This week, we celebrate a man who represents equality amongst all people. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us no matter what differences we may have, either by the way we look, act or speak, at the end of the day, we are still brothers and sisters in Christ.
As he so eloquently stated on August 28, 1963, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Well, sad to say, during my participation in a recent Honolulu City Council Meeting, the dream still has not truly been realized, especially with some of those who oppose Chinatown’s River Street Project. It hardens my heart to hear a member of our own City Council, Rod Tam, and others in opposition to the project, testify that they are only okay if a certain “kind” of people were to be helped.
Not only did I hear Mr. Tam and others make references to their preference, but it appeared to be a theme with those in opposition. “We only want those who will fit in” to be allowed to live in the housing, said one representative. “We don’t want homeless people with mental illnesses or addictions” said another. We don’t want that “kind” said Council Member Rod Tam.
Have we gone back in time here? Have all the struggles for equality and justice for all been thrown out and forgotten? At one time, the fight was for those of color, and now, those in opposition want to turn their backs on those people in need? When does it end?
Recently, I went on a pilgrimage to Belgium and Rome.
I went to celebrate the Sainthood of a Priest from Hawaii, Fr. Damien de Veuster. Saint Damien, as he is now called, sacrificed his life for those considered outcasts, the lepers (a negative term used back in those days to describe people with Hansen’s Disease) of Hawaii.
It is St. Damien’s sacrifice for those who didn’t “fit in” or weren’t the “kind” of people wanted in Hawaii which should inspire everyone to realize the need to help the outcasts and the unwanted. Today, our outcasts, like the lepers of our history, are the mentally ill, the homeless, and the addicted.
Let us learn from these two gentlemen, Dr. King and St. Damien, two men, who, with compassion and sacrifice, gave their lives for the less fortunate, the suppressed, and the poor.
We may not want the solution in our backyard, but the reality is, the problem is in our front yard.
‘John Fielding, a resident of Oahu, can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org’