One of the things about revering a saint is that oftentimes such a person, as well as his words and deeds remains frozen in time, and are not able to save those who need help and guidance in moments of crisis or impending danger. Such is the case with slain Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who would be eighty-three years old this month. The birthday of this great African-American is a national holiday, there is a museum and national monument built in his honor, and his writings, as well as speeches, are taught in the most dilapidated and rundown classrooms in America as well as among the recommended curriculum in some of the most prestigious institutes of higher learning throughout the world, but the question remains that needs to be asked is whether or not he is still relevant? Of course, this is not to suggest that he is not an important historical figure and cultural icon, because he is, but on another level, is it heresy to suggest the MLK brand, especially the "I have a Dream" speech to be nothing more than a one-size-fits-all social template that is no longer useful or practical as it needs to be, especially in the complex world that we live in today? It's like the what would Jesus do mantra that is just way too simplistic because things are not 'just' Black and White in the rainbow social universe of today.
To determine if such a statement is seen as disrespectful to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., consider and think for a moment: What would MLK say about "Gitmo?" or the Iraq/Afghanistan War, the mortgage crisis, occupy WALL STREET, rap music ad use of the "N" word, Oprah Winfrey, gay marriage and GLTB rights, 911, North Korea, Iran, water-boarding, the national debt crisis, political gridlock in Washington D.C., President Barack Obama, the recession, bullying, legalizing marijuana, the Arab Spring, the European debt crisis, Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, capitol punishment and the disproportionate number of minorities on death row, Herman Cain, Israel, Palestinian statehood, Lady Gaga, the Republican and Democratic political parties, pedophile clergy, Mormonism, Islam and the holy Koran, immigration, outsourcing jobs, The Bush Administration, Global Warming and the KYOTO Treaty, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, video games with violent and sexual content, suicide bombers, Ron Paul, the Tea Party, Mega-Churches, the economic power of China and India, NRA and gun control, reparations for descendants of slaves, reverse discrimination, Roe vs. Wade, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, birth control/contraceptive use, racial profiling and a host of other issues or people?
Since nobody is able to channel the spirit of MLK through some kind of clairvoyant trance, and even if someone could, it still doesn't mean he would have the answers to the problems we face today. The legacy of MLK, it seems, is not for us to look backwards in time and become stuck in reminiscing about the past, but rather to look toward the future and use his example to become the MLK in each succeeding generation. One of the most poignant statements ever made by Dr. King is "If a man is not willing to give his life for what he believes then he is not fit [doesn't deserve] to live." Now, that is what having a mission in life is all about and if each person would take to heart these powerful words then the "Dream" will continue to live on in us. It is much more deeper than a mere festive annual holiday celebration, awash with drama and ceremony, but rather it is a life-affirming commitment to making the world a better place in which to live; it's sacrifice without expecting recognition nor reward in return, absent of even the smallest trace of praise, glory or honor.
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January 16, 2012
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