Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, and remember that he was a complex person in a time when hatred was a simple fact. I would say that where he was strongest and most right — and where he was weakest and went most wrong — was his bias toward love.
He was many things: visionary, activist; saint, sinner; minister, martyr.
His world was polarized in a black-versus-white conflict, and he was determined to make us realize that we were all merely different shades of brown, and that the true polarization in the world was between — not black and white — but light and darkness; good and evil; love and hatred.
He took us farther down the path toward love. We have come a long way since he lived, loved, and died.
But we Americans are still polarized. We still choose up sides and smell armpits. We love our President, or we hate him. We love the party that opposes his, or we hate them all. I recognize that much of the difference between political parties is ideological, but most of it is simply partisan, and probably some of it is racial and prejudicial — on both sides of the color extremes.
The fact remains that we have simplified the complex so that we don’t have to cast a vision of unity and actively pursue it. No, it’s much easier to say that “my side is right about everything and therefore good, and anyone who doesn’t agree with us on everything is wrong and evil.”
None of that justifies the venom, the spleen, the gall, the threats, the mass distribution of lies and innuendoes and accusations and outright hatred that we have attached to our sacred rightness.
If you think about Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and ask, “Are we there yet?” the answer is a resounding “no.”
Racism still exists, and while its proportions have been reduced, it is still a horrible reality in a nation where rights for all were declared to trump the rightness of some.
We may have made strides in our battle against racism, but in many ways, we have simply traded black and white for red and blue.
We’ve traded the American dream for just another nightmare.
We owe ourselves, each other, our children, and our children’s children, a few moments to listen to and meditate on the eloquent phrasing of the dream by one of the few visionaries who tried to help make it reality and lost it all for love:
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