If the protestors noticed the clouds, they didn't care. Hundreds of them walked down D.C. streets in sheets of rain, almost oblivious to the nighttime thunderstorm. Soaked, some of them knelt at the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, quietly listening to his "I Have a Dream" speech in a kind of calm that's eluded the city for days. For several minutes after midnight, that iconic voice seemed to float over the Tidal Basin, a call as clear as it was all of those years ago: "Now is the time to rise from the dark."
As the city braces for this weekend, more people may make their way to that spot and see the towering image of a man whose answer was peace. And maybe they'll see his stony eyes, fixed out across the water, and heed those words, "We cannot walk alone." Brotherhood, Rev. King said on that hot August day, comes from faith. That's what transforms us. Not bitterness. Not hatred. Not violence.
When Rev. King spoke those words, Dr. Ben Carson was just an 11-year-old boy. He knew what it was like to be treated a certain way because of the color of his skin. But over the course of his life, he came to realize that something far more important defined him: his relationship with God. "[It] tells me I have to forgive everybody and not hold grudges and not let that hatred... grow." Honestly, he said, "I don't want to sound like a preacher, but that's the real solution -- a change of heart of people. And unless you get that, it's all cosmetic."
No one wanted another senseless tragedy, but we have a unique chance, Dr. Carson said, to learn from it. "This is actually a golden opportunity for us to do something about some of the relationships that have broken down in our society." But we need to recognize, he went on, that "the greatest civic change ever in this country was brought about by Dr. Martin Luther King [through] complete nonviolence. That's what people need to take away from this. Forget about... always blaming somebody else for what's going on. I always say, look in the mirror and ask yourself: Are you part of the problem, or are you part of solution?"
Right now, Dr. Carson shook his head, "We're in the place where we say, 'Well, the president has to do this, or the government has to do this, or the mayor has to do this. No, you have to do it. You start right with yourself in your own home... Are you helping your fellow man and facilitating his betterment? Or are you exacerbating the situation? If we all begin to think that way, it makes a big difference."
We've all been led, either by the media or popular society, to point our fingers at someone else -- the White House or the governor's mansion -- and insist, "They need to solve this problem." But the reality is, it's our country. We all have to take responsibility for what's happening here. America is a nation of the people, for the people, and by the people. But if that's going to work, then the people need to be involved.
At the end of the day, Bishop Vincent Mathews reminded us earlier in the week, our skin, our zip code, our status -- it's all superficial. "It's the love of Christ that binds us." And it's that love that will impact society. But when you remove God as the center of your life, Dr. Carson warns, "you have to replace it with something else. And that 'something else' is unlikely to be very good. It doesn't permeate love.... It permeates hatred and resentment and revenge and all of those things that you see coming out. You look at the hatred that some of these people manifest toward the police. They're willing to kill someone because they have a uniform on. [They] don't know this person or have a relationship with them... Where does that come from? Certainly [not] from any Judeo-Christian values that [formed] this country."
But there is something, he urges, that we can all do. Maybe you feel hopeless in all of this pain and brokenness. Don't. All of us can help model a way forward. Ask yourself, Secretary Carson said, "What is my sphere of influence?" Start by being Christlike with those people -- your friends, co-workers, all the people you associate with. "It builds out," he promises. "It makes a huge difference in the way that they treat you and the ways they begin to treat other people."
It's a big mistake to think that we can't change the world in our own homes. As far as I'm concerned, that's the most important place to try.