Tuesday, October 25, 2005

History remembered; history to be

Nearly 50 years ago, on December 1, 1955, civil rights icon Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat near the front of a bus. That courageous action was a defining moment in the civil rights movement, and galvanized such men as Martin Luther King to inspire major changes in how our nation treats African Americans. Sadly, Mrs. Parks died yesterday in her sleep. She was 92.

She taught us all that little people can accomplish big things, if only we have the courage to step forth and take on the status quo. Whether it's standing in front of an abortion clinic protesting peacefully, or refusing to go along with friends to a strip club, we can all change history--even if only for a few people around us. Our focus shouldn't necessarily be on changing the world. Let's just do whatever we should when we should, and it will add up. Of course, if we have a chance to get the message out to a larger audience, fine. But how we live each moment will change more hearts than waiting for the "perfect" opportunity.

Some say that the bus event had been planned, while others believe it was spontaneous. Either way, she did something forbidden by law but honorable, I believe, in God's eyes, and was arrested as a result. It would be years, however, before blacks were able to gain equal rights, a key piece of legislation being the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And like many other "wars," the war against racism got worse before it got better, as seen in the violently racist Bull Connor, who as Public Safety Commissioner of Birmingham in the 1960s became infamous for using fire hoses and police dogs against non-violent protesters.

Which leads me to the second part of my post. The Iraqi constitution has been approved by nearly 80% of the voters. This is a mere 2.5 years after our allies joined our heroic military forces in ousting the Saddam Hussein regime. Let us not forget that the US revolution against the British tyranny started in 1775, and the Constitution wasn't approved until 1787, 12 years later. If our efforts had been slowed then amid cries of "quagmire," or if the Civil Rights movement had stopped because people thought it was just taking too long, where would we be? I can't be sure what will come in the future for Iraq. Our nation's future was uncertain for many years, so I think we need to wait before we pass judgment on the success or failure of this venture in the Middle East.

History. It's made by people who, for better or worse, take action. We will remember the infamous like Saddam Hussein and Bull Connor every bit as much as we remember the heroes like Rosa Parks and the Iraqi voters. We are each a part of history. May we do our part to make it worth remembering rather than just being swept along by the tide of events around us.

(Picture of Rosa Parks from picturehistory.com. Picture of Iraqi voter from AP)

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