'. The one step forward, two steps backward way. Are we there yet? Oh, if only a song could make real change happen. If only a law could make change happen. If only a great speaker and political will could make it happen. If only there were an easier route to change besides the one that changes the very hearts of human beings. One single human heart at a time. I am impatient by nature. This organic way of heart changing is too slow for me. I want Bob Dylan on the stereo, liberty and justice for all, and peace on earth...right now. In the meantime - Let's turn up the volume on Dylan today. And, make a donation of thought or money to a cause for peace and justice. And, take a friend - a friend of any race, religion, or sexual orientation - to dinner. Let's see the change and be the change.
Come gather 'round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown
The wheel's still in spin... Peace.

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