January 17, 2006

Missing Martin

Listening to Al Gore's speech today where he paid tribute to the courage and honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, reminded me once more about what a remarkable man Dr. King was and how courageous he was despite the intense pressure he was put under as he worked to save America from its dark path. Martin Luther King Dr. King's impact on the country cannot be denied. In the 20th Century, MLK was the leader of one of the most remarkable, the most moral and, indeed, one of the most American movements our country has known. He spoke to the innate moral sense of Americans and showed how people who disarmed themselves by using the tactics of non-violence could overcome the overwhelming power of the state and the entrenched status quo.

A welcome piece of news today is that Taylor Branch has finished his third volume on the Civil Rights movement and his intense investigative look into the lives of those who shaped that movement: At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68. One of the most beautiful and inspiring books I ever read is the first volume in this work: Parting the Waters. I can hardly wait to read this third and final volume because the Civil Rights movement was one of the most uplifting stories our country has ever told and Branch is one of the finest historians to tackled this subject.

We all are richer because of those brave men and women who put their lives and their livelihoods on the line so that they could vote, have a decent wage for a decent job, and have their kids dream of doing whatever they aspired to and then getting a chance to fulfill that dream because it was their right as Americans. The Civil Rights goals were, in my opinion, the ultimate fulfillment of the American promise.

Read this well done review by Jonathan Alter on Taylor Branch's remarkable new book.

Listen to Terri Gross' interview with Taylor Branch here. As Taylor Branch said, by 1968, Dr. King was weary. He was heartsick at the war in Vietnam. Poverty still consumed the lives of too many Americans. And Dr. King had gotten enough threats that he worried about his life and the lives of his family. Nevertheless, he found the persistance and the courage to go on despite the critics, despite the personal worry that he was fighting intractible problems, and despite the knowledge that there were some who wanted to murder him. Despite this all, Dr. King carried on with a quiet, intense courage. And as Taylor Branch highlighted in his book, during his final days, King tapped into that courage to give one of his most powerful speeches:

"Well, I don't know what will happen now.
We've got some difficult days ahead.
But it really doesn't matter with me now,
because I've been to the mountaintop
and I don't mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.
Longevity has its place.
But I'm not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God's will,
and He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.
And I've looked over,
and I've seen the Promised Land.

I may not get there with you,
but I want you to know tonight,
that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.
So I'm happy, tonight;
I'm not worried about anything.
I'm not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Bless you, Martin. And thank you for having given your heart, your courage and your wisdom to our land.

Posted by Mary at January 17, 2006 01:35 AM | History | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |