It is fair to ask what Dr. King would make of his country and his countrymen today. But while it is fair, it is also misguided and useless. The reasons should be painfully obvious to political pundits and historians on this 50th anniversary of his assassination, yet they keep asking. Dr. King was taken away from a country that had only begun to understand the depth and breadth of his vision and valor.
I had no idea how young 39 was until I turned 39 eight years back. That man had so much to live for and so much to look forward to before the spirit of hate and fear stole his life. He didn’t love his wife or children any less than any other man does. He just happened to genuinely love everybody else in the world as well. Dr. King had the all too rare quality of being a man of principle that didn’t want to see the next man’s children hurting or suffering any more than he wanted to see it for his own. His selflessness matched his intellect which I still believe is grossly underrated and oversimplified. Dr. King gave the famous “I have a dream” speech but he was no dreamer. He was the quintessential man of action- as much as any man in history. That is why he had the fortitude to put himself in harms way and confront evil face to face. Very few men of any race or creed have the stones to do that. And he did it over and over – locking arms and clasping hands with other human beings possessing super-human courage.
And out of respect for that legacy of action, my simple point is this: It doesn’t matter what Dr. King would think of us today because he’s not here anymore. We have his memory and his work but we don’t have HIM. But we have ourselves and we are still here. So the only question that matters is what do WE think of where we are today? Are we satisfied or pleased with where we are and the direction the country is headed? Are we at peace with the prevailing energy driving the body politic? Of course it depends on who you ask but frankly all I really care about are the views of those who are inclined toward reverence for Dr. King’s legacy and the ultimate sacrifice that he made 50 years ago. You can be black, white or candy-striped for all I care – if you have genuine love for that man then I have genuine love for you.
And I hope that in answering the question about what you think of where we are today you will account for all that has occurred since 1968 and make a fair assessment. However you grade us out, I am sure we all agree that there is much work to be done based upon where America stands today. If you think everything is peaches and cream you probably aren’t paying attention or don’t really give a damn about the world beyond your front door. Although I’m not qualified to state that Dr. King wouldn’t have any use for you, I am perfectly willing to state definitively that I don’t.
Dr. King has already paid the ultimate price and should be blessed to rest in peace without having those he left behind attempting to speak for him on how we’re all doing. Deep down we all have a very clear idea about where we are – and we don’t have the first clue as to what he’d say if he were here to say it himself.