What Would MLK Say Now? by William Klein

Tumultuous times create visionary leaders. I will be curious to see how great leaders emerge from these times. They are out there.

There are many similarities of what’s happening today to the 60s.  Great leaders emerged like Martin Luther King, Jr., Ceasar Chavez and the Kennedys. 

Like the 60s, race relations are problematic and people of color are calling for systemic reform against racism. The economy is in a tailspin as people have lost jobs due to the coronavirus. We are at odds with one another politically.

Though the 60s demonstrations were against the war in Vietnam, the old Civil War diatribes and age-old ideological wars have erupted and aggression has bubbled up from the historic volcanos of uncertainty. There’s a great deal of finger pointing going on and bitter feelings of a government that is not serving its people as nobly and efficiently as it could.

A new president-elect in waiting is planning his administration and taking the oath this coming week. Soon he will be cobbling policies with lawmakers to meet the needs of battling a war on the virus and securing initiatives to help those who are suffering the most, while a lame duck president fights to be relevant. Two battles on the homefront.  Just like Obama faced when he took office.

King would probably be reminding us that the factors of race, poverty and war will cripple us from making progress, if we cannot learn to address these issues with steadfast moral conviction, open hearts and focused intentional mindfulness.

I wonder if he’d be surprised by the revolting images in halls of the Capitol? I cannot help but wonder what Martin Luther King, Jr. would be saying in light of the Capitol violence we witnessed a week ago. Hearing about the deaths of five people. Watching the push of an angry mob and an African American policeman, Eugene Goodman, fending them off with a crowbar, heroically leading them away from the chamber where Vice President Pence was presiding. Watching men on scaffolds try to substitute the United States flag with a Trump flag or witnessing the Confederate flag being waved as other rioters pillaged the hallowed grounds of our legislative chambers, so they could sell items on Ebay. Witnessing domestic terrorists donning shirts with Nazi sympathies and pledges of revolution as they swoon at the president’s invectives. 

From a social justice perspective, I would venture to guess that he would squarely call us to boycott those companies who support an autocrat who undermines the belief in our system of government. He’d be calling us to hold accountable those who support undoing the election; who stands on the side of fear and lies and snuffs out the eternal flame of hope. 

Maybe he would be condemning the crippling undermining of those congressmen and women who stifle our imaginations rather than light a path through possibility.

He’d probably be pointing out the wars that rage in our society begins with addressing the insecurities we fail to realize in our own hearts. He would be calling us to reconcile with building the Kingdom from within.

Maybe he would doubly inspire us to see an individual blueprint for ourselves and a blueprint for community. He would poetically weave words that tie us to a “single garment of destiny” reminding us, “Whatever affects one directly affects us all indirectly” and “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

I think he would be challenging our leaders to lay out our Nation’s plan going forward?  I can almost guarantee that he would have strong initiatives for helping the worker and the poor.

In a speech he gave in Philadelphia called “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” he said, “A building starts with a strong, sound and solid blueprint.”

In that speech he reminded us of the importance of laying foundations for the future.  He implicitly knew that “a house divided would not stand.”

I venture to guess that he would speak honestly about the individual’s role in self-reflection.

First, he would remind us to recognize a deep belief in our “own dignity and worth of somebodiness.” We can all take a page from the nonviolent movements where leaders inspired greatness from the talents we possess.

Secondly, he would remind us that we must have the determination to achieve excellence in our endeavors. “Do a good job in whatever you do…  If you’re sweeping a street, sweep it as if you are a Michelangelo of streetsweepers.”

Finally, he might recognize that there “must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love and justice.”  He noted in that speech, “Don’t allow anybody to pull you so low as to make you hate them.  Don’t allow anyone to cause you to lose your self-respect to the point that you do not struggle for justice. However young you are, you have a responsibility to make your nation a better nation in which to live.  You have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody, so you must be involved in the struggle for freedom and justice.”

King would call us to being conscious of the power of non-violence in moving forward. As he so eloquently stated, “Our slogan must not be ‘Burn Baby Burn,’ but ‘Build Baby Build.’  ‘Learn Baby Learn,’ so that we can ‘Earn Baby Earn.’”

I wonder. Would he be proud of the first female vice president being an African American or would he say, “It’s about time?”

“If you can’t fly, run. If you cannot run, walk.  If you can’t walk, crawl.  But by all means, keep moving.” In the name of MLK, we must keep moving forward.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s