|Photo by Tom LeGro/PBS NewsHour|
It's been 46 years since he left us. Since that terrible day in April people in this country and around the world have remembered his words and his special life. Hardly a town of any size doesn't have a Martin Luther King Boulevard--though most of them run through the poorest of neighborhoods. There are monuments to his memory everywhere.
But let us not forget our history. Remember how vilified he was? Remember how they bombed his house in Montgomery? And the deaths threats that just kept coming? Remember how he was called a Communist and J.Edgar Hoover was determined to bring him down? Remember how supposedly good politicians fought to make sure his birthday did not become a national holiday. They lost. Remember his was not a seamless life. Thetre were cracks in his plaster. His feet were as clay as are ours. His sins were sometimes enormous. Yet--who was it that said that God always writes straight lines with crooked sticks?
But Dr. King gave us hope. And still does after all these years. Not too long ago I stood before the great monument in Washington."Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope." And as I looked black folk with smiles on their faces stood below the huge stone rendering and had their pictures taken. I saw a little black boy perhaps not even nine standing there just looking up. I hope something good and special stirred in his young heart.
We're in a strange place today. We have a black President. Many politicians have determined that he will be a failure. How could any black man really run this country! Lies have been told on top of lies--about his heritage. Not really black. Not really white. Not born in this country--but some strange place like Kenya. An undercover Muslim. Not one of us. A Socialist or maybe a Communist. Another Hitler. Why, he only got into Harvard because they thought he was black--affirmative action enshrined. Rumors of impeachment. The Southern Poverty Law Center has said that hate groups have risen 800% during his tenure as President.
I stopped by my black seamstresses' house the other day. Over her sewing machine and mounds of fabric was a picture of the smiling Barack Obama. He has given hope where there was no hope. He has added dignity to lives who felt so little. Not only in our country but around the world. He, like the great King, still promises hope for everyone.
Forget health care and the tangled web of Washington. Even though our President has pulled it off--no other President in our whole history has done this. People in every state who had no insurance are finding help. Sure it is a mess. And it will still be a mess until those in power decide to do more than simply ensconce themselves in more power. But let us not just blame them--those in charge of this new program--have done very shabby preparations. But affordable health care is an idea whose time has come.
And so this day we all know that President Obama would not be here without that man who gave his life for us all in Memphis. Dr. King kept telling us: "Deep in my heart--I do believe that we shall overcome one day." He sang it in bombed our churches. He sang it over the dead bodies of four little girls in Birmingham. He sang it in Mississippi where young men with stars in their eyes were dead for helping vote register top vote. He sang it not only for black folk but for the poor and all that were disenfranchised. He sang it despite the venom and the curses and was singing it just the night before he was killed.
And so, dear President--I hope we remember that song today. And I hope that we will remember those words too. It is a hard time. Meanness runs through many of our streets. Both political parties seem more interested in power than helping the common good. But remember we still can sing the song of hope and pray: "Deep in my heart I do believe that we shall overcome one day."