Today I took my five kids, plus one of their friends, to Burger King. It was busy with families of all shapes, sizes, and colors. While I waited for my order I noticed an unusually large stack of newspapers with the photo of the great Martin Luther King Jr. across the top. Ah yes, Martin Luther King Jr. Day… this is why Burger King was so busy; schools are out.
I took a newspaper, my food, and all the cups and went to find my kids in the “mad house” (the designated play area that consists of an enclosed room filled with a network of tunnels and slides). While all the kids played, chased, and screamed together I skimmed through my newly acquired Atlanta Journal Constitution. Opening the pages was like opening a time capsule. The AJC had compiled copies of their own words from the 1960’s, highlighting Dr. King’s activism and the change he helped produce. The pages were moving, to say the least; and if I were being completely honest I would admit they brought me to tears.
What a magical thing… seeing the actual copies of a newspaper from some 50-odd years ago, well before I was born, and reading about happenings I cannot even imagine. I learned that when outsiders marched for equality in Selma, Alabama there was an outcry of rage among the locals to the tune of “Get out of our business!”. Even when priests, nuns, and other church clergy and members from varying denominations marched side by side for peace there was spitting, shouting, and general chaos amongst the crowd. Selma’s own sheriff was said to have paraded around with a button that read “Never”, as in “We’ll never give in to changing segregation”.
Looking around the Burger King today, where all types of families sat in close proximity, talking, sharing, and eating, it was hard for me to comprehend that only 50 years ago this scene was vastly different. All the children busily played with each other and were seemingly blind to their differences of color. It was beautiful. “This… this is so much closer to how it’s supposed to be” I thought as I finally put my paper down.
There was one moment when I felt like we had a long way to go yet, and that’s when my daughter brought my (handicapped) five-year-old son to me and told me that a boy in the tunnel looked at him, pointed, and said “he’s weird”. She seemed to be more offended than he was by this and told me that her response was “No he’s not! He’s just got different arms and legs.” He said “whatever”. She replied “Well, don’t judge people!”, to which he retorted “I’m telling.” Haha… and I hope he did.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a magnificent, strong, just, and overall beautiful man. He’s now my answer to the question “If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” Besides Jesus, I believe that MLK has probably changed more lives and hearts of people than any other person could have, and we still need him.
Inequality is still around, but sometimes we can’t see it. It’s in races, ages, sexes… even something as “normal” as America’s infant circumcision is a huge human rights violation. But who sees it? Who battles these daily fights against society’s standard?
I can say with fervency that I know where I would have been in March of 1963. Anyone who really knows me would know I’d have been there, right in the front, holding my signs, getting arrested… Would my friends? I’m proud to say that I know many of my friends would have been there with me; however, a few of them I doubt would have been on the right side, and that’s not to say they’re prejudice, but that they tend to follow whatever they were originally taught, and not hear new information concerning human rights or justice. It’s a tragedy, but I still accept them as friends. As the great Dr. King said “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear”. Perhaps, in time, they will come to realize “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”, and “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.
So here’s to the beautiful man who helped create our present! Here’s to the many people who marched those miles, held those signs, and looked the ugly face of injustice in the eyes and wouldn’t budge! Here’s to the modern-day freedom fighters, patriots, activists, unschoolers, attachment parents, intactivists, lactivists, libertarians, voluntaryists… and anyone else who peacefully but actively fights the status quo in order to bring about a better future for others!
Indeed “the time is always right to do what’s right”.