Living the dream

Now that Martin Luther King Day is firmly behind us, the best way to honor King is by leading a life of service the other 364 days out of the year. This line is oft repeated but it is ironically made on King Day in most instances. To be sure, Americans are notorious for neatly arranging our compassion in departments reserved for special days and if we are lucky, we might even get the day off. Just think of the emotions and fund raisers that are reserved for Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, and the tsunamis that hit Southeast Asia. All of these actions are noteworthy but the sad part is that compassion is not in vogue if it’s out of season.

And as time passes, days of remembrance lose their national significance starting with statements to the nation by the President of the United States and ending with quirky ‘What happened on this day’ observations on National Public Radio. King Day has not reached this point but when his legacy is reduced to dream, one would get the impression that all King did was sleep. It wasn’t just King, but everyone, heroes all, that worked on achieving civil rights never slept, tirelessly working for justice and equality while risking the safety of themselves and their loved ones.

Given the now universal praise for Dr. King, you would’ve wondered if anyone had ever disagreed with the aims of the Civil Rights Movement. Of course, this deification is misplaced and does nothing but pervert the legacy and fullness of King. Vladimir Lenin put it best when he said,


“During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it.”

In Dr. King’s book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” he explains that “Equality with whites will not solve the problems of either whites or Negroes if it means equality in a world society stricken by poverty and in a universe doomed to extinction by war.” King was wise to link the struggles of racism and poverty. So if anyone who considers themselves morally intact because they have friends of various races/ethnicities or appreciate food/culture of different ethnic groups, I ask you to compare your efforts to end racism versus ending poverty. Are you living the dream?


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