Saturday, June 20, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1462: What I really want for Selma

  “What do you really want for Selma?” I have been asked this question in various forms on many occasions. I am never asked this question about any of the other towns and/or areas in the ten-county district I represent in the Alabama Senate. Neither am I asked the question about other places in Alabama. It’s always Selma, Selma, Selma!

  In many ways, I want the same thing for every area in Senate District 23. In truth, I want the same things for Alabama, the country and the world. Such wants, however, are so broad and massive they become little more than wishful thinking. Therefore, let me try to answer the question for Selma... again.

  First, we must understand that Selma is a powerful symbol. It is known the world over. It is a symbol for freedom in the broadest sense of the word. Embedded in that broad symbol are lesser but consistent symbols: voting rights; peace; righteous struggle; democracy; etc. We always have a strong need for the reality behind our symbols to be consistent with the images projected. That’s why the questions concerning Selma keep coming.

  Although I have tried to answer these questions on many occasions, please allow me to try again. In short, I want Selma to be a model: a model of justice; a model of democracy; a model of peace; a model of equal opportunity; a model of mutual love and caring; a model of productivity and progress; and so on. I know that these are just words, and words are easily said. Therefore, bear with me while I become a little more specific in these few paragraphs.

  I want Selma to be a place of justice. To me, justice means that every person receives what God intends for them consistent with their own effort. When we mention justice, many of us think mostly of the criminal justice system. However, justice goes way beyond that particular system. It touches every aspect of our lives from birth to health; to education to economics; to politics, to religion, to family, to death and every area of our lives. We must have justice regardless of our race, our gender, our family background, our zip codes, our status, our circumstances. These things must not determine our opportunities and therefore our destinies. I want Selma to be a place where all of us have the opportunity be our best.

  I want Selma to be a place of peace; where violence does not take over our lives, our health, our peace of mind, our strength of spirit. There are too many murders, rapes, assaults, robberies and threats to our families and communities. The City of Selma became a symbol of peace through the spiritual force of non-violence overcoming the physical force of violence. That spirit must rise again and pervade Selma so this city becomes the embodiment of peace through non-violence.

  I want a Selma where our governmental entities and leaders strive for justice rather than inflicting injustice on the people. It is too much when individuals inflict injustice on one another. It is truly terrible when our government inflicts injustice on its citizens because government should correct injustice, not inflict injustice. The governments in Selma are too often instruments of injustice. Specifically, law enforcement must insure that it is an instrument to catch only the guilty, fairly convict only the guilty, and imprison only the guilty without regard to race, gender, status, background, education, wealth or lack of wealth, etc.

  I want Selma to be a place of economic opportunity for everyone. That opportunity may come in the form of a job, a business, a performance, a production, etc. Whatever form it takes, it is critical. What we do to earn a living is central to our identity. When our identities are not centered, the worst in us more easily manifests itself. Selma must be a place of economic opportunity.

  I want Selma to be a place of mutual love and caring. When we love and care for one another, we find ways to share and lift one another. When we love and care for one another, we protect and support each other. When we love and care for one another, we make a way out of no way. Love and care can make up for a multitude of shortcomings.

  I want Selma to be a model of democracy. Selma is a symbol of voting rights. Voting by those once excluded helped change this country. Selma must not be just a symbol but a place that practices full democracy. Everyone must have the vote. More importantly, we must insure that citizens’ voices are heard even in our city council meetings.

  It is easy to say what we want. It is harder to plan ways to get what we want. It is even harder to do what we must do to get what we want. We begin the process with thoughts, then we move to words, then we move to action.

EPILOGUE – Vision is powerful. The Bible says that without a vision, people perish. We are perishing because we do not have a vision. What is in your vision? Join me in developing a comprehensive vision for Selma.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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