Allow me to begin by saying that I arose today feeling a bit under the weather, and surly. I will speak bluntly. The little eloquence I am often able to display will sit in the corner…and I will speak plain truths, as I see them.
Today is the day in which many the world over remember and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe as time marches on, everyone chooses to see MLK in different ways…in their own way. I mean that, we all choose to see him in the way that creates the least amount of dissonance in our brain with the reality which we live.
I will always see and remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a dissident. A very dangerous subversive who stood in the face of injustice, and whom fought tirelessly against those things which were popular and the norm, in favor of what he felt was right.
And many people are content to believe that his focus was entirely on racial equality. And I suppose those same people would willingly say that as we enter the last year of the presidency of our first black president, that “the dream” that everyone so fondly recalls has been fulfilled.
Everyone has their favorite quote…their favorite sentiment. To me…they all just seem too…tame? I don’t know…yes, he was a man of peace…but damn, he was also quite possibly one of the harshest critics of America that the world has ever seen.
And rightfully so.
I like to spend some time every year on this day, to reflect upon the lessons we can learn from MLK…so very many…and what each of us can do to continue upon the path he laid out for us many years ago. And to remind myself that he was a very complex character, who will probably never be fully appreciated in popular American media. He was no saint. We know that he in some way, whether emotionally or physically, engaged in extramarital affairs. Even the best among us have moments of weakness, and that is an important lesson to remember. No one is perfect.
And to I like to embrace the dissonance in my head. I don’t run from it. I embrace it. The dissonance caused by the fact that today, hundreds of thousands of people will post memes and sentiments of quotes, and mountaintops, and dreams…and will spend the next 364 days of this year sitting comfortably on their ass, never putting forth one iota of true effort to see those things achieved.
Or those people who vehemently criticize labor unions, and criticize workers fighting for fair wages for a fair days work, or who attempt to defend a police officer shooting a young man 16 times after his limp body hits the ground after shot #2. And those same people will post something about MLK, while spitting in the face of his legacy. And in 2016, the first thing that is supposed to come out of my mouth is “But I’m not judging.” Oh…I am judging.
To some, that all is surely a maddening concept. To me, that’s American business as usual. In 2016, that’s how the majority of Americans “get down” as the younger crowd would say.
And allow me to tip my hat to the many, many people who work…who struggle and toil to see justice in the many facets of life, both in America and abroad. I could drop names for the next 3 days…but those people know who they are. People that I both admire, and work every day to be more like.
But every year, I also hope that at least 1 person, at least 1 soul out there will find inspiration in those words and sentiments, and in those aforementioned people, and make a promise to get into the struggles which many face in today’s world, in hopes that we will see true justice in America.
And those struggles are many…and oddly enough, are many of the same struggles which MLK saw in the world in which he lived….capitalism abusing the poor and lower classes, raging militarism, and yes, the denial of basic human and civil rights of Americans by their own government.
- Separate and Unequal, All Over Again: 60 years after Brown V. Board of Education, schools are disturbingly segregated.
- Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think
- Chicago Is The Most Segregated City In America: Analysis
- DATA: The divide in school funding between the rich and poor
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I think about the reception that King received when he visited Chicago. The yelling, screaming, the throwing of bricks (one of which hit him) and the constant threat of riots simply at this presence.
My two favorite MLK quotes:
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”
“All we say to America, is be true to what you said on paper.”
The more things change….the more they stay the same.
And finally on this day I like to listen to my favorite MLK speech. As an educator, I am always surprised, and often dismayed, when I ask students about MLK, and of course, they all can tell you about the “I have a dream speech.” A few of them can even tell you some of the things mentioned in that speech, and most can offer you the overall sentiment of the speech. But when you ask about any of his other speeches, the room goes silent.
Well, my favorite MLK speech was the one given the night before his assassination, now known as the “I have been to the mountaintop” speech. While most people are familiar with the last 2 minutes of the speech, the entire 43 mintue speech is mesmerizing. I try to think what was going through Martin’s mind as he stood there in that room full of people, cutting deep into the heart of the popular American psyche.
I also wonder, as many have debated, whether the last 2 minutes of the speech…were for him, or for his friends. When you see his eyes, his face…the weight bearing upon his mind, on his shoulders…it feels he knew that the end was fast coming. The speech had been delayed by a bomb threat. He was receiving death threats daily, and being encouraged to cease in his civil rights activities or his infidelity be revealed publicly. His face is the face of someone who has the weight of the world upon his shoulders.
It is so unfortunate that he was taken from us so soon. But he will always serve as a guiding light for generations to follow, and learn from….to gain strength from. “He gave so much, under so much duress…can’t you give a little?”
Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A man so very deserving of honor and praise. A true American patriot.
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