Monday, January 16, 2017

Nothing has changed, Dr King, but it's all different.

I never met you, Dr. King. I met one of your sons in college, and been in a small seminar with your wife and your PhD advisor from Boston, but I was only 14 years old when you were assassinated.

That year, 1968, was the worst year our country has experienced in my lifetime. The Tet Offensive in Viet Nam; your assassination as well as that of Bobby Kennedy; the riots and burning cities; cops brawling with protesters in the streets of Chicago at the Democratic National Convention, as the crowds chant, "The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching." I'm glad you didn't have to see it.

In 1963, you said "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." In 2017, we have military drones that respond to remote operators to attack, and human drones that respond to Facebook posts and Twitter feeds to spew hatred and fear.

You also said in 1963 that you "dreamed of the day when your four little children will be judged by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin."
We still dream of that day.

I will say this for our great country: we elected a black man for two terms as President; and there were no riots by white mobs, no marches on Washington to burn down the White House. Yes, there was plenty of resentment expressed, and many unkind things said and written, but there was a grudging realization that we were a better people today than we had been in the past.

And I thought we had learned something. But we didn't. At least, we didn't learn enough.
We selected, from the vast field of hopefuls put forth, the most divisive candidates for President in BOTH PARTIES.
The Democratic candidate said  "If you liked my predecessor, you're gonna love me because I'm a woman, and we've been oppressed longer than black people. Oh, yeah,  and I'll get rid of guns."
The Republican candidate said "You are stupid if you don't vote for me. Did you hate that guy and what he did? I'm gonna tear it all up and build a wall."
And we elected the Republican guy.

And the next day, it seemed that the divisiveness that had raged in 1968 was back, maybe worse than ever. In contrast to the LACK of a formal, organized opposition to the legitimacy of the current President, celebrities advocated a revolt by designated electors, urging them to vote against the candidate elected in their state. Protests sprouted across the nation; participants vowed the elected candidate was not now and never was going to be 'their' President.

Dr. King, last week one of your closest lieutenants, a hero of the civil rights movement and a 30 year member of the US Congress, stated on national TV that he was not going to attend the inauguration of a man he did not feel was a legitimate President.
Who then responded on Twitter by saying the Representative was a do-nothing Congressman from a decaying, crime-ridden district, all talk and no action.
At which point the entire internet exploded in defense of the Congressman. His constituents extolled the virtues of their district and his service to it; everyone else referenced his work with you. They never failed to cite the 1965 voting rights march in which he received a skull fracture on the Edmund Pettus Bridge at the hands of an Alabama State trooper.
And today, we  see that a county commissioner, from a different district in the Congressman's home state, used Facebook to refer to the Congressman as 'a racist pig.'
There are other outraged statements, on both sides.

"Our scientific power has outgrown our spiritual power." We have the ability to communicate to anyone in the world, instantly, at no cost, through the power of the Internet. We use that power to call each other names, to fling nasty, slashing cuts at people we don't like or disagree with.
Instead of COMMUNICATING, it seems that the most prominent feature of this scientific marvel is that it gives us additional excuses for outrage, and a platform we can use to scream our rage at the world.
We still have guided missiles, and misguided men. Nothing has changed, Dr. King.

On the other hand, it's all different. The law has done that for us, the laws you made happen.
At least, the law opened up a door to make it possible for change to take place.

When I was born, it would have been against the law for me to go to the same school as my wife; against the law for us to marry, against the law for us to choose to live anywhere we could afford. Those laws, and others that would separate us, are all wiped off the books.

Today, we live in peace in a quiet suburb, not too terribly far away from the Congressman's district or the house you lived in when you were born.
We are raising two beautiful children who are the same color as our current President. They attend good neighborhood schools, which are integrated and without racial conflict, and they have both black and white teachers to further their education and serve as role models.

We attend a lively, high-commitment local church, where the pastors and staff, the choir and congregation are black, white, Hispanic, and Asian. We are guests in each others' homes, and our children play together.

There are still problems, and sometimes I think we are so stupid that there is no hope for us. But then I look at my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, and our happy and healthy children and grandchildren, white and black and mixed, and I think of how far we have come, and in large part thanks to you, Dr. King, we can join our hands together and sing:


Happy Birthday!


  1. I remember, as a teen in the mid-60's taking a bus into downtown San Antonio to join others marching for equal rights. In the heat of the day, as we all walked and chanted, I remember feeling both pride and sadness. Proud that I did take a stand; sad because it was even necessary.
    Yet in today's society my choice as a young man has been mocked and derided. I don't understand - the ones mocking me never walked with us,, they never bore the indignity of being spat on.
    Yet a few short years later, when I donned my country's uniform to again stand for what is right, those same mockers again mocked and spat. Never taking a stand, I guess they felt justified to deride those who did.
    I no longer pay attention to the mockers. When attacked, I also no longer turn the other cheek. This is opposite Dr King's admonitions, yet I feel he would understand. Sometimes wrong can only be opposed in the same manner.

  2. Awesome words of wisdom!! We have come far, but still have a long way to go. May Dr. King's words of love and unity reside in our hearts today and in the future.