Monday, January 16, 2012

In honor of a King...

Every Martin Luther King Jr Day, I re-read "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and every year it feels both comfortably familiar and energetically new. And every year I think- I should branch out and read more things he wrote/said, if I love this so much...

So on this chilly morning that we are to honor a great man, I lingered in bed with a coffee and a wonderful book called "A People's History of the Unisted States" by Howard Zinn. I read the chapter on the civil rights movement and like all things - the more I learn, the more I realize how very little I know.

I was shocked - SHOCKED - to read Zinn's account of how King "became a chief target of the FBI, which tapped his private phone conversations, sent him fake letters, threatened him, blackmailed him, and even suggested once in an anonymous letter that he commit suicide. FBI internal memos discussed finding a black leader to replace King. As a Senate report on the FBI said in 1976, the FBI tried 'to destroy Dr. Martin Luther King.'" (read that again people - The FBI tried to destroy Dr King... and now we have a bank holiday to celebrate him!?!? I really don't know what to make of that.)

So I put aside my tried and true "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" quotes this year and I'm venturing out into something different.... this time its about protesting (which I feel is fitting because Time magazine's 2011 Person of Year was 'The Protestor' )....

"We have known humiliation, we have known abusive language, we have been plunged into the abyss of oppression. And we have decided to raise up only with the weapon of protest. 

It is one of the greatest glories of America that we have the right to protest.

If we are arrested every day, if we are exploited everyday, if we are trampled every day, don't ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. 

We must use the weapon of love. 

We must have compassion and understanding for those who hate us. We must realize so many people are taught to hate us that they are not totally responsible for their hate. 

But we stand in life at midnight, we are always on the threshold of a new dawn."
~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

p.s. the quote above is probably not the kind of thing that made him a chief target of the FBI - more likely it was saying things like "... its inevitable that we've got to bring out the question of the tragic mixup in priorities. We are spending all of this money for death and destruction, and not nearly enough money for life and constructive development... when the guns of war become a national obsession, social needs inevitably suffer."  

As I expand in my MKL readings, I still find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with every word he said. (and feeling remorse for how applicable his words remain to this day)

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