I am delighted that this weekend our nation will remember one of its most important patriots, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In this time of the incessant and contrived "War on Terror," it behooves all of us to recall Dr. King's way of response to those who would play upon our nations' fears to foster their agenda.
I have a friend who responded to Dr. King's call for a massive response to the violence his people experienced in their efforts to demonstrate their American freedoms in Selma, Ala. He spoke of a packed gymnasium, where persons from across our land were gathered in preparation for the march over the bridge where vicious violence had been perpetrated less than a week prior. He said the fear and tension was palpable until Dr. King entered the room and began to speak. He spoke of those opposing the march, especially the brutal police force, as "fellow children of God" and thus "our brothers" who, despite their behavior, deserved to be seen as "fellow human beings." If blood was to be shed, he remarked, let it not be the blood of retaliation.
"We will not bloody our souls on the streets of Selma!" The lesson from human history was that violence in any form, or for any provocation, only breeds more violence. My friend spoke of the deep inner calm Dr. King's words brought forth in him and in the crowd of marchers. The next day's march, contrary to expectation, was tense but peaceful.
Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in 1964.
(Photo — Dick DeMarsico, New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Library of Congress, via Wikipedia)
In the same vein, during the era of the civil rights movement, Dr. King stood between those eager to beat and lynch, and those who cried, "Burn it down!" His was a voice of sanity which kept our nation from the fruits of rampant discord, hatred and brutality. He assuaged our fears and terrors with a message of hope and reconciliation.
In like manner Dr. King rose up to oppose the occupation and oppression of the people of Vietnam, who, in the name of "national security," were the victims of horrific violence and bloodshed. Dr. King rightly saw that invasion and occupation of a foreign nation was a dead-end road to less security for the United States.
Dr. King died via an assassin's bullet while standing against the economic violence suffered by the working class and fostered by those of excess wealth, privilege and political power. Dr. King believed that the great riches of our nation were given to us for the benefit of all our people, and that a generous life was a full and complete way to live as individuals and as a society. To live in excessive indulgence while others struggled to get by was a blot on one's character, and that great inequality would produce a nation in decline, both morally and economically. Dr. King loved the American people and our nation too much to remain silent before the face of the economic, political and military power.
In our day, we would do well to heed the voice of such a lover of our nation and its wondrously diverse and varied populace, and advocate for peace and the nonviolence, by which our humanity might reclaim a soul of compassion, especially for those most in need, here and throughout our world. In Dr. King's eyes, all are too precious to be the victims or the perpetrators of violence in all its rampant forms.
Bill Cooper lives in Onchiota.