What would it be like if we really remembered Martin Luther King and honored his memory?
Would we think about the advances he and his supporters made in civil and human rights? Would we work to preserve and expand them?
Or would we talk about "socialism" and "reparations" and all the other buzzwords cynical political pundits and politicians deploy to scare white people into thinking our (half) black president is going to take from them to give to those "others"?
Would we remember MLK's passionate opposition to the Vietnam war that inspired millions to protest and bring that unjust war to an end? Would we rededicate ourselves to his vision of a just and peaceful world?
Or would we just turn on the TV, turn off our conscience, and forget about the suffering our nation has both caused and endured as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Would we reflect on how MLK died in Memphis while defending the right of public sanitation workers to rise from the ranks of the working poor by organizing and striking for better pay and conditions? Would we honor the laws that give workers the right to do this?
Or would we fall into the trap of maligning hardworking people and their unions, as if they—not corporate and political greed and corruption—caused our financial woes?
As the nation undergoes a self-examination and dialogue in the wake of last week's shooting in Tucson, let's remember that MLK, too, was gunned down in the midst of turbulent and violent times. Let's honor his sacrifice by striving for a better society where understanding and compassion prevail and acts of senseless violence such as this never happen again.
To some, that may be just an impossible dream. But to King, a dream was the beginning and the impetus toward a better future for us all:
Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech, August 28, 1963, at the March on Washington.
We honor and miss you, Martin. Your dream lives on.