Monday, January 21, 2013


Gotta. Every year I wonder if I should revisit Martin Luther King Jr. on the American federal holiday in his honour. And every year I come back to this Baptist preacher who took on the uneasy mantle of the leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the turbulent sixties. Of course we often discover that "larger than life" individuals  are "real life" human beings with the proverbial feet of clay, and this was the case with King. But this is so for every iconic figure, in every age. This is more the case in the 21st century when intense scrutiny of the lives of public figures reveals every foible.

One of MLK's most famous documents was the letter from Birmingham Jail, written, then smuggled out while he was incarcerated in 1963. King's letter was a response to a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen  The clergymen agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets. They criticized Martin Luther King, calling him an “outsider” who causes trouble in the streets of Birmingham.

Some have suggested that if another testament was compiled to follow what we call the New Testament this letter should be included. It includes the famous statement "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

This is an important phrase to ponder in a nation which prides itself on equality yet practically lives a different standard with our First Nations. Not long ago Glen Babb, the South African ambassador to Canada during the terrible apartheid regime offered that his nation has made greater strides toward equality in the years since he left this country than we have with aboriginal peoples. While this is subject to debate, that it could even be suggested is an indictment.

Any musing about MLK on your part? What about the civil rights parallels?

1 comment:

IanD said...

That's an interesting parallel, if there ever was one. I don't know if I agree, but it's certainly thought provoking.

President Obama is using two Bibles for today's public inaugural. One was Abraham Lincoln's (which he used in 2009 for his first inaugural) and the other is MLK's. There's a pretty strong message and symbolism in that.

I will once again cue up the "I Have A Dream" speech as another January brings another opportunity for my students to think about something bigger than their little piece of Clarington. I am thankful for the opportunity.