Monday, January 16, 2012

A Glorious Legacy

Today the nation celebrates the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a day of service.
I can think of few more appropriate ways to honor a man who espoused non-violence and humility in the face of oppression and rage. Service to our community, service to our fellow men and women, even as small as buying a friend a sandwich for lunch or giving a quarter to the homeless guy who sleeps in the subway, sounds like small potatoes in the face of the service that Dr. King gave to this nation.
But it's a start. Obviously, the more you can give to your community, the more important your work can be.
It strikes me that, in this day and age of faux-libertarianism, as espoused by the massively zealous support Ron Paul gets as an icon of that movement, we forget that community is based on service, on responsibilities. That with the Rights we all cherish so dearly comes a second edge to the sword of freedom: duty.
Or, as Dr. King put it: "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
As eloquent as I can be, as soaring as my rhetoric can take flight, I find myself biting back envy when I read how elegantly and simply Dr. King can make a point.
See, Dr. King, for all his renown as a great racial equalitarian, understood that ultimately the battle for equality would be fought on an economic front, that no man, white or black, could be free so long as he was shackled economically, and opportunity was available to him to give back to the community what he took from it.
Yes, the plight of the minority was something he worked tirelessly to fix, but in his words you find countless references to lifting all people. You see:
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
The palpable fear these words instill in the right wing today is telling. The first step on this road to equality is faith that the road leads there. Whether that faith is a belief in a higher power, or that the goal is a just and true one, is all that matters.
It is hard to believe that, fifty years after these words were spoken, and four years after a milestone in American civilization was breached and a black man elected President, we are still dealing with issues of racial and ethnic abuses. But when that President can be characterized as a "lyin' African" by a significant minority of haters and fear-mongers, we clearly have a long way to go.
Indeed, I suspect the reason the race card is played as often as it is, both in direct placement as well as in dogwhistle, is to distract from the fact that all people suffer the repressions of a system that is at best nominally capitalist, that is cloaked in a veil of faux righteousness by the faux-opportunitiests. You suffer it. I suffer it. Anyone who can't escape the system suffers it.
Anyone who works for a paycheck suffers it. Anyone who owes more to a banker than he makes in a year suffers it. Anyone who is enslaved by the predations of economic royalists, who at the drop of a hat can change the rules you have to play by, suffers it.
There is no freedom without justice. There is no justice without fairness. There is no fairness without standing up straight and demanding it.
Or...."Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent."
Amen. Stop being a whipping boy. Go out and do something for someone in your community today.