City of Roses
With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's would-have-been 76th birthday just being commemorated Monday, and Bush's second inauguration party coming to a close, indeed Americans have been left thinking often of the meaning of peace, freedom and liberty.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came from a long tenure of pastors in his family at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he followed in his fathers footsteps as co-pastor until his assassination in 1968, on the evening of April 4, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with garbage workers on strike.
In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now civil rights movement, which was on the rise during that era. Christianity and Gandhi proved great inspirations to his ideals. From then until his death, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times. At the age of 35, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
Throughout his career, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advocated his "dream" which still resonates to many today from the steps of Washington D.C, a call for the day when everyone will "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." and the call for civil equality and unity and the end to racism.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was also an advocate of non-violence and a leader in the Vietnam anti-war movement. He was quoted for saying the following things:
"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."
"World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built."
"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."
"War is a poor chisel in carving out tomorrow"
Today, Martin Luther King Jr. remains a cultural and historical working class hero, whose name is dedicated to streets and stretches of highway in many states, to the names of convention centers, to the inspiration behind many activists and politicians today.
Yet, we have witnessed the philosophy of this most honored man being challenged in the 21st century to date among the issue of "terrorists". In result, Muslim-Americans have fallen victim to this all too familiar suspicion, silence, and oppression. These so-labeled "terrorists" are being argued they are exception to the rights of the Geneva Conventions, almost as though terrorists are being treated or classified as sub-humans.
"Freedom" was a frequently used word in the inaugural address Thursday, said 27 times in 17 minutes, with "liberty" added making a combined 42 times in usage. Yet, Bush's vision for "freedom" appears rather opposite to that of King's, which is rather cloaked as a call for a major international militarized campaign in sweeping out terrorism across the world.
Bush's speech, which has been hailed among many critics as many things including "the conservative side of JLK's classic inaugural address", has uplifted some, while having others mourn, particularly among the anti-war movement and crowds, who fear King's philosophy has been suppressed and obfuscated these recent years, and fear more hatred and violence will erupt.
What role does Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. play today in America and the world, and how relevant does he remain?
"You'll find something that's enough to keep you
But if the bright lights don't receive you
You should turn yourself around and come back home" MB20