By Michael McQuillan
Custom makes cliché of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 “I have a dream” declaration though the speech text urgently condemns police misconduct and calls for economic justice.
Scattered voices I’ve heard since childhood cite him as “more radical than folks believe.”
I here dissent from the prevalent historical amnesia that denies the truth of what we could learn from his legacy. I reach my hand to you so that we may together fast-forward from the stirring sight of 250,000 massed beneath the Lincoln Memorial and its podium that torrid August day to reflect on how far we as a people haven’t come.
“A nation that … spend more money on … military … is approaching spiritual doom…”
The duty of dissent, a hallmark of democracy, is vital now. I awakened Tuesday to NPR Morning Edition news that “the Defense Department budget alone at $841.4 billion outweighs the $776 billion for everything else.” How would the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who warned in 1967 that “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on programs of military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom,” respond were he alive among us? What course would he embark upon to launch this fraught election year?
As we mark his memory may we dedicate ourselves to nurturing one another as we infuse through all our social justice striving his courage in facing what Pulitzer Prize biographer Dr. David Garrow called in Bearing the Cross: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,“ the harrowing demand for unceasing creativity.”
What some perceive as radical equates merely to our American ideals.
Let not the status quo breed slumber.
May stretching hands grasp the carousel’s brass ring that secures humanity’s wellbeing.
Thank you for reading.
Michael McQuillan, former US Senate aide, and Peace Corps Volunteer honored by the Anti-Defamation League and the Brooklyn Council of Churches, taught history for 19 years and chaired the NYPD Training Advisory Council’s Race Subcommittee in the aftermath of Eric Garner’s death.https://mcquillan-unity-forum.squarespace.com
Photo credit: Kennedy and Dr. King.
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