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Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. and Others
Mark A. Goldman                                                                              1/08/08

In honor of Martin Luther King I am not going to speak directly about his dream or his sacrifice. 

His contribution and the contribution of all who helped make him what he was—which is to say, all those who marched, boycotted, broke the rules, sat at lunch counters and on buses, got dog bit, hand cuffed, fire hosed, jailed and billy clubbed so that he might have a platform on which to speak—cannot be properly honored with fancy words or platitudes.

I will not offer praise either... for the same reason that I sometimes feel slightly unsettled when I hear people say, “Praise the Lord,” as if praise is really what God was hoping for.

The movement that provided King the platform from which he so eloquently spoke, made great strides under his leadership, and did so in the face of terrible odds. One of King’s most important victories was having both the consciousness to recognize and the courage to then proclaim, that all people—not only Americans—are entitled to basic human rights, compassion, and respect. Today, remembering King, we are grateful for what he, and those who marched shoulder to shoulder with him, stood for… and what they stood against.

But alas, history reminds us that the fruits of victory which are won even with enormous sacrifice—which is how our freedoms were won—are not guaranteed to last forever. The will to dominate, and other aspects of human depravity, somehow show up time and again just like hunger, poverty, and injustice do even in the midst of plenty and in the face of what we call progress.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when a woman asked Ben Franklin what kind of government had just been created, he replied, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” That republic was only the skeleton of an idea—a promise— that Franklin knew could only be fulfilled and then periodically renewed by future generations.

A longing for universal peace, justice and freedom has been incubating in the human soul for as long as there is memory. Even the birth of our nation, in pursuit of those goals, had to wait eons for its time to come.  It was the hope of the world.

Now fast-forward two centuries. In just a blink of an eye we have seen many rights and freedoms that were once secured and later defended through the sacrifice of untold quantities of blood… and supposedly etched, as if in stone, into the hearts and minds of our countrymen… fade… as if those promises were written onto our sacred document in time-delayed invisible ink.

We have now suffered through two consecutive fraudulent national elections that installed a would-be king to the presidency— a man who calls the document on which The Great Idea of our republic is inscribed,“…just a goddamn piece of paper.”

And what is left of that " goddamn piece of paper” which, for over two centuries, was the glue that held our nation together and united us as a people?...

All of this made possible by public servants and citizens too, who behave as if they never read a book, visited a museum, went to school, took an oath, or pledged allegiance. The ship of state is lost at sea, captained by a would-be king, and attended to by painted courtesans, all busy defending their lust for power and feigning innocence with platitudes and half-truths.  

Their handiwork has left behind a multitude of dead bodies, still uncounted. The murdered, the dispossessed, the mind-damaged, and the broken-bodied suffering souls remind us that something evil has been going on in our name that we don't understand… something that by official decree we are forbidden to understand.  We are faintly aware that something has been stolen from us and our progeny, the full accounting of which, is locked up, hidden away, and beyond our reach—like the papers of past and future presidents are locked away… until they are dead and gone and so are we.  

Lies, deceit and fear hang in the air like the exhaust of half a billion oil burning engines, and squinting through the stifling smog—we finally open our eyes and ask ourselves, “My goodness, I’ve lost track of time…what time is it… look over there through the haze… does that look to you like a rising sun or a setting sun?”

And then as if from some distant past, we hear a voice answer, “I guess that will depend now on how you honor your dead, and what you intend to leave to your posterity.”

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