On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day many people have off from work and school, how great is it to sit back and relax into the week?
Admittedly, it’s nice. I’m not complaining. As long as we recognize the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and all it stands for in our tumultuous present.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, any exposure to the news cycle has been…overwhelming. So many voices seem to be shouting all at once, refusing to take a turn and sit idle. More people are standing up for their rights as gender, racial, and sexual minorities. Equally loud opposition from the White House and constant stream of questionable tweets and decisions are only fanning the flames.
Such ado has me thinking about how relevant Martin Luther King’s words and life are right now. The messages he preached from the pulpit and podium, to people of every color and creed. Growing up and living in segregation, facing strict divides at every corner, what drove King to activism still exists today. Perhaps it looks different now, taking the form of Hollywood sexual abuse, strained foreign ties, and immigration limitations, but that obvious distaste toward equality continues to perpetuate desensitization and ignorance.
Martin Luther King also refused to stand idly by whilst fully aware of injustice. In eleven years, he traveled six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. His goals catalyzed people, once used to accepting the back seat, to take the steering wheel.
Herein lies his dream, that single speech whose words still reverberate in our ears. King utilized a familiar emotion to today’s America, anger, and transcribed it into an eloquent manifesto told to every attendee of the March on Washington.
As well as we know the eternal phrase, “I have a dream,” Martin Luther King’s speech is much more than that. He mentions the disparity between widespread poverty and isolated wealth. He describes the progress made since the Emancipation Proclamation, a well-intentioned vision that had yet to fully reach fruition, societal chains replacing metal chains.
He emphasizes the power of Now, what was then a current moment now a line in history textbooks. We too have this power. Each breath we are granted is an opportunity. And we have a choice of how to make use of that precious time. Every day is a threshold in which we can evoke change, turn the tide of what is accepted and redefine our norms. King’s “whirlwinds of revolt” that “continue to shake the foundations of our nation” have not ceased since that fateful time. An earthquake began to rattle our moral core, and the aftershock constantly takes on new forms.
We’ve tried what seems to be every form and method out there, peaceful and violent, legal and otherwise. We feel at our wits’ ends to do something, anything, that seems productive and is actually making a difference. We feel helpless to our government, to our history, to our one percent of wealth. How do we truly step from beneath our trials and tribulations and see tangible results for our efforts?
Optimism sounds like a cruel joke, an imaginary perception blind to our harsh, suffering reality. But to fully embody Martin Luther King, we need optimism on our side. We need that dream he had despite oppression and injustice. We need goals that sound impossible right now but drive us to keep pushing forward. We need empathy and awareness for every single person and living being.
We have and continue to make progress, so let us not denounce where we’ve already come. We always have more work to do. Thanks to technology, we are more aware of injustice than ever before. We have access to every act of violence, every cry for help, every victory and defeat. Rather than trying to tackle every issue on our news feeds, define your own dream for change to focus upon. What is your key hope for the world? How would you like to make a difference today?
Yes, I’ve made very broad statements and have asked many difficult questions, but if not on this day, then when? If we want to celebrate Martin Luther King’s dream, the most appropriate way to do so to live each day with purpose and exist not to become products of our circumstances, but to carry out our dream for a better world.
Mindful meditation: Almighty Lord, You equip us with the tools we need to fulfill our aspirations for peace, good will and equality. Yes, we inevitably withstand difficulties and suffering in a sinful world, but like the great Martin Luther King, I pray we all recognize our potential to inch ever-closer to Your image and example. Amen.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie