How to Talk to Dead People

I can speak to dead people. And you can too. All you need is a medium. Not just any medium, but the medium of the written or spoken word. (For best results, speak only to Great Souls).

Unless you are asking a question, when you speak to the dead you can only imagine how they are responding. The voice will be vague in proportion to how intimately you knew, or know, the person. The more familiar you are with your deceased conversant, the clearer his or her voice will be.

Good questions evoke the clearest responses, through books, audio or video recordings the dead have left behind. I'll demonstrate.

Seeing as how this past Sunday marked the 41st anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's celebrated – and co-opted – "I Have A Dream" speech, let's talk to America's most noted peacemaker.

Gonsalves: I'd like to talk to you about the "I Have A Dream" speech and see if you think it has any relevance in our post 9-11 world of increasing violence and growing poverty.

King (vague voice): I'd rather respond to your questions using a lesser-known speech I gave two summers before the March on Washington. It was a commencement address I gave at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1961. It deals with the same theme but with a much broader vision. It was called "The American Dream."

Gonsalves: OK. First question. What's the most striking thing about the American dream?

King: "One of the first things we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism. Not... some men. But... all men. Each individual has certain basic rights that are neither conferred nor derived from the state."

Gonsalves: Yeah, tell that to President Bush or John Ashcroft and you might find yourself labeled an anti-American terrorist-supporter.

King: "Ever since the Founding Fathers of our nation dreamed this noble dream, America has been something of a schizophrenic personality."

Gonsalves: It does seem that American democracy is a bit anemic.

King: "But the shape of our world today does not permit us the luxury of an anemic democracy. Now may I suggest some of the things we must do if we are to make the American dream a reality."

Gonsalves: What must we do?

King: "First, I think all of us must develop a world perspective if we are to survive."

Gonsalves: But the dominant ethos of our political culture is to protect "our way of life" by any means necessary. What do you think of that?

King: "The American dream will not become a reality devoid of the larger dream of a world of brotherhood and peace and goodwill. Through our scientific genius we have made of this world a neighborhood; now through our moral and spiritual development we must make of it a brotherhood."

Gonsalves: But aren't we Americans the good guys and "they" the "evil ones," to quote President Bush?

King: "We must all learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools."

Gonsalves: So you're saying we need to make social and economic justice a priority?

King: "All this is to simply say that life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality."

Gonsalves: That's the logical conclusion of globalization, isn't it?

King: "Maybe we are spending too much of our national budget building military bases around the world, rather than bases of genuine concern and understanding. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way the world is made. I didn't make it that way, but this is the interrelated structure of reality."

Gonsalves: And you honestly think nonviolence is the only way to make the dream a reality?

King: "The practical aspect of nonviolent resistance is that it exposes the moral defenses of the opponent. Not only that, it somehow arouses his conscience and breaks down his morale. He has no answer for it. If he puts you in jail, that's all right. But if you use violence, he does have an answer. He has the state militia."

Gonsalves: But don't you think that's a bit naive and unrealistic?

King: "In a day when Sputniks and Explorers are dashing through outer space, and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can win a war. The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence; it is either nonviolence or nonexistence." See. I speak to dead people. And you can too. Try it.

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