It's been 40 years. What have we learned? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

It's been 40 years. What have we learned?

Today marks the 40-year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. Dr. King was only 39, but the man was eloquent and mature way beyond what his age would indicate.

Since Dr. King's death, how much closer are we in realizing his dream? King was known for his notable participation in the Civil Rights Movement, but he was also against the war in Vietnam and spoke out about poverty.

The mainstream media turned against the Nobel Peace Prize winner because of his anti-war stance, specifically becaue of comments he made about America's involvement in the war:

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just."

Yet today, some Americans believe that those who are against the war in Iraq (not the soldiers, but the war) or who point out any of America's weaknesses are unpatriotic, or even worse, traitors. Regarding poverty, the last effort Dr. King was involved in was the Poor People's Campaign, a campaign where citizens of all colors would unite and demand economic aid for the poor, and King pointed out the government's provision of military funds being grossly larger than their provision of funds to help the poverty-stricken. Antagonists called him a Communist because of that, and people today still accuse those who advocate for the poor as pro-Communism or pro-socialism.

ABC News has an article about what Dr. King might say if he were alive today. Hold on to your seats:

Were King alive today, the disciple of Mahatma Gandhi would most certainly be speaking out against the Iraq War, says King biographer David J. Garrow. However, citing the famous "Drum Major Instinct" sermon King delivered from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta just two months before his death, Garrow says people might be surprised to hear echoes of presidential candidate Barack Obama's controversial former pastor.

"God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war," King said of the fighting in Vietnam. "And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it."

While King didn't go as far as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in suggesting that God "damn America," he predicted that the almighty might punish this country for "our pride and our arrogance."

"And if you don't stop your reckless course," he imagined the deity admonishing, "I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power."

Since Dr. King gave America such a tongue-lashing decades ago, does this make Barack Obama unelectable since Dr. King is an inspiration to him? Hmmm...

What have we learned since April 4, 1968? Have we changed for the better, or are we still going through the same cycles that change their outfits every few years? We've gone from Jim Crow to de facto segregation, lynching to the disproportionate imprisonment of black males and from sharecropping to stigmatizing "welfare moms." If America looks in the mirror and does not like what she sees, she should get a face lift.

Finally, for some perspective, here is Dr. King's last speech, "I've Been to the Mountain Top":

Part I

Part II

I ask God to bless America, but I also ask America to bless God by pleasing Him and treating our fellow man a whole lot better than we have been. Let's not allow Dr. King's ultimate sacrifice to be for naught.

Previous Comments

Comment also has a gallery of pictures of moments of time after Dr. King's death, such as the viewing of his body by his wife and four children.


I saw the interview with his sister somewhere over the weekend. It was more fascinating to see the guy behind the minor diety myth/legend that has grown up around him.


Do you mean the History Channel special? I missed it (babysitting). I hope they show it again.


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