On Sunday March 31 1968 Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivered a Passion Sunday sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington DC King preached a powerful message about the importance of “remaining awake through a great revolution” It was his last Sunday morning sermon Indeed King talked that day about Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” who slept twenty years and woke up “completely lost he knew not who he was” Said King “One of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes the new mental responses that the new situation demands” King went on to say that “Whenever anything new comes into history it brings with it new challenges and new opportunities” But King dismissed the notion that the mere passage of time could address the critical challenges we face “Time is neutral It can be used either constructively or destructively” said King “I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation the extreme rightists of our nationthe people on the wrong sidehave used time much more effectively than the forces of good will And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say ‘Wait on time’ Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability So we must help time and realize that the time is always ripe to do right” Did you feel that Talk about prophetic witness That was King almost 50 years ago His admonition was prescient then it’s perturbing now So how do we maximize this moment by using our time wisely One We need a “revolution of values” With all due respect to the brilliant artist Gil Scott-Heron it appears that the revolution will be televised after allespecially if Donald Trump has anything to do with it And he’ll likely want to be credited as an executive producer But the racist revolution that Trump is fronting is not at all what King had in mind Rather King called for a “revolution of values” that will cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past present and dare I say future government policies Two Live for today but fight for tomorrow It’s abundantly clear that America is struggling with an identity crisis I don’t think we have a clue about who we are really because it’s impossible to juxtapose the lofty ideals we profess with the lowbrow ideas that are about to take hold Our national dysfunction has caused some to surrender their right to be outraged Not me not now not ever Each of us gets to decide the who what when where why and how of our individual protest But now more than ever we must all protest It’s time to reclaim our democracy from the Lost & Found The democratic seeds we plant today can yield a freedom harvest tomorrow Three Be hopeful even if you can’t be optimistic Optimism suggests there is a particular set of facts circumstances or conditionssomething you can see feel or touchthat gives you reason to believe that things are about to get better I grant you that for millions of fellow citizens or even simply you and yours that is absolutely not the current situation Hope on the other hand allows us to fight for those things we believe in even in the absence of any evidence that our struggle is winning or worthy It’s hard for me to be an optimist in this present moment but I am unalterably and eternally a prisoner of hope because hope itself is a form of resistance Four Spit truth and stomp toes It’s time to make the truth matter Fake news is a farce It seems the truth is whatever folk determine it to be It’s only true if you believe it None of us has a monopoly on the truth but there must be some objective standards on what’s real and what’s fake what’s true and what’s false No lie can live forever but lies have legs We have to chase them down and tackle them in the open field because “democracies die behind closed doors” Five Misery must never have the last word My grandfather used to always say to me “Tavis there are some fights that ain’t worth fighting even if you win but there are other fights you have to fight even if you lose” Dr King was fond of saying that “When a man straightens his back he’s going somewhere because a man can only ride your back if it’s bent” You see misery is no match for moral courage We need to summon that moral courage If we then conjoin that with unarmed truth and unconditional love we might just might be able to save a democracy in danger Unlike Rip Van Winkle we cannot afford to sleep through this critical moment in the narrative of our nation Lest we wake up in four years completely lost not knowing who we are We are the founders of our future Which begins nownot in four years not even in the New Year This is no time for sleepwalking Remain awake Contact us at [email protected] IDEAS TIME Ideas hosts the world’s leading voices providing commentary on events in news society and culture We welcome outside contributions Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editorsThis story originally appeared on xoJanecom I’ve always been the one who feels a knee-jerk need to apologize for everything Very often I mean it When you’ve had a bad day when something sad or terrible happens to you when I’ve done something stupid and my actions warrant an apology you can count on me When an actual “I’m sorry” is necessary you’ll never find a person more willing to gnaw on a piece of your frustration anger or sorrow with you These past few years I’ve been making a concerted effort to divvy out my “I’m sorries” much more judiciously so that they actually MEAN something Most people deserve something more than a breathless attempt at smoothing things over However when I’m nervous unsure or feeling guilty (whether it’s necessary or not) “I’m sorry” can become my version of “Oops” or worse “Don’t you think you should say the same” Ugh passive-aggressive BS Lately through all the struggles and victories of living in Japan I’ve found “I’m sorry” popping up more and more in my English vocabulary Some of it is an attempt at cultural acclimation some of it