Local 2195

Dr King Remembrance 2013

January 16, 2013

Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. 2013

by John T. Davis Region 8 Webmaster and LUPA Advisory Council Chair

When I think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - greatest comes to mind. But then what does it mean to be great? What places a person in that category? Maybe standing in the face of adversity to do the right thing? Or having the courage to stand up for the right thing when the public turns against you? Could it be defending the weak and offering a hand up rather than a push down? Finally- having the fortitude to forgive rather than retaliate when you have been wronged?

To me, anyone who has the strength to do any of those things falls within the characterization of being great. Dr. King could be described as a person who did them all – and then some. Some may argue he did those things for himself- but I would disagree. Even though he himself was a person of color- his station in life could have buffered him from many of the atrocities suffered by many of his race. He had the benefit of a good education which often made the difference between being accepted or being discriminated against. He chose to spend his life defending the weak rather than looking away.

When Dr. King was killed, he was in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers. Placing the needs of others ahead of yourself; that is greatness - and Dr. King did it repeatedly. He walked picket lines, he joined marches , he sacrificed for the benefit of others. A far cry from today’s ideas from groups such as the Tea Party that emphasize the “I got mine” mentality. Sometimes it makes me wonder how we wandered so far from the path of caring for others. Dr. King gave his life being an example of one who sacrificed for others – his dream was that all mankind view each other as individuals not groups. Factions such as the Tea Party strive to push public thinking toward grouping individuals so you can blame everyone who shares a certain characteristic with an undesirable person who shares that characteristic. Not every poor person is lazy- as a matter of fact most work hard and have few breaks to show for it. We should never equate wealth with hard work or poverty with idleness.

Dr. King realized that people need a hand up – not a hand out. That is why he spoke for equality in education. The Civil Rights Act helped end segregation in this county – with the intent of making a quality education accessible to all people. Yet today we cut funding to education and demonize teachers. I can only imagine the sorrow Dr. King would have felt to see our school systems slowly creeping back toward segregation under the guise of charter schools. When we stop funding education we strike the death toll for the American dream.

During the Civil Rights movement, a number of horrific acts occurred. Many were murdered for simply standing up for human rights. In 1964, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were all murdered in Mississippi for simply signing African Americans up to vote. Earlier in 1963, Medgar Evers was gunned down in his driveway coming home from work. His crime – encouraging Mississippi African Americans to boycott stores in certain areas of town. In 1963 four members of the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing six in the process including four young girls. These are just a few of the events that made national headlines – not including the countless lynching’s and murders that didn’t make national news.
When one of these tragedies occurred public opinion would sway in favor of the Civil Rights movement. Then as the tragedies began to fade from the headlines, the same people would forget their outrage and allow their opinions to drift back to indifference to the struggle many of their fellow Americans were facing. One of Dr. King’s greatest quotes addressed indifference as he stated “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Another great quote of his included “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

To honor the memory of Dr. King I think we should take these statements to heart. It is up to each of us to take a stand for a better world. That means defending the weak and helping those in need. It seems there exist in our world today an element that encourages selfishness. As a society we will never achieve the dream as long as we allow hate, fear and jealously to dictate our lives. Just as dangerous is our complacency to the events around us.
That means taking a stand for the right thing. There is a growing trend in our country to place the blame for all our woes on the poor. Conservative media has led the charge against the poor in this country when in fact recent studies show that we spend 50% more on corporate welfare than we do entitlement programs that offer assistance to those in need. In 2012 the United States spent $59 billion on social programs such as welfare and food stamps, which equates to the 3% of the federal budget. But, during the same period of time we spent $92 billion or 5% of the federal budget on corporate giveaways. Things such as subsidizing oil and coal companies as they rake in record profits represent 1.5 times the amount of federal dollars that are spent to help the poor. This $92 billion that came out of the mouths of the hungry drove corporate profits higher and carried CEO pay along with it. In the United States the average CEO’s compensation is 388 times that of his average worker. The Tea Party and Rush Limbaugh have run a propaganda campaign to blame our financial woes on the poor. But all evidence points toward the rich as being a greater recipient of our tax dollars – yet we never complain about that. Another great quote from Dr King states “There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”

On this anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we need to rededicate ourselves toward the ideas of peaceful resistance, faith in a better world and a dream where “one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Happy Birthday Dr. King and thank you for the inspiration to make us better than we are.

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