Years ago I had the pleasure of seeing Richard Harris in the role of Arthur in the musical Camelot.
It was sweeping in scope. Epic. The story of a vision of justice that they tried to live in to in spite of their short-comings.
They were a flawed lot. Betrayers. Dreamers. Power grabbing. In the play things happen too fast and parts of the story that would explain the downfall are hidden and the audience can only guess. I wanted to shout “Look there, behind you!” But I didn’t know what to point to.
In the end Arthur walks through the rubble of the dream of a time and place built of great ideas of justice and good when he stumbles on a young squire who still believes and wants to be a knight of the Round Table. Arthur sings his final song to him:
Each evening, from December to December,
Before you drift to sleep upon your cot,
Think back on all the tales that you remember
Ask ev’ry person if he’s heard the story,
And tell it strong and clear if he has not,
That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory
(take a listen at link below)
When I left the theatre I sat in my car and sobbed uncontrollably for half an hour.
The United States of America is our Camelot, built on amazing, brilliant, beautiful ideas and ideals to be lived out by a flawed and imperfect people. Historically, we have worked to live into the dream of a nation of laws and justice, of common heritage not dependent on geographic origins, a work in progress pointed toward the perfection of universal suffrage and rights. We judged ourselves against our aspirations not our reality.
Today we stand in the rubble of what could have been. Things are coming too fast and parts of the story are hidden and untold that would explain our downfall. But most of us, like the audience of Camelot, can only guess at what is happening behind the curtain.
I want our ending to be different. I want the next generation to hold on to the dream but I want more than that. I want to win this battle for our souls.
This is the moment we rise, we stand, we march, we confront the would-be killers of the dream. Our future pivots on every action we take. How grand it would be to find a leader to lead us out but we’ve set it up so that we are the leaders.
So lead, friends, lead.
Be tactical in decision making, be willing to confront those who would rip the dream to shreds, and hold tight to the dream that is our heritage with every ounce of passion and commitment you can muster.
At the very least, go down fighting for what is worth fighting for. At best, the dream lives. It’s up to us.