What a week of striking, depressing contrasts. We seen, read and heard the coverage of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.
There he delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech, describing a vision of equality in the U. S. for people of all races. It is considered the greatest American speech of the 20th Century.
During this same time, in Panola County we have been dealing with the aftermath of an ugly, brutal, callous shooting which claimed the life of one teenager and wounded others in a hail of gunfire that is unimaginable to those of us who were not there.
Between the two scenarios there is such a disconnect that it defies explanation. In one, the lofty goals and ideals of 50 years ago were celebrated with rhetoric equally lofty. Goals espoused 50 years ago were compared — sometimes favorably, sometimes less so — with the reality today.
And part of today’s reality is what can only be understood as sheer hopelessness on the part of so many young black teenagers, especially young black men.
Teenagers! These young people should be looking forward to life, celebrating their youth and looking at the years ahead as offering them opportunity to determine their destinies. Instead they have lapsed into fatalism and hopelessness that pushes them into groups of like-minded youths and young adults who reinforce each others’ anxiety to the extent that firing rapidly and almost randomly in the vague general direction of an intended target becomes acceptable.
Against this rising tide of violence and helplessness stand so many worried parents, relatives, teachers, coaches, and on and on who are trying to lift these youths’ vision beyond what they are settling for. They are trying to convey a broader world of opportunity, of the possibility of escaping the fatalistic culture. They are trying to communicate the dream of 50 years ago into a dream that finds traction among troubled youth of today.