In church on Sunday, our priest mentioned in passing Dr. Martin Luther King, and posed a question (I'm paraphrasing): "Who would have thought, when Doctor King gave his famous speech on the Washington Mall, that his dream would be realized in the lifetime of those hearing it?" The thought, which I have heard expressed before, set me to thinking about how a clear vision for how things could be in the future can actually change the trajectory of society.
And so, while humbly admitting that my dreams aren't as eloquent or as powerful as MLK's, I humbly submit three dreams that I would hope to see realized in my lifetime:
I have a dream that those involved in politics will assume their opponents are arguing their position in goodwill. Having become a political junky in my adulthood, I am disheartened by how hard most politicians and pundits find it to not cast doubt on their opponents' motives. While both sides have their share of opportunists and dealmakers, working with the assumption that a person genuinely believes his or her policy will solve the problem in question makes it a lot more likely to find a middle ground or a new solution that actually can work for everyone. This seems like asking for human nature to change, but then again, so did (does?) asking people to act without
thought of race.
I have a dream that we will cherish the value of human life. I am pro-life, but I think a major failing of those leading the pro-life movement is that they act as if the lives of the women and doctors involved are less important to them than the lives of the babies they may abort. But on the flip side, pro-choice rhetoric seeks to deny the obvious point that a human fetus is a human life. Abortions will happen in a sinful world, but appreciating the common humanity that unites everyone from the beginning until the end of life could change the tenor of the debate, and lead to a solution where abortion, at the very least, is seen as a genuine loss. I could make the same point about euthenasia, the death penalty, and medical cloning, among other topics.
I have a dream that religious people will really love the sinner. It is a difficult balancing act, in public debate, to condemn what you think is a sin without making the sinner feel rejected, shunned and unprotected by the law. We have to seperate sin (which is a matter of the soul) and crime (which is when one person does harm to another). A powerful article I read recently pointed out that if Christians had done a better job of reaching out to homosexuals by, for example, caring for those with AIDS, people might be a bit more willing to listen to arguments they might make about gay marriage, because it would be clear they weren't making the argument out of hatred for gays. But the reality is that many believers can't separate the sinner from the sin, leaving the faithful open to (sometimes well-deserved) charges of hypocricy.
At any rate, my list may seem utopian. But I hold out hope that as a society, we'll get there. (My dream for myself is that I get off the couch and find ways to make these dreams happen.) If we want to achieve the vision, we first need to clearly express the vision, which is what I've made a rough first effort to do here.