Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday.  Had he not been cut down by an assassin's bullet on April 4, 1968, he would be 83 years old.  On Sunday, I walked in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade in downtown Albuquerque.  It was a happy, joyful event of several thousand New Mexicans representing all ages, classes, and races.

Marching with the Rio Rancho NAACP

A Pueblo girl helped the Emcee introduce the state and local dignitaries. Two of our three Congressmen were there - Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, Jr. - as were several other elected representatives and judges.  I was happy to see my Republican State Senator, Sue Wilson Beffort (District 19) there.  I don't know where the Mayor was or the Governor.  I wish they had been there.  In these highly partisan times, I see more and more Republicans withdrawing their support from MLK events because of angry right-wing rhetoric that demands conservatives not recognize the impact of Martin Luther King, Jr. on American history.  The event was a celebration of the freedom, equality, and diversity of our great land.  Laguna Pueblo dancers celebrated the life of Dr. King and the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem were presented in English and Spanish.  The performances and speeches were inspiring.

My friend, Roy Cook, is of mixed heritage: Mexican, Anglo and Native American.  Born in Tucson, Arizona, and now living in San Diego, California, Roy sent photos of the Native Americans of San Diego County who marched in San Diego's MLK Parade. He wrote eloquently why Dr. King is honored by Native America.

MLK Parade in San Diego

The principles of Dr. King embodied our national principles that all God's children are created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Dr. King taught "inclusiveness" against the tide of narrow and hateful nationalism and racism.  He taught that the strong and able must look after and stand up the weak and less able.  In a society with great material wealth and opportunity, where great poverty and injustice still exist, we must all do what we can to eliminate the causes underlying poverty and injustice. 

I think the reason Dr. King's legacy rings true today with so many is because we are a divided nation that struggles to unite its people around common goals. There is hostility, not civility, among even our elected representatives. Anger bubbles up easily and violence is too often used to intimidate others or even shut down their speech.  Bullying is common, even on the internet.  Dr. King's message of love and non-violence is a powerful one.  Violence against ideas is never a solution.  The fact that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a victim of violence by someone who disagreed with him reminds us all that, although hate can stop a man's speech, it cannot stop his ideas.

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