Saturday, January 25, 2014

Carpe Diem, Part Two

I stayed up late last night watching Dead Poets Society to the end. I'm still not sure what moved my friend to tears--there are many possibilities--but I do know what was especially moving to me, watching it at this point in my life.

(Spoiler alert.) A student at an elite private school tragically ends his own life. After an inquiry that doesn't uncover the truth, some of his classmates are told to sign a document that puts the blame on their beloved poetry teacher or risk expulsion. They sign it. Then in the last scene, the teacher comes to the classroom on last time to collect his things, and one of the students, who is painfully shy, stands up to defend him, defying the headmaster, bravely proclaiming the truth as he saw it.

Synchronistically, I decided to read the full text of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" today and came across these passages:

"I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's greatest stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice . . . I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality . . . We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."

Sometimes I use my voice in the face of injustice, but I fear it is only when the risk seems minimal or nonexistent. I need to use it more often. Carpe diem.

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