Only two weeks into the new year, it is Martin Luther King Day – and it is amidst anger (among African and Caribbean nations in particular, but also across America and the world) at the words of the President of the United States. I have promised myself not to mention his name, nor will I repeat his despicable words. I think we all recognise racism when we see and hear it – through actions and words. What a start to 2018…
So Dr. King’s words seem to come into sharper focus in 2018, laced even more heavily with meaning and relevance. Now, I have always felt that Dr. King has never been as “airy-fairy” as he is sometimes portrayed. There was nothing lightweight about him. Let’s not sweeten him up, too much. He was, in fact, a heavy hitter. He was “good trouble” (see below…)
Well, the President of the United States did not honour the Martin Luther King Day holiday by performing acts of service. I don’t think he has ever done such a thing – unless you count that painful episode where he was laughingly throwing food items at Puerto Ricans after the devastation of Hurricane Maria – “Here, catch!” No, he went off to play golf in Florida.
I wonder how Dr. King’s family felt about this; but they took the high ground. Dr. King’s daughter said today:
“We cannot allow the nations of the world to embrace the words that come from our President as a reflection of the true spirit of America.”
She did not mention the President by name either, but suggested that “our collective voice” of Americans must be louder than his, and is more important than ever before. “We are one people, one nation, one blood, one destiny,” she continued. She described her father as a patriot, but also as a citizen of the world (something the President is not; I posted a bitterly humorous cartoon of “Trumpworld” from the New Yorker this week).
There was also some focus on Dr. King’s widow Coretta Scott King, who founded the King Center in Atlanta. Besides her lifelong campaigning for racial and economic equality, Mrs. King “was a visionary for women’s rights on her own merit,” according to Senator Diane Feinstein.
Congressman John Lewis shared another marvellous photograph of himself sitting next to Dr. King, with the comment:
Dr. King was my friend, my brother, my leader. He was the moral compass of our nation and he taught us to recognize the dignity and worth of every human being. #
Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted a hopeful message. I can just hear Dr. King saying this in his measured, ringing tones, with that sing-song preacher note in it:
When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this Universe working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.
But the MLK quote that resonates most strongly for me this year – if I can just pick one out – is this:
If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means, keep moving.
Because we have to “keep on pushing,” as people used to say. We don’t have any option. Keep going.