If there is one thing we know about Life it is that nothing remains the same; everything changes. Another thing I have learned is that if you ask the wrong question, you will get a wrong (or at least unhelpful) answer. It is kind of like the adage of “barking up the wrong tree.” I have been given this some serious thought as we move towards the MLK Holiday in a few weeks.
Last year, The Chicago Defender carried an article whose title was, “Almost 54 Year AD: What Would MLK Do in Today’s America if He Were Alive?” I thought it was interesting and thought provoking. But, I discovered in this piece and in those like it, a crucial question NOT being asked and therefore NOT being answered. This year I am especially interested in how many articles are contemplating the ML King: THEN & NOW angle. I continue to arrive at the same conclusion about them. Asking unhelpful questions yield unbeneficial answers.
Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing inherently negative about articles commemorating and memorializing Dr. ML King, Jr. and his sacrifices for justice of all kinds in our country and world. My contention with them is that they freeze him in time…his own contextualized period…and attempt to extrapolate out his possible actions for today and our times. I am not at all sure that Dr. King would respond to our current societal realities like he did for those of yesteryear. Everything and everyone changes. If he had lived to be 94 years old, on his birthday in a couple of weeks, I believe he would have undergone so much change in his thought, reflections, and actions. How many of us have not been changed by September 11, 2001 or George Floyd’s murder or the Coronavirus-19 pandemic? These events and the usual conditions of life would have undoubtedly changed his perspective on lots of things.
At the end of the day both me and the writers I contend with are offering speculations to be sure, and so instead of asking, “what would Dr. King say or do now?” why are we not asking, “If (or since) I agree with Dr. King’s assessment and actions during the time he lived on planet earth, what are my words and actions to be while I am here?” It seems to me this kind of question yields more fodder for creative juices to flow, because what we are doing now or failing to do is NOT working for too many.
As people of the Christian tradition it should not pass our attention that Dr. King was deeply steeped in the same faith we possess and was appalled at the varying levels of action, inaction and apathy among the masses of us. Both he and Mahatmi Ghandi understood non-violent resistance to be acts of deep spiritual significance. Because of their spirituality, they consciously committed to living in a new way from the usual; they allowed themselves to be changed and their transformations catalyzed change on multiple fronts of life for many. The work continues.
There are many who continue to carry non-violent resistance as a way of life in lots of different forms. Only when we change individually can we expect to see our change multiplied and a changed world appear. As within so without. As above so below. On earth as in heaven. So be it.
Living in Hope with Love,