I wanted to write something for you about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, in honor of his birthday.
But I don’t know enough to do him justice. MLK Day is not like Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims, in that I haven’t thought extensively about him for decades. I know what I learned in American History class in high school and college. I know what Bono sang in the U2 song “Pride (In the Name of Love).” I know what I’ve heard on talk shows. But I don’t feel as though I know the Rev. Dr. King’s life well enough to write about him and do him justice. I mean, I figure, I grew up celebrating Thanksgiving and thinking about the Pilgrims and the Founders, I can read from a couple of well-regarded books and write thoughtful, sincere, informed, uplifting post. And I believe I did that a few weeks ago. But I’m not sure I can do that for MLK. And he is clearly a man who deserves it.
I know the Rev. Dr. King marched for civil rights. And yet, I can’t help but wonder what he would say, if he could, about those who have taken his mantle and his legacy.
Did he march for the right of all people of all colors and creeds to have the opportunities guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, written about in the Declaration of Independence, given by our Creator to every man and woman, yet denied, through “Jim Crow” laws and intimidation, to those with a high melanin content in their skin? Or did he march for the hiring and admissions quota system and the welfare state?
What would Dr. King say about the rate of illegitimate child birth, about households headed by mothers and grandmothers? Would he praise the courage of these women? Would he call upon the men who weren’t owning up to their duties as fathers and grandfathers to do right by their children? Or would he call for another government program to subsidize the poor and underprivileged?
I have heard that Dr. King owned firearms to protect his family, his wife and children. Or that he wanted to. What would he say about the City of Chicago, where until recently one could not legally purchase or train in the use of firearms? Would he say that we just need more cops on the streets to keep people safe and cut the response time to “9-1-1” calls? Or would he say that citizens need to protect themselves, that men need to take responsibility for protecting their wives and children and training them to do so for themselves?
I would like to think that I know the answers to the questions above. But I don’t. Not with enough certainty to do any more than pose the questions and let them hang with a rhetorical flourish.
The Rev. Dr. King was a man who helped to re-invent America. He helped to re-invent his future, which is now our present. So, I’m going to do what I think is honorable, and gentlemanly: Own my lack of knowledge. I’m owning the fact that I have more questions than answers. But I have bought the Rev. Dr. King’s autobiography. I will read that autobiography. I will read his sermons. I will read his famous, “I have a Dream” speech or watch it, if I can find it on the Internet. And I will get back to you with a post that answers some of these questions and illuminates life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, at another appropriate anniversary.
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