I have a dream

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I have a dream” speech before the nation, where he spoke of a world where all men, women, and children would be free; free to live, love, and have every opportunity to claim the most from life, regardless of their skin color.

It’s been over half of a century since this historic speech, and yet it seems as if very little has changed in the ‘United’ States of America.

Every morning, I wake to new headlines which spout fear, propaganda, division, and despair across their global audiences.  A perpetual “Us versus them” takes place in the media; making the readers believe they are standing on the right side of a holy war, led by the righteous leadership of Washington, who send boys to fight their wars and conquer new lands in the name of American Imperialism….I mean, “patriotism.”

I have to admit, as a white American man, I have never encountered a situation where somebody locks their car as I walk by, holds their clutch tighter, or gather their children closer as I walk by.

I walk the streets openly at night, unafraid that I will be randomly selected for a ‘friendly’ conversation by a man holding a gun and a badge.

I drive freely, even with broken taillights, because I do not fear a random pull-over.

I can freely apply for jobs, without fear of receiving a lessor salary or pay rate (link) of my peers.

This list could go on, and it continues to. Even writing this, I recognize that I’ve been entitled to a world of privilege my entire life that is so comfortable and common for me, that all of the ‘perks’ I have as a white man in America are often lost on me.

Right now, there’s a lot of media coverage about hot topics in America; COVID-19, police brutality, immigration, healthcare, and the dying middle class. These topics each tend to receive their share of selective outrage, while very little is done to solve the problems we face.

Why aren’t “they” doing anything about the state of the we live in? Why won’t ‘somebody’ do something about the issues we face?

Because it isn’t ‘their’ job to make things right.

It’s yours. It’s mine. And it’s ours.

MS Skaubyrn

In 1957, my grandparents immigrated to America from Amsterdam. My father was an infant at the time they crossed the Atlantic on the MS Skaubyrn. They were one of the millions of immigrants that went through Ellis Island in order to begin their new lives in the US.

At that time, it was required for each immigrant to have a sponsor family, prior to entering the country. The sponsor family was committed to giving the immigrant family a place to live, basic income, and help facilitate their transition to U.S. culture.

This was the start of the Plaat family in the United States – as well as my roots.

As a result of his workmanship, and presence in America, billions of passengers on the Bay Area Rapid Transit System have been kept safe, as he was the engineer who designed the entire brake mechanism – which he held under US Patent US3990547A (link).

Guess what failed when the new BART cars (without his device) entered service on the tracks? The brakes. I digress.

I tell this story because it highlights the responsibility and opportunity each of us have to be kind to those who are different than us, or come from different backgrounds.

You and I each have the opportunity to be sponsors of change in our world today. It doesn’t take providing a home, or income, or even clothing to others in order to facilitate change (though those are wonderful!) it takes a heart that is open to change, being willing to take the time to learn explore those who are different than you, as well as welcome them into your life as friends.

I still have hope that one way we can live in a world where all people can be free, have the same opportunities, and openly walk the streets without fear of their neck being crushed by a man who is paid to protect the people who pay his paycheck. 

I hope we can have a world where our governments drop books instead of bombs, build bridges instead of bombers, and actively serve and love those they claim to protect, rather than trampling over them like grass.

Take a look at your social circle – are there any people of different backgrounds, sexual orientation, or color?

Do you walk by the homeless on the street, or acknowledge their presence and give them the gift of conversation?

Are you actively helping anybody right now? Emotionally, financially, spiritually, or mentally?

Are you sharing content on social media, or actively taking part in making the world a better place for those you encounter, off-screen?

The reality is that there’s not one-click solution to making the world a better place. There will always be ‘bad behavior’ we encounter. However, the correct response is to lean in to finding solutions, loving those around you unconditionally, and being a voice for those who have none…

….because they can’t breathe.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” – MLK

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