To the activists who fight with vision rather than malice, you’ve had your hands full for quite some time now. The community we have today is a web reaching far and is thin, leaving want for substance. Whether it be an earned podium or an obnoxious soap box, every last one of us has the chance to be heard. Something not afforded to previous generations trying to mobilize. We’ve been endowed the world at our fingertips. Consequently, the further we reach without moving, the greater the potential the reach has to facilitate apathy from disassociation and ignorance from misinformation. This all begs the question; what would someone like Rev. King do with the tools we have today. In Dublin this last November I passed the tents and signs of an Occupy Wall Street site, and I made a mental note that perhaps the popularity of internet novelties and narcissism (present company guilty) are becoming secondary to the positive power the internet has to change things, that which we have witnessed. At this moment it’s a fine line of which way this could go, further into the silence of self absorption or to create global activism, or both. The same tools you can build with, you can also kill with.
Watching the footage of the 1963 March on Washington was nearly palpable for me even decades later and in two dimensions. I cannot imagine what I might have felt shoulder to shoulder.
Those who marched that day did not go silent for an answer from an extraordinary orator nor were they waiting for an order from a man who could clearly take command of a crowd. They came to listen to the voice that was already their own. In spite of our convictions, we are not always listening to the sound person. And sometimes, even worse, we are listening too much to ourselves. And by that I mean the indulgent chatter that silences our intuition and morals. We all need a voice of guidance sometimes. Rev. King was a vocal conduit at a time when the oppression became intolerable. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a someone that stepped forward to be the everyone.
In the want for guidance it occurred to me the lack of strong leaders right now, one who has only an agenda for humanity. And I mean household-name-strong, panning multiple issues. A person not arguing for a side of government but informing to lift us up from the division, to put into words what we have in our hearts and articulate the injustices that we want to see gone, to question our system and rally for change, and to unite. The thought terrified me that that ‘person’ might not be a person at all, but is the internet… Billions of tiny voices looking into laptops that might as well be mirrors. Passing on information? yes. Educating? yes. Staying in touch? yes. Questioning you to take a moral inventory of yourself and find what you truly believe? No. Challenging that belief to see how far you would go for it? No. Testing your limits to proud exhaustion? Most likely, no. Then again I may be wrong. It was the use of the internet that spread the word from New York to Dublin, where I passed by. Even in support of OWS, it is still a division. And even if ‘the person’ is everyone, again there is division.
Today, January 16th, 2012 Rev. King would have been 83 years old. Possibly still alive, probably not, as it was famously reported after his autopsy that this 39 year old man had the heart of a 60 year old. They attributed it to stress, I prefer to think it has to do with the strength of wisdom that comes with age, as well as the capacity to love can match the capacity of heart break.
I encourage everyone to take time and watch or read a speech. Remind yourself of his causes and the thousands who had the same cause, lacking his charisma but equally sharing his vision. Remind yourself not just his tremendous work for civil rights, but his stance on war, poverty, government, hate, love and change.
We cannot pretend to know what Rev. King would have thought of same sex marriage, he is not here to ask. And there are many issues that deal with human equality that he is not here to guide us on. That is when the absence of a great activist and leader is felt the most. One without political agenda, but is the paternal/maternal voice leading us to answer our own moral questions and remind us of truths we already know. As children, we all knew certain things were bad, but our caretakers gave us the words to solidify what we already knew, just as Rev. King gave us so many words to make sense of the morals we feel.
It’s rare I put my heart on my sleeve, especially on the internet, but every last person needs to be introduced or reminded, myself included, of where our nation was in 1968 when Rev. King was assassinated. Be reminded of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go until we feel it intolerable and watch more and more people join to fight against censorship and for equality, to send peace to war, replace greed with gratitude, allow the same provisions for every human, be it marriage, education, state killing or a woman’s body and in time realize hate is an illusion. God willing I will practice what I preach. Everyone needs to be reminded of what the breaking point was for those involved in the civil rights movement and what rallied their masses, because it may be that reminder that will illuminate our own breaking point. In that case history can not only repeat itself, it can finish what it started. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King worked very hard to provide messages and help orchestrate a movement. In reminding yourself of his messages you annul the memory of the violence of his death and honor what he died for. Most of all I am reminded of how the pollution of ignorance manifested itself into the loss of a man who, when it all came down to it, preached of love.
"If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live." -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." Rev King”—