Monday, 16 January 2006

King Still Germane Today

Extraordinary vision retains its relevance across conflicts and issues spanning generations. The American hero whose legacy we celebrate today was a prophet whose vision remains eerily germane today. From his essay Testament of Hope published posthumously we find:
Today's problems are so acute because the tragic evasion and defaults of several centuries have accumulated to disaster proportions. The luxury of a leisurely approach to urgent solutions--the ease of gradualism--was forfeited by ignoring the issues for too long. The nation waited until the black man was explosive with fury before stirring itself even to partial concern. Confronted now with the interrelated problems of war, inflation, urban decay, white backlash and a climate of violence, it is now forced to address itself to race relations and poverty, and it is tragically unprepared. What might once have been a series of separate problems now merge into a social crisis of almost stupefying complexity.
The lists of particulars have changed somewhat, but the insight remains germane to issues of civil rights today, as it is transferrable to issues such as the environment. Like others I have little doubt that King would have continued to challenge our moral edges boldly and creatively.

His assassination rocked my consciousness as a child in a white Atlanta suburb in the sixties, so today I commemorated that memory by taking my own child to Seattle's rally and march in his memory. He was embarrassed by the volume of my chanting--"I should use the voice I have", I told him--but remained a trooper in the rainy two mile march, carrying his own sign much of the way. Present were the provocateurs trying to bend the rally to their own leftist ends, but they were largely unsuccessful. I observed the scorn of a young black woman, whose reaction to the attempted "Bush is a fascist" chant of one young white guy with a bullhorn, was "I'm not going to say that!" Perhaps I share the indictment of Bush, but there are better ways to dignify the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. Sans bullhorn, I shouted and shout still, "We're keeping the Dream alive!"

The fascist chant may have been off the mark, but not by nearly as much as the inclusion of fighter jets at the San Antonio MLK March, agreed to by their commission chairman Rev. Herman Price. Thanks to Jeanne at Body and Soul, Benjamin Greenberg and Tommy Calvert, Jr for their perspectives.

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