Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
On the ninetieth anniversary of his birth, the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ring truer than ever through our midst. Though our country has largely sanitized what was a remarkably revolutionary message, the truth that spoke so many years ago is still the candor we need in our world right this very moment.
That is what we like to do to our great leaders though, isn’t it? We want the watered-down version of the story that keeps us comfortable. History is written by the victors. And though his words were terrifying to those in power during his own time, the historians were able to take a few soundbites that helped their cause and disposed of the rest.
Except in reality, they didn’t.
We still have the letter from the Birmingham Jail. We still have his speeches and sermons. We still have some of his contemporaries fighting in the halls of justice. Because racism, sexism, bigotry, classism, and all the other forms of hate that humans use as an excuse still poison the world around us. And it’s time we stop hiding behind the comfort of historical ignorance and start facing the hard truths that have not improved.
The world appears to be devolving. Prejudice rages like a roaring sea. Fabricated falsehoods enable the ignorance of the willingly deceived. And we seem to be trudging back down the road of forward movement in equality and justice for all we made during the past century – in the wrong direction.
But there is hope. It may be a tiny ember barely aglow in the depths of our souls, but it is there. Because we have seen the vision of the mountaintop in all its glory. It may take a hundred years more, but we will get there one day. However, only when we begin to take the true lessons of our ancestors seriously.
There is no moderation – there is only right and wrong in much of this situation. And whether we like it or not, not thinking of other’s needs and rights as much as our own will place us on the wrong side of history. More than that, it will place us on the wrong side of God’s story.
So how do we honor Dr. King’s 90th Birthday? Open our eyes and our ears to the injustice in our midst. Stop pushing it away and hiding from it. And take up the fight that began two-thousand years ago. Take one step. Then another. Eventually, the upward path will become clear and the dream will be a dream no longer.