Martin Luther King Jr. Day-Present Day Context

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Marti...Portrait of Tuskegee airman Edward M. Thomas, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Image via Wikipedia

I’m writing this post the day after MLK Day on purpose, to show that his values should be all year long, not on just one day. Though I feel this way about Veterans Day and a few other holidays as well. The value of MLK day is to remind us of very important lessons that we shouldn’t forget, lest we become a lesser country. When honoring the day it’s easy to lose sight of those lessons. Similar to the ignorant people who trample others for a  Christmas gift or the folks that tailgate and honk at me because they’re running late to church and my Toyota family van carrying my wife and three children isn’t speeding enough for them (I call these people wafer chasers. They usually sprint out the door in a huff after receiving the body of Christ). In both instances they’re just flat out missing the point. Easy to do in today’s go-go society, where the important things are relegated to just a “check-off the list”.

I was watching a documentary of the all black air squadron, the Tuskegee Airmen that flew in WWII yesterday. It’s such a great story, and now another movie made about it “Red Tails“. In the documentary, one of the most decorated of the airmen told the story of segregation and how he witnessed German POW’s being given more freedom than these decorated pilots. The show broke to commercial when, he, a proud, mature battle-tested veteran began to tear up and I almost followed.  There are many stories of racial injustice that Dr. King and others helped to rectify. I grew up with a family that always fought for a better life and against engrained social justice, so this all rings clear to my heart. I had the honor of growing up in the shadow of the University of Massachusetts, where my mother was an administrator for many years and my father and others began the first program to recruit minority students into college.

So what are my takeaways?

1) It’s easy to forget how hard it was for them to speak up at that time. Speaking up isn’t easy. When you see something wrong or an injustice, saying something often takes courage because you’re “going against the grain”. Remember the character, Billy Jack in the movies? He wasn’t passive as Dr. King but still was a hero to me.

2) The US has the built-in capacity to improve. Freedom of speech, to redress grievances with the government, even allowing lampooning of government figures. This simple but hard fact shows that we can take tough debate and through that process be stronger. See North Korea as an opposite example. A despotic government with brainwashed and starving people.

3) Dr. King represented many people, the Medgar Evers, Caesar Chavez, Rosa Parks and many others that fought prejudice and racial injustice. Their road was hard but they took it anyway.  Mr. Evers paid with his life, with a shot to the back in his driveway, with his children at home.

4) His lessons can’t be for  just a day, anymore than honoring our veterans should just be a day. In my opinion there are too many people saying/thinking that these lessons are ancient history and don’t affect us today. What a shame and a mistake to let them win that argument. Whether it be racial issues or other wrongs in this world, we should always have the mind frame of calling it out.

That’s my take.

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