Sunday, January 20, 2008

Martin Luther, The King


In honor of my 1st posting on the BIB and the 2008 MLK Day holiday, I'm going to take a walk down memory lane all the way back to October 23, 2007.


Hey June Bugs,

It’s been a minute. Last time I blogged must’ve been in the dog days of summer. And here it is the last days of October oh-seven and … wait a minute it’s still the dog days of summer. Global warming is what I’m thinking. (Either that or my hot flashes have moved on to a higher, way more profounder level.) They gave Al Gore a Nobel Peace Prize for sounding the alarm. Them nice Swedish folks said, “This is for that and for keeping the peace for when you was robbed in 2000. This time when a majority of voters vote for you, you win.”

For those of you who know a little history, Gore’s peace pipe is being passed around with the same similar disdain directed in response to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1964 win.[1] Dr. King was among the first and the few to speak out against the Vietnam War. Plus, he challenged the capitalist corporate structure that has always been in conflict with America’s republic dreams and, most certainly, the demands of a democracy.

In 1789 the Framers (I will not call them founding fathers) defined the Black enslaved as property and only 3/5’s human. And now, two centuries later the descendants of those misguided leaders don’t want to talk about the sins of their fathers because it’s old news. But yet, they want to preserve the spirit of the Constitution down to every original comma. They want to have their cake and eat it too. Wouldn’t we all?

Lyndon B. Johnson saw the Nobel committee’s decision to honor MLK as a slap in the face. (He totally missed that they were pacifists not trying to bitch-slap nobody, but that’s how he thought. He was a real Texas cowboy unlike Ronald Reagan who was (to paraphrase Rush) "a phony cowboy", but a damn good actor.
(Quick aside on Reagan: Recent headlines are bemoaning the aging, drunken commercial pilot talent pool without any hinting at the reason why they all drink so much. Remember how Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers in a major union busting move? These guys have been flying solo for almost thirty years! You'd drink too! In fact, every time I fly, I have a few plus a few more. I don’t want to know what’s going on in cockpit. In this case, ignorance is pure bliss.


Dr. King was the newest and the youngest of the Black ministers in Montgomery, Al in 1956. He was 26 years-old when he was tapped to head up the bus boycott not because of his genius, but because he was low man on the totem pole. At least, that is how the historians will tell the story. But the storytellers will weave together the facts of the narrative and explain how it was God's will for a brilliant, powerful orator to be in the right place, at the right moment, for a righteous cause. The historians will recall his feet of clay and similiar details about his inner circle, but the storytellers will speak of the hope and optimism he gave to a downtrodden people. In another century there will no one alive to speak of the human being he was. He will be a deity to some and barely known to others. His power and influence will ebb and flow across the epic sea of time.

When my daughter was a little girl she used to call MLK, "Martin Luther, the King." She's all grown up now and calls him by his proper name -- titles and all, but I think she had it right way back when she was a child. Despite his human imperfections he was a king among mere mortals. His ministry from Montgomery to Memphis was barely a dozen years and yet in a few brief, shining moments the world changed for the better because of him. He was indeed a king, a prince, a husband, a father, a brother and a son. Today he is an icon, a symbol, a flawed hero who preached tolerance and non-violence. Not a bad legacy for a man who was only 39-years-old when he was assassinated. This is how the historians will lay it out. But to the storytellers, Martin Luther, the King is the stuff of the gods with giant-sized monsters and beautiful guardian angels. It is the story of a visionary, the stuff of legends and it is most benefiting to the honor and memory of a real and true king.


[1] Dyson, Michael Eric, Ph.d. taught a class about the legacy of Martin Luther King in a seminar class at the University of Pennsylvania, Fall 2005.

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