is just plain old Default Louise trying to absorb some sort of real or perceived faux pas I could spend thousands of words talking about how I got this way upbringing social anxiety people pleaser self preservation fear of judgement blah blah blah but whatever all of that amounts to and while I begrudgingly accept this part of myself it’s a part of me that is at times wholly useless For crapsake I’ve caught myself apologizing to a table I jammed my toe on The table didn’t care and neither did all the people who weren’t there to witness it The table and I are still friends I’m fully aware that an onslaught of apologies when I have no reason to be sorry is not only annoying but can be vaguely offensive No Lou you’re not sorry when the words just tumble out What I’m actually saying is “Don’t blame me” or “I feel dumb” I really started paying attention to how I handed out apologies when a dear friend and professional mentor finally snapped at me “Louise cut out the ‘I’m sorries’ You’re better than that You don’t mean it and you don’t have to Don’t waste your words Mean what you say” And all I wanted to do was say “I’m sorry” It’s an ongoing battle “I’m sorry” is not a prefix a suffix a qualifier or a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for when I’m uncomfortable But in Japan I’m having to negotiate the “I’m sorries” in a whole new way From what I’ve observed so far Japan is a culture of apologies I’m not saying that Japanese people are insincere or pushovers Far from it Rush hour in a busy subway station or negotiating with the friendly but unwavering cell phone salesman over the up front one year service payment due in CASH will teach a person that right-quick What I am saying is that as a culture that is incredibly polite sensitive and gracious apologizing is part of formal interaction “Apologize first” is just the way things are done here Often times when I’m out and about with fluent Japanese speakers I’ll hear the nugget of a request or question imbedded deep within profuse apologies and slight bows Yet despite the social requirement people really seem to mean it when they apologize “I’m sorry I’m interrupting you…” “I’m sorry that I don’t speak English/Japanese…” “Excuse me I’m sorry that I don’t know what this purple thing on your menu is I’m sorry Thank you” You’d think my compulsively apologizing little heart would rejoice Well it did at first Every accident every mistake could be cleared with a “sumimasen” (I’m sorry) It was expected it was welcomed it was glorious But you can imagine the slippery slope this started The apologies started seeping into my non-Japanese interactions My husband would step on MY foot and I’d apologize A friend from America would call me on Skype two hours late and I’d apologize An expat friend would show up unannounced at my apartment catching me in my full “Today Was Not Human Interaction Day” glory and I’d apologize Since I’ve noticed my compulsion rearing its head again I’ve been sorting through a duality I’ve never encountered before No there isn’t some feral Louise roaming the streets of Yokohama maniacally apologizing to vending machines and gurgling infants but this is my first experience immersing myself in a foreign culture and finding the balance between Japan Louise and American Louise is something that requires much more self awareness than I thought I was capable of I need to play by Japan’s rules to some extent There is some pleasure in losing myself in the foreignness of it all and just doing as I’m expected to do It’s not always easy but in the middle of it there’s a lesson in unclenching my ego Japan doesn’t care if I find their customs “unusual” or “compromising” to my “individuality” Their definitions of such are different work just fine for most Japanese people and have been around a lot longer than me When I find myself getting my kittens in a twist I just remind myself that I don’t have to drink the Kool-Aid but I do have to respect it Look at me making discoveries all over the place But while I’m discovering all this in the context of my Japan life I’m realizing that this is not an all-or-nothing situation I can pass a lot of my Japanese cultural experience through my American filter I’m learning that ideally the basic intent is the same anywhere: Be considerate of other people and if you’re going to say something say it with conviction In other words mean what you say When the Japanese people I’ve met here apologize it appears as if they are genuinely sorry for having bothered me that they appreciate that my time is valuable They say it because it’s expected but the intent is also expected It’s not just empty words There’s an unspoken willingness to start from a place of respect and go from there I’m making a generalization I’m new here and probably a little naive but there is still something to be learned in that kind of interaction So while I don’t want to adopt the cultural norm of constantly apologizing my constant apologizing within the context of my western culture can be quelled by taking a few lessons from the intentions of the people here I’m still working at it There are still times I have to clamp my mouth shut to stop myself from apologizing to my American friends for the sound my nose makes when I breathe but I’m making an honest effort to live by the mantra “Mean what you say” During this time of trying to learn a foreign language being keenly aware of every word that comes out of my mouth I find that it’s worth applying that logic to my mother tongue English may be easy for me but it does not have to be thoughtless Louise Hung is a writer and theater director Contact us at [email protected] IDEAS TIME Ideas hosts the world’s leading voices providing commentary on events in news society and culture We welcome outside contributions Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors and could even end the need for multiple remote controls.

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