I have now lived on this earth long enough to see many great changes. I will admit, I lived a very sheltered childhood. I grew up in the rural areas of Idaho where the land was tamed by farmers content to plow the fields of the high desert growing food (mostly potatoes) for the entire country. We knew little about the oppressive south where civil rights seemed to be a hot bed. Our world was relatively monochrome and our views and ideals must have seemed quite naïve to those outsiders coming to live here.
When Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous speech in Washington DC on August 28, 1963 I was just a small child more concerned with what snack I would be getting before a nap than with the fate of racial relations in the country. As I grew old enough to attend elementary school I remember hearing about the civil rights movement going on all around the country. It never quite seemed as real as it must have in areas where there were larger populations or more diverse communities. I had exactly one classmate who was black and I could not imagine anyone being treated differently as a result of the color of his or her skin.
At home my parents would watch the news and we would see demonstrations about equal rights or protests against segregation and I would be left bewildered that there were places in our country that still acted in this way.
Now I sit here having raised a family and I look around and see that the text of Dr. King’s speech is as meaningful today as it was the day it was given. The context could be described in each of our lives. It is not as much a struggle based in the color of our skin, as it is a battle for people to open their minds and their hearts and be more loving to those around us.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
With the opening of Spring Training just 36 days 22 hours 54 minutes and 12 seconds away, I am still engulfed in the darkness of the baseball off-season giving me plenty of time to be reflective and philosophical. Before long pitchers and catchers will report followed shortly by position players. At that point fans will flock to stadiums to cheer on their teams. Natural rivalries will be reignited and at least once in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues there will be a game that will be delayed as players from both benches will meet on the field most likely a result from a pitcher hitting a batter.
Fans will begin screaming both at the stadium and on social media calling out players and fans alike making disparaging remarks feeling protected by being an anonymous name and avatar on the computer. They will spew out vile comments that they would likely never say in person.
These are the new battlegrounds of Dr. King’s message. While his message was based on the racial relationships of his day, the new struggles are all around us as we try to regain the civility that seems to have been lost through the years.
We owe it to ourselves and to our children to teach tolerance and respect for those around us. Whether we feel we have been wronged or misunderstood, we should turn the other cheek. At times it will be hard. There will be those who say painful or hurtful things many of which will be untrue but if Dr. King taught us anything it is that we must be greater than our opposition. In the end we have more in common than we have differences. We live in an amazing country and we are fans of the greatest game ever invented. It takes leaders like Martin Luther King to remind us of that and it takes people like us to understand that we should all have a dream and be free to chase that dream regardless of our skin color, lifestyle, or team allegiances.