Happy Birthday, Mr. King.
I wonder what you would think if you woke up from your eternal sleep and came to the country you fought so hard to improve. Would you be glad at the progress it has made? There has been some. Equality is now a matter of law, and it’s slowly becoming fact as well. Although if you look at what happened in New Orleans, you would doubt any progress had been made. Black people still make up the largest proportion of the poor and incarcerated population. More black children are struggling in school and struggling to get a college education. High paying jobs still go to white men. Some black people have made inroads, like you did, into prejudice and poverty. I’m thinking you might like to sit down with a certain Oprah Winfrey and talk about what has been done, and what can be done. You’d get a kick out of seeing people like Spike Lee and reading books by Toni Morrison. Your heart would rejoice because the lines are being blurred, and more and more black people are attaining what you strove so hard to offer them: equality. Respect. Justice. But the road must look uphill, rocky, and long to you still.And what about your views on the war? You were passionately against Vietnam, calling it an act of aggression, and stating that the United States was the most dangerous, destructive country in the world. You would feel that time stood still if you came back today. The US is still attacking other countries. They attack, while claiming to defend themselves. You would see through the lies, because you always did see through the lies. And you would be devastated for each of the soldiers that died. I can feel your pain. And you would speak against it. You would make fiery speeches and unite thousands behind you. You would raise your fists to the sky and cry out, “It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”And you would be right.Even now, the president of the united states is throwing more men and weapons into a war that he started, a war that is filling his coffers and those of his cronies with billions of dollars in profits, while more sons of America die in a faraway country whose only crime was to be sitting on immense oil reserves. (Canada, you’re next…after Iran I mean.)So I hesitate to invite you back for a look at the world on this day – your birthday. Perhaps it will be better to wait a few years, wait until the black people of America have truly found equality – in the way they are paid, housed, educated, doctored, and judged. Wait until this quagmire of a war is finished – though it may end in ashes. If the US decides to attack other countries, then I cannot blame them for fighting back. I can’t blame the Iraqis for fighting back. They never asked for an invasion. They never asked for help. They never asked to be carpet bombed, to have their schools and hospitals destroyed, to have over half a million people killed. So, you would be too sad to see this mess. You would rant, and hardly anyone would raise their eyes from their television screens to listen. You would shudder, and think that maybe it’s a good thing, after all, that this is all happening over your dead body.But I miss you. I miss your passion and your goodness, and your belief in nonviolent protesting. So I’m adding mine. I promise to protest inequality when I see it, to protest the war – any war – All wars, because they are an abomination. I promise to protest against hatred and against discrimination.Happy Birthday Mr. King. I wish I could offer you a better one.
–Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968)
Nobel Peace prize – 1964
Books by Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Stride toward freedom; the Montgomery story (1958)
The Measure of a Man (1959)
Strength to Love (1963)
Why We Can’t Wait (1964)
Where do we go from here: Chaos or community? (1967)
The Trumpet of Conscience (1968)
A Testament of Hope : The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1986)
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr. and Clayborne Carson (1998)
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.