The words of Martin Luther King Jr., which still resound like a bell, are repudiation to those small few. His life was a testament to the world that, when pressed, America will rise. What would he now say, 48 years after he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and dared this country to live up to its word?
Washington, D.C., is filled with grand monuments of once-prominent people — mostly on horseback — whom most of us couldn’t identify in a lineup.
It is fitting that homage was paid to those Americans who dedicated themselves to help us become what Abraham Lincoln called “a more perfect Union.”
It’s difficult, therefore, to understand why some Americans continue to hate and resent a fellow citizen who applied the tenets of Christianity as the means of acquiring justice for all of the nation’s citizens.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr., which still resound like a bell, are repudiation to those small few. His life was a testament to the world that, when pressed, America will rise.
What would he now say, 48 years after he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and dared this country to live up to its word?
Perhaps he would marvel at how much progress has been made, due in no small part to his ministry — real faith enacts real change. But he also would be deeply dismayed that a country that prides itself on its religious heritage has become so strident, angry and unforgiving.
It might be difficult for him to believe the warp speed at which we’ve made progress –– from “Bull” Connor to a black commander in chief. He would be speechless about the fact that a bloody and defiant Mississippi could produce an Oprah Winfrey, and that a black child raised in Jim Crow Birmingham would become the U.S. secretary of state.
Yet he would be frustrated that poverty still is so pervasive. Given this, he would be aghast that $120 million was spent on his monument. He would be equally disturbed that it was fashioned by Chinese laborers who had little choice.
While he would flattered, even grateful he hasn’t been forgotten, he would be just as annoyed by his being deified.
He would be bewildered by the epidemic of apathy and a culture that is more enthralled with TV than with the adventure that is life. He would be hurt and angered by the self-inflicted wounds of drug use, HIV infections, illegitimate birth rates, black-on-black crime, low-voter turnout and a pathology that sees no value in education.
He would wonder, when did a country that once rose to the challenge of segregation become so bereft of courage?
BANK OF JUSTICE
It might prompt him to head back to the Lincoln Memorial, to remind of us again of the work yet undone:
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable rights’ of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’
“... We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”