When we here at The Shinbone Star realized that another year under Donald Trump had passed and we were again preparing to celebrate the holiday set aside for the Civil Rights icon, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we decided to prepare to be uplifted, join the nation and forget the daily pablum that surrounds the White House.
Sure, today marks the first day of Trump’s third year in office and we’re sickened, but we agreed to put away the sharp pencils and rapier-like wit that has carved up our current racist-in-chief since he took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017.
We ignored what yesterday marked, and prepared instead to send positive thoughts about civil rights, equality, goodwill and liberty into the stratosphere on a day like today. But that was before the usually silent vice president opened his big yap.
Because evil doesn’t take a day off, Complicit Mike (Pence) appeared as a guest on CBS’ “Face the Nation” yesterday, and of course could not resist an opportunity to ruin our shot at being uplifted today by remembering one of the greatest leaders of our time.
Openly supporting his boss’ lack of a compromise, which neither compromised nor reopened the federal government, Pence did the unthinkable by using a King quote to promote the call for the building of a $5.7 billion wall on our nation’s border with Mexico.
Invoking a line from King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Pence bastardized the King line that said, “Now is the time to make real the promise for democracy,” and in doing so likened the Civil Rights leader’s use of legislative process to gain social justice for the downtrodden to the miscarriage of justice Donnie is trying to pull off by holding 800,000 federal workers hostage in exchange for a wall he said Mexico would finance.
That, coming from the number two man in an administration that has openly stood against everything for which King pushed, seemed a bridge too far. A timely insult that tinged all of us who judge Trump by the content of his character and not the color of his skin.
But we are professionals and we are undaunted and will not be turned around. So today we share our reflections despite Trump, Pence or their racist minions.
“Throughout my life when the question of inclusion, of respecting, caring, helping, loving fellow life travelers on this planet, the words of Dr. King always came to mind, particularly his focus on equality: “I have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream . . .
— Martin Luther King Jr. (1963)
“I graduated high school in that awful year 1968. I remember learning of Dr. King’s assassination and thinking that the nation had lost a wonderful leader, maybe even a potential president. Of course, we lost another potential president, RFK, just a few days before my graduation. I often wonder what this country would have been like if both men had lived to carry on the work they started. I suspect we’d be more unified, more caring toward each other, and much less likely to even consider a president like the one we currently have.”
Larrybndc spent Sunday in a place best known to King, a church.
He attended the Martin Luther King, Jr. Service at Washington National Cathedral where Dr. King delivered his last Sunday sermon on March 31, 1968. The theme of yesterday’s service was “The Other America” from an address delivered by Dr. King at Stanford University in April 1967:
“There are so many problems facing our nation and our world that one could just take off anywhere. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair,” King stated.
In the midst of the celebrations taking place today, I am struck by the ebb and flow of social justice in this nation. When most of us think about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we primarily think of the hope and promise he preached to the world in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington. However, think about where we are today and where we were when the excerpts from that speech below were received by the nation on that day in August 1963.
“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality . . .”
Today we proclaim “Black Lives Matter” in response to the continued “horrors of police brutality,” but when we protest the murders of unarmed black people at the hands of police, America responds with no uncertainty, “No. They Don’t.”
Since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the Republican Party has made its mission the suppression of black voters and of propagating the myth of massive black voting fraud to justify that suppression.
Returning to the theme of today’s remembrance service, “The Other America,” King said in his Stanford speech:
“And this leads me to say something about another discussion that we hear a great deal, and that is the so-called “white backlash”. I would like to honestly say to you that the white backlash is merely a new name for an old phenomenon. It’s not something that just came into being because of shouts of Black Power, or because Negroes engaged in riots in Watts, for instance. The fact is that the state of California voted a Fair Housing bill out of existence before anybody shouted Black Power, or before anybody rioted in Watts.
. . . What it is necessary to see is that there has never been a single solid monistic determined commitment on the part of the vast majority of white Americans on the whole question of Civil Rights and on the whole question of racial equality. This is something that truth impels all men of good will to admit.
“What I’m trying to get across is that our nation has constantly taken a positive step forward on the question of racial justice and racial equality. But over and over again at the same time, it made certain backward steps. And this has been the persistence of the so called white backlash.
“. . . It is said on the Statue of Liberty that America is a home of exiles. It doesn’t take us long to realize that America has been the home of its white exiles from Europe. But it has not evinced the same kind of maternal care and concern for its black exiles from Africa. (and brown exiles from Central America and the Middle East) It is no wonder that in one of his sorrow songs, the Negro could sing out, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.”
We gave America our best and she gave us Donald Trump and his MAGA cult shouting “BUILD THE WALL! BUILD THE WALL.”
Through all the trials and tribulations we’ve seen I still believe in a phrase Dr. King popularized when he quoted a 19th century clergyman:
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
I was 7-years-old when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall. I remember watching on our old black-and-white television and being impressed by the crowd, but Dr. King’s words went way over my head. In truth, I had no idea what was going on.
I was 12 when Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis. All I remember about that was my best friend pelting out of his apartment and telling me there was a big deal on TV, and that his mother was crying. I didn’t find out until later what it was all about; my friend and I had better things to do, like throwing around a football.
My recollections, I believe, are typical of a white kid growing up in Texas during the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement. Although my parents sometimes made racially insensitive remarks, I have no reason to believe they were against the Civil Rights Movement. As a family, it just never was on our radar screen, and my parents did nothing to educate me about what was going on. The same can be said about the public schools.
As a youth, I came to recognize the name of Martin Luther King, but ultimately he didn’t mean much to me. Schools today are doing a much better job of teaching about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. My wife is a retired elementary school teacher, and I can easily remember all the units on Dr. King that she lovingly taught to the children of today.
It can be easy to think of Martin Luther King Day as an “African-American holiday,” and I think it’s fair and honest to say that Dr. King’s life and death probably means more to African-Americans than it does to white America. My ancestors weren’t brought to America in chains, and although I abhor the fact that the ancestors of other people were indeed brought here in chains, how can I truly ever understand how that feels? I can’t.
All I can do — all we can do as a nation — is honor Martin Luther King as the national hero that he was. Even though there are people who would move our country backward from hard-fought advances, Dr. King’s voice and message rings out everlastingly. His words remain a beacon of hope for all of these United States, and in these times of disunity, we would all do well to shut up and listen.
* * *
Despite the holiday and the near martyrdom that comes with the memory of Rev. King and his obvious impact on our country, it all ended tragically and in predictable American fashion.
For not the efforts of soul icon Stevie Wonder, this day of reflection on what America could be would be just another hellish Monday in Donald Trump’s America.
For at least today, let’s remember that racists and hatemongers cannot win against love, honor, and the wise words of the Dreamer:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that . . .”