Dr. Martin Luther King would be 85 this year had he lived. But he was murdered at the age of 39 in 1968. He was and is a towering figure in the worlds of equal rights and nonviolence. An American Gandhi with a spine of steel.
Many supposedly great men and women don’t become great men and women in the public eye until after they die. Dr. King was considered a great man by many even during his short lifetime.
But there are two things surrounding the holiday in that have become increasingly irksome.
One is minor: He preached hundreds if not thousands of sermons during his tenure as minister of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Many were good. Some were great. But we remember only one and only four words from it: “I have a dream.”
He said a whole lot of words, many of them important. But we remember only four. The upside: we remember the words.
But the second is far more important. Everyone is an expert on what Martin Luther King would say today. It’s easy to predict that he would be appalled by the increasing gap between rich and poor.
But after that, it gets vague. And if truth be told, we have no way of knowing how the 39 year old Martin would think as the 85 year old Martin.
So we do what we always do. We put thoughts in his corpse.
Surely, he would be proud that we have twice elected an African American president. But would he be a full-throttle supporter, or would he have reservations about the continuing conflict in the Middle East and the war with congress and the attack on the voting rights act?
We don’t know and we can’t know.
When conservative Americans quote the “dream” speech their emphasis is on the line about judging people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. A noble thought, but only a thought.
We don’t know what Martin would think or what he would say. And to say that we do is a fool’s game.
--Meantime, streets named for Dr. King are rotting. The Associated Press reports particular urban decay on those in Milwaukee and St. Louis. And many communities without a street named for King continue debating whether they should.
--The Postal Service wants to put what amounts to kiosks inside of Staples Stores and staff them not with postal workers but with low-wage store clerks. Unsurprisingly the postal union takes a dim view of this although the USPS has been doing it on a smaller scale for years. Staples has over 2,000 stores worldwide, but isn’t saying how many of its US outlets will play host to the scab labor.
--How’s this for anti-marketing marketing? HP’s web store is now promoting new desktop computers with Windows 7, with a headline “Windows 7 is Back!” A real vote of confidence for Windows 8, the most hated operating system since “Vista.”
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
(A version of this year’s MLK post was broadcast on my regular weekday commentary for WBLF radio in Central Pennsylvania)
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