Sunday, March 8, 2009

Thank You, Dr. King

And no, I don't mean for the day off from work.

Sometimes a person comes along that virtually everyone can relate to, even if they don't want to admit it. Sometimes these people become famous. Quite often, they don't; instead, they are stifled before they can achieve their potential and end up pushing paper for an insurance company (not that I have anyone in mind or anything :-) ) and their good works are never realized, are not put down in the annals of time.

But sometimes destiny works out differently, as with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King's focus on addressing racial segregation and discrimination are well documented, particularly his urging of civil disobedience in the face of unspeakable adversaries. There are always approaches other than violence, and Dr. King made crystal clear the fact that you can move metaphoric mountains without raising an angry hand.

Not as well known are Dr. King's position opposing the Vietnam War on religious grounds (I have a minor obsession with the Vietnam War, which goes with my late sixties obsession) or his tireless work to abolish poverty, perhaps as big a "racial" divide as that between black and white.

I think Dr. King would be unspeakably proud of Barack Obama and all of us who supported him when he is sworn in as the 44th U.S. president tomorrow (although King himself might have achieved this had his life not been cut short by an assassin's bullet). Sadly, though, I also think that Dr. King would be ashamed and appalled by the abject poverty that still permeates our country and keeps the American Dream forever at bay for many, many people.

I am not blind to Dr. King's faults or unaware of some of the less-than-savory things he did (I've researched the whole doctoral thesis uproar, for example, and yeah, he plagiarized), but I think that when someone comes along and is just at the right junction of time and space and is able to touch and motivate and inspire so very many people, it is just a remarkable and beautiful thing.

Thank you, Dr. King, for your hard work, your peaceful soul, and especially your inspiration. The torch you lit still burns today, and I think it will be burning especially bright tomorrow at noontime.