Now is the Time
This year marks the 48th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s (1929-1968) ``I Have a Dream” speech. To commemorate his legacy, a memorial to Dr. King was recently unveiled on Washington’s Mall.
The famous speech, only 17 minutes long, was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. More than 200,000 civil rights movement supporters congregated there in 1963 to peacefully demonstrate and to express their demands for racial equality and the end of discrimination. The legacy of that gathering and that speech is immense; it seems certain to be a far-reaching influence on generations to come. Its immediate impact was to press the Kennedy administration to advance the civil rights legislation in Congress, a goal that was finally reached under President Johnson.
King was a powerful speaker, inspiring his listeners ― both those who were there and those who have heard his words thereafter ― to hold on to their dreams of a society of equality and justice, and to strive to make those dreams a reality.
One of the notable features of the speech was use of the rhetorical device of anaphora ― the repetition of the same phrase at the beginning of each sentence. It was a tool that King used many times. We all remember that he repeated ``I have a dream” over and over, for a total of eight times. ``Now is the time,” ``One hundred years later,” ``let freedom ring,” and ``free at last” were reiterated in the same way. His magnetic power successfully held the vast audience’s attention throughout his message, as he presented his vision of a united America where skin color has no relevance.
As I re-read the full text of the speech not too long ago, I was especially struck by the ``now is the time” portion of his message. “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”
It is not a change that can wait till it is convenient. It is not something where one can afford to wait for the gradual righting of the wrong. It has to be immediate. Its urgency is now.
Some issues in our life need fixing right away. If a husband is beating his wife each time he drinks, waiting for gradual change and improvement is a ridiculous and sometimes deadly response. That problem has to be addressed without fail without losing any time. If a child is sold for sex-slavery, that atrocity has to stop now. Not when the poverty and perversion that underlie that inhuman practice cease to exist. If a priest is sexually abusing a parishioner, that monstrosity has to be stopped now.
It is not an issue that can be swept under the carpet. If drinking and smoking are killing people ― that has to stop instantly. Not twenty years later when the cancer has played havoc in one’s body. If a hurricane is coming one’s way, the preparation is not after the hurricane. The time is now. If a relationship is broken, the time to get the relationship right is now. Not when that person is at death’s threshold.
Do you have an issue that you need to address right now? Are you in a position to grant forgiveness to someone? Can you set that person free? Do you have an eating disorder? Better tackle that problem soon. Do you treat your chauffeur and maids like dirt? Do you regard them as beneath you? Do you deliberately avoid associating with people at work that are not useful in your ladder climbing? Do you ignore those who do not seem to have your intellectual prowess?
In the nearly six years living in Korea again after a long interval I have constantly witnessed subtle and obvious discriminating behavior against people who are lower in the social scale defined by money and educational level. Indeed, now is the time to examine that undesirable and despicable attitude and correct it. Take a position. Do the right thing. Now is the time to get rid of classism in Korea.
Global warming is a serious global problem facing all humanity right now. Ignoring it will put us in more perilous position. This situation won’t go away just by belittling it or denying it. Now is the time to collectively start measures to confront and prevent the acceleration of the climate change before it becomes impossible to stop.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, ``Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Let’s not stay ignorant and being stupid insisting that we don’t have a global warming problem. It is high time to get educated and do something on this matter. Now is the time.
Hyon O'Brien is a former reference librarian now living in the United States. She can be reached at email@example.com.