“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Washington D.C. is a town built on liberty. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln all stand tall here. Tall in history. Tall in marble. All with signs proclaiming their love of liberty.
Yet, all of the great men and ideas that this town has produced have lived with shadows. The shadows where those without liberty live. For all their noble writings and deeds, the champions of freedom did little for the liberty of certain of their fellow citizens.
Nevertheless, working along side those gallant figures were men and women who strove to give full meaning to the phrase “all men are created equal.” They sat in busses, they marched, they served meals, and they spoke out.
In gleaming white under azure skies, he now stands. He stands watching a city who’s bright lights of liberty still cast shadows. His dream of human dignity is now immortalized in stone.
As we visited, I watched the throng of tourists gathered. Most were taking photos, some were chatting, teens were being teens. One woman talked on her cell phone.
I sat next to her and eavesdropped discretely for a few seconds. She was telling the person on the other end how she never thought she would see this day. A day when an African American got as prominent a monument as all the other tall white men. I moved away so as to not stand in her light.
After awhile, my daughter and I walked away from the memorial. We strolled around the Tidal Basin under the cherry blossoms towards the Jefferson Memorial. Upon reaching our destination, we stopped to rest our weary legs on the marble steps of that other imposing monument.
As we looked out over the water under those same azure skies, I looked back to my left at the white stone of the great civil rights leader. Even from that great distance, I could see Dr. King looking at us. It was almost as if he was not only watching over the city, but keeping watch over Mr. Jefferson’s light of liberty as well. Looking for shadows.
There are still shadows.
Later, as we walked into the Metro station, a woman sat on the concrete floor. She was nursing a baby with her own sign, “anything will help.”
I handed her one of the McDonald’s cards I keep in my pocket. “This’ll get you supper.” I said. The baby fell away a little bit as she looked up with dead eyes. She was sitting in the shadows. When you’re hungry, liberty doesn’t mean much.
No matter where the light of liberty shines there will always be shadows.
Under the watchful eye of a champion of the oppressed, helped feed a mother and her baby.