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Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King

As a friend wrote to me today...

"Today is Martin Luther King Day.  For years I took the standard fundamentalist position relative to Dr. King, and then an event occurred that began to change my mind.  A fine young Black man suddenly died while playing basketball in our church gym in a program that was being run by my son.  Rick and I were invited to be part of the funeral service and were treated with the utmost of respect and kindness.  There was a Pastor involved that I had known for several years, and he was a sound  believer and Biblical preacher.  We had some time to talk at the Visitation, and somehow the conversation turned to Dr. King.  I asked my friend what he thought of the man, and I was surprised by his response. King was one of his heroes, and he spoke highly of him and his work.  He was very open to my questions and answered them to my satisfaction.  Since then, I have other conversations with Black friends about Dr. King.  They readily admit his flaws, but they point out the tremendous amount of good he did for his people.  I have come to respect the work of Dr. King and believe he would be aghast at the racism of some who invoke his memory in the current political scene.  None of our White heroes has been perfect.  Neither was Dr. King, but I deem him worthy or respect and honor on this, his special day."

We know thatJ. Edgar Hoover was concerned about Dr. King (which in light of Hoover's failings may well be praiseworthy in and of itself).   We are aware that Dr. King was not a perfect man.  But no one but Jesus Christ could make such a claim.  Not one of us can hold up our lives and present perfection to the world!   Dr. King stood for principles of equality and equal opportunities, not for a welfare state that would tend to imprison the very people it was intended to "help."  Dr. King did not want such help.  He wanted freedom!

Dr. King was a Republican and he enlisted Republicans to help him fight the Southern Democrats and their Jim Crow laws.   He would probably be amazed to discover that the majority of his "race" (not that I think that race is actually a way we should be identifying and separating ourselves) votes Democrat and thinks the Democrats are on their side!   He would be appalled at the way Jesse Jackson chose money over convictions and has become another race-baiting Democratic talking head.   But for now I will prefer to remember Dr. King by reminding us of his own words...From the US Constitution.Net site:

"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

Martin Luther King, Jr., delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial. (photo: National Park Service)
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!""


Was Abraham Lincoln shot for freeing the slaves?  Was Dr. King shot for his work as a force for freedom from Jim Crow and racial hatreds?  Were John and Bobby Kennedy shot for being men of principle who stood for classic American values, against organized crime and racial hatreds and against communism?   The men who shot down these American men of substance could stop their hearts from beating but they could not stop their words and ideals from living on.   Ideas do not die with a shot from a gun.  They live on when they are true and believed and lived out by others and when they inspire good men and women to take action to promote them.  

"What I do say is, that no man is good enough to govern another man, without that other's consent. I say this is the leading principle - the sheet anchor of American republicanism." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, "Speech at Peoria, Illinois" (October 16, 1854), p. 266. 

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
John F. Kennedy

Ultimately, America's answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.
Robert Kennedy

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not work and even give his life so that people could be given welfare checks and live in ghetto conditions, the nuclear family split by government regulations, with young people given the choice of sports, gangs, or probable death.   He did not want people to expect a stipend from the US Government.   He did not want the word "deserve" to creep into our vocabulary when it came to rights.

Dr. King wanted all men of every color and creed to have opportunities, not reparations.   He wanted us to see each other as equals, no better or worse than any other because of our appearance or our accents or the color of hair, skin,  eyes or any other such biological variations on the organism we call human.   We humans are created in the image of God.   Dr. King believed in this God.  He called upon his God, the God of the Bible, to help him win freedom for all and end racial discrimination and racial hatreds.

I believe Dr. King would scold Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama and John Lewis and Maxine Waters and Al Sharpton and all else who continue to play the race card and make political hay from racial hatreds and tension.    There is no excuse for prejudice FROM ANY SIDE!!!!   Whether your skin is darker or lighter, redder or yellower, more pink, more white, more olive, black as night?   This has no bearing on who you are on the inside.   None!   You should make no judgments about a person based on such appearances.   Black folks being prejudiced against Whites is no more right than the reverse.  Hatreds by or against Latinos, Greeks, Irish, Polish and many others have been part of our past.  

To properly honor Dr. King, all who promote racial tensions and hatreds must repent and lay down their weapons.   Hear his words again and heed them!

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Me too, Martin.  Me too!