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mh 15jan01 - MLK Day

January 12, 2001

Martin Luther King Jr.



To those who lived through it, it hardly seems possible that more than 30 years have passed since the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. For many adults and schoolchildren, today is a holiday from work, but just as Memorial Day obliges citizens to remember those who've diied in service to their country, part of today should, at least part of King's birthday should be spent reflecting on his life and how he changed America.

Confronted by a national government that was looking toward space exploration even as it ignored injustice on the ground, King did not take up arms. Instead, he turned to the non-violent protest techniques used by Mahatma Ghandi in India and and Henry David Thoreau in an earlier time in America.

Televised and photographed images of peaceful protestors being beaten, attacked by police dogs and sprayed by fire hoses forced U.S. citizens to see the injustice they had, up until then, successfully ignored and rationalized as the natural lot of people of color.

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Laws outlawing discrimination in nearly all walks of life - employment, public accommodation and housing - were passed. And if the time has not arrived when all citizens are judged as King hoped they would be, on the content of their character as opposed to the color of their skin, well, sometimes government needs to give citizens a push to get them to do what's right.

To us, Martin Luther King Jr. is more than an historical figure, because the peaceful methods he preached about are just as relevant to today's society as they were in the 1960s.

If he were alive today, King would preach against the tendency of too many to settle their differences with physcial violence. He would oppose the idea that the measure of a man is how quickly he deals with insults, real or imagined, from other men or his own wife or girlfriend. He would condemn the gutter language some recording artists use to refer to their fellow human beings.

Just as it was easy for many to accommodate injustice in the 1950s and '60s, too many cast a blind eye at it today. King would not, which ,may be the best reason to remember him and celebrate his birthday.

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