Inspection- Of MLK and Martyrs
Another Martin Luther King Day has passed…
Having lived in the South since 1978 for many years I’ve heard the “joke” calling Martin Luther King Day, “James Earl Ray Day.” Like most “humor” of that ilk it usually winds up punching the punch line right back at the supposed comedian. Eventually those folks usually try to pretend the person who has long since passed on was more like them, would now agree with them.
Let’s be clear: there were problems in their marriage and problems in his life. Martin was no saint.
Let’s be even more clear by asking, “Were any of the supposed saints actually pure saints all their lives?”
Now let’s go into hyper-clear mode. All those folks who claim these days MLK would be a Republican, or would be anything, are talking out of the wrong portal. You know: the one that makes noises no one wants to hear, or smell? Oh, sure, we can guess, but such guesses are almost always self serving.
This is the football game we play every time someone dies from an assassination, after any high profile murder. I suspect the further away we get from such an event, the more likely that person wouldn’t recognize who we are talking about if they were to rise again. The image we have of any martyr always morphs, shifts and get hijacked. It’s what we do, as humans, all too damn well.
Martin was a man of his time.
JFK was a man of his time, as was Lincoln.
Jesus was a man of his time.
Declaring what they would say now is increasingly idiotic the more time slips away faster than a stubborn, terrorized, donkey coated with grease. Anyone who has an ounce of common sense would realize trying to grab only makes you the ass.
When it comes to King I remember those days quite well. My father: an active conservative, argued that the marches and such were not the way to change what even he admitted needed to be changed. And, of course, some of the usual charges, though less that he was a communist, or a pinko, than a dupe. Though I don’t remember, I would guess my comments might have mirrored his.
But looking back now I’m older, and hopefully at least a little wiser, I wonder, if not “that way…” what way?
If we are to honor those who have fallen, those who have been martyred, we don’t do so by trying to be them. We certainly don’t do so by playing this snatch the legacy football game claiming he, or she, would have been on our side on every issue. We certainly don’t do so by repeating some words he, or she, may have said exactly. “Do this in memory of me” is more foreshadowing, and a warning of what was to happen, even what might happen to us if we follow a martyr’s lead, than a call for humans to be communion robots.
The day after Martin Luther King Day I would say the best way to honor what good he did was to try to do better, and be better. The same is true for all martyrs. What is past is past. People will spin it, but be aware it almost always self serving spin.
Instead let’s honor those who went before by standing on the best they did and then try to do better.
Our job is not to be them, or to declare them ours. Our job is to move the legacy on.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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