Dr. Martin Luther King lives on in his legacy. There are many voices speaking for what that means today.
Especially today, little more than a week after the random violence in Arizona perpetrated by a lone, mad gunman. But politicians used the occasion to weave it all together.
Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at King’s former church in Atlanta, praised him as “our nation’s greatest drum major of peace” and said the Jan. 8 bloodshed was a call to recommit to King’s values of nonviolence, tolerance, compassion and justice.
“Last week a senseless rampage in Tucson reminded us that more than 40 years after Dr. King’s own tragic death, our struggle to eradicate violence and to promote peace goes on,” Holder said.
So does the struggle to reform our understanding and treatment of human beings suffering from mental illness. But this is a day for other civil reflections…
Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who worked with King during the civil rights movement, issued a renewed call for Americans to unite in peace and love as King preached during his lifetime.
“If Dr. King could speak to us today, he would tell us that it does not matter how much we disapprove of another persons point of view, there is never a reason to deny another human being the respect he or she deserves,” Lewis said.
Exactly. That’s what his niece, Dr. Alveda King, has dedicated herself to teaching, but with greater elaboration on that point. If her uncle were here today, says this Dr. King, he would not claim the political views some of his avid followers ascribe to him.
Dr. Alveda King, full-time Director of African American Outreach for Priests for Life and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said today that advice columns written by her uncle for Ebony magazine in 1957-58 reveal a man who today would be regarded as a social conservative.
“In advising men and women on questions of personal behavior 50 years ago, Uncle Martin sounded no different than a conservative Christian preacher does now,” said Dr. King. “He was pro-life, pro-abstinence before marriage, and based his views on the unchanging Word of the Bible. Today, Planned Parenthood would condemn Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as part of the ‘religious right.’”
Startling thought to a lot of people perhaps. But Dr. Alveda King has been saying this, consistently, for decades. Last year on this occasion, she said this:
“Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of a Beloved Community where all are treated with respect and dignity,” said Dr. King. “He fought against society’s exclusion of people who were treated as less than human because of their appearance. Today, we are compelled to continue Uncle Martin’s fight by standing up for those who are treated as less than human because of their helplessness and inconvenience.
“The unborn are as much a part of the Beloved Community as are newborns, infants, teenagers, adults, and the elderly. Too many of us speak of tolerance and inclusion, yet refuse to tolerate or include the weakest and most innocent among us in the human family. As we celebrate the life of Uncle Martin, let us renew our hearts and commit our lives to treating each other, whatever our race, status, or stage of life, as we would want to be treated. Let us let each other live.”
That, fundamentally, constitutes the civil rights movement today. And it’s the core of all other rights. To deny or disregard that, requires the ‘willful suspension of disbelief’ of what you can’t not know……the natural law about moral order.
Plans for a memorial to Dr. King were highlighted today. Good. Its existence on the Washington Mall should provide the opportunity to focus on his legacy in its fullness and truth.