Societal Dreaming
Delayed but Not Dashed

Last week, I wrote about a personal dream being delayed or dashed. This essay is another article about dreaming, but this essay moves from the personal to societal dreaming. Nevertheless, it is an exact parallel to my personal dream being delayed or dashed.

What do you do about realizing our societal dreams? Back in the early 60s, some white liberals started to become involved in the civil rights movement. It was a delayed dream of whites that America fully addressed racism. Once some whites got aboard the freedom train, to paraphrase Langston Hughes, it wasn’t easy to be black or white liberals as we fought for social justice six decades ago. While writing this essay, I listened to a litany of singers singing We Shall Overcome. Unless you were there, you can’t feel what we felt back then. We did know that we would overcome.

There was a feeling among blacks and whites that segregation, killings, and discrimination would end due to the civil rights movement. We all grasped that America would change. We weren’t moving to some utopian society, but we were moving to a more equal society. Granted, there were roadblocks like Wallace, Faubus, Thurmond, Fulbright, Maddox, etc. Those bigots were standing in the doorway of universities, voting booths, and at lunch counters. Nonetheless, we knew that we shall overcome.

We also know that the song had a caveat to our timetable to success. “We shall overcome, someday.” Someday didn’t mean a delay of six decades. Someday meant in the foreseeable future. What I don’t grasp is why it is taking all this time. Still, whites are killing blacks, and some of the killers are white cops. Bob Dylan sang The Times They Are a-Changin’, but the times are moving ever so slowly.

To be honest, I don’t see much of a drive moving in the direction of equality. We lack the fervor that we had in the 60s. If I knew what was lacking or how to get the movement more in gear, I would be writing about it now, but I don’t understand what happened to what we once had but somehow lost.

I see States rewriting voting laws, making it even more difficult for people of color to vote while gerrymandering districts.

If you are younger than fifty, ask someone my age about what they feel when listening to We Shall Overcome. It is what we believed and felt. We knew that we were on the side of the right. Then ask them how they feel in comparison to the zeal that we once had.

What once was….

I don’t know what the missing pieces are. While I and others attempt to resurrect what once was, I know that we will be empty vessels without dreaming. Our dreams are delayed, but we won’t allow them to be dashed. As Bobby Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.”


This is the etymology of We Shall Overcome.