"We have... come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of ... justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of ... injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children." ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
All of us are moved, in one way or another, by the power of Martin Luther King’s vision of life in our society and in the larger world. Some of us are inspired by Dr. King’s vision. That vision serves to motivate us to become better as individuals, as communities, and as nations. Some of us are threatened by it, because it shines a light on our complicity in the wrong-doing that creates chaos among us. It is the dual reality of the hope he inspired in many and the threat that he posed to some that led to his murder some 50 years ago. At 6:05 P.M. on Thursday, 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead while standing on a balcony outside his second-ﬂoor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The historian Howard Zinn notes that:
“By the time King was assassinated in 1968, he had come to believe that our economic system was fundamentally unjust and needed radical transformation. He spoke of “the evils of capitalism” and asked for “a radical redistribution of economic and political power.”... Martin Luther King’s reaction to the buildup of military power had been the same as his reaction to the Vietnam war: “This madness must cease.” And: “. . . the evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all tied together. . . .”
While many politicians are willing to recall King’s “dream” of racial equality, they are not as strident in embracing his vision of a society that rejects the violence proliferated by what President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a speech in 1961 called the Military-Industrial Complex. Most of us can identify with the promise of an America, and indeed a World, in which the sacred space created by Justice is a reality. To make that world a reality we must continue to call attention to that oft ignored part of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision in which he declared against the madness inherent in the proliferation of wars for profit. The Iraq war and its consequences are a standing testament against the atrocious behavior of those among us who do not hesitate to shed blood to secure their “wealth”.
To be true to the totality of Dr. King's vision we must admit that it is not just Justice among us that we must be concerned about. We cannot continue to claim that we are created equal while we apportion disproportionate reasons for the corruption of our sacred space to “others”. There comes a moment when we must admit some fault, every single one of us, for the problems that continue to haunt us both locally and abroad. We must squarely face the issue of the absence of Justice within us. If our social environment is to get better ...WE must become better. Better men. Better women. Better parents. Better citizens. Better sons and daughters. Better neighbors. It is time to recognize the gravity of the moment that is NOW. Now is when we are called to be more than just spectators and compliant partners in the desecration of the hallowed ground that we inhabit together. From New York City to Baghdad, from Paris to Lagos, from Palestine to the remotest regions of Afghanistan; we are being called to account for the tragedies that typify our unwillingness to be each others' "keepers''.
President Obama, in a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington made some in our community very uncomfortable when he said:
“And then, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us, claiming to push for change, lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots. Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself. All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided.”
Pseudo-Liberals can scream at the President all they want. The change we need must begin with us... each one of us. The fierce urgency of NOW demands that we stop putting off the need for that change... Change in ourselves and in our society. It tells us in no uncertain terms that we must abandon all the convenient excuses that keep us mired in the barren complacency that haunts us. It demands that we end our addiction to "the tranquilizing drug of gradualism". Those who have become victims of the jaded spirit of our procrastination must now act out the instruction to "take up your bed and walk". The day of your new beginning has its dawn in the fierce urgency of NOW. It demands that we stop making ourselves available to the vices that corrupt our lives and the lives of our children. The change we hope for in our world, the change that proceeds from 'the transformative message of unity and brotherhood", happens when we all become more invested in the currency of Justice not just as a responsibility of others... But as an internalized dynamic of our individual lives.