#832 – Dick Bernard: Martin Luther King Day

Today there’s no school in Woodbury, and on Saturday my spouse said that grandson Ryan, 14, had expressed an interest in going to the film “Twelve Years a Slave“. I had a conflict Sunday afternoon, but suggested today, and if he’s still interested the three of us will probably be in the theatre this afternoon.
It was just an idea from a 14-year old, who’s getting a day off from school, but a most appropriate choice.
It occurred to me this morning that it was 50 years ago, at this time of year, when Martin Luther King’s book, “Why We Can’t Wait” was published.

Published in 1964, and still in print, Why We Can't Wait by Martin Luther King Jr is an outstanding first-person view of the year 1963.

Published in 1964, and still in print, Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King Jr is an outstanding first-person view of the year 1963.

Why We Can’t Wait chronicles the watershed civil rights year of 1963, Birmingham Jail, March on Washington, assassination of President Kennedy and on and on, and is a basic primer for me about that crucial time in history. It is still in print and well worth a read, or re-read.
In turn, January, 1963 was the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, when all of this slavery and discrimination stuff was supposed to end, and, of course, did not.
Now, of course, we are 150 years into freedom, and the problems remain and are seemingly more intense than ever. We have a black President, and that bothers some folks; and efforts are pretty intense in some places to make certain that rights, particularly to vote, are rolled back so that the wrong kind of people are less likely to be able to show up at the polls.
This morning I read a very good summary of today in the United States, which includes a link to a very long article in the New Yorker in which President Obama is interviewed, and in which he says this: “Despite [Abraham Lincoln] being the greatest President, in my mind, in our history, it took another hundred and fifty years before African-Americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. I think that doesn’t diminish Lincoln’s achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right…“I just wanted to add one thing to that business about the great-man theory of history. The President of the United States cannot remake our society, and that’s probably a good thing.” Obama then adds, “Not ‘probably’. It’s definitely a good thing.”. (The link to this entire New Yorker article by David Remnick, Going the Distance, in the Jan 27, 2014, issue, is within the post linked at the beginning of this paragraph.)
There is definitely still racial tension in this country: I read it all the time in those abusive angry “forwards” sent to me by zealots – people that I actually know who send on the hate. They have never let go of slavery.
But this country, not even the deepest of the deep south states, is no longer in 1863, or 1963.
There is also disequity that is now far worse than in recent years, and other great problems as well.
But there will be no going back…if people engage in the political process this year.
Have a good day.
And set about making a difference where you live.