MLK had to cut a Gordian Knot. And the weapon he chose was a combination of love and righteous strength. It is fascinating the way people have tried to neuter this firebrand, who forget that the same words used to demonize movements like BLM were used against him at the time. He was a rabble rouser, a Communist, a pervert, and on and on. After he died he became a saint, and the exact same words were used against people who used the same tactics King was using 50 years ago. It would be funny if it weren’t so sick.
He wasn’t something superhuman. He was a man willing to die to accomplish a goal, and that made him dangerous to the status quo. He fully understood that he probably wouldn’t live to see the fruition of his dream. Probably understood that his words would be turned against his children by the very people who used to use fire hoses and dogs against him.
He got that. It was part of the process. And I think he’d recognize where we are right now.
The Civil War got us about 50% of the way. MLK got us another 25%. And now, right now, we’re looking at another 12.5% as we proceed asymptotically toward the Promised Land. Make no mistake: the racial component of the political chaos is a reaction to the progress we’ve made. If you do not embrace love, and do not have faith, and believe in equality—not “legal equality”, not “in the eyes of God” equality, but that the different families of Man really are equal–then this is a moment of terror. The dark night of the soul.
The Hero’s Journey is the story of a human being making progress…or an entire nation.
- Hero confronted with a challenge. To live up to the wonderful words of equality in our constitution.
- Hero rejects the challenge. The most natural thing in the world is to assume your family, your neighborhood, city, school, state, political party, tribe or race is the best. When you combine this with the economic need for cheap labor, you have a nightmare. You aren’t just giving up that economic advantage–if you admit you wronged these people, the guilt and fear are massive.
- Hero Accepts the challenge. Those who didn’t need the economic advantage were first able to see the evil, in the same way that vegetarians find it easier to grasp the misery of the slaughterhouse. And America began to realize it was going to have to make a decision.
- The Road of trials. Painful struggle, no question about it. Horror show of abolition and succession and war, Jim Crow and Segregation. One could create an entire cycle within each of these realities and reactions.
- Allies and Powers. We formed this country with a mighty dream of human freedom, one which will guide us out of the woods, whatever snakes and sleepers we have to avoid along the way. MLK was one powerful ally, one who called us to the better angels of our nature. And because he spoke of love rather than fear, faith rather than despair, it was possible for even those who didn’t want us marrying their daughters to grasp that there was something terrible happening, and the cry of “State’s Rights” was just an excuse to prolong the agony. He was, in this context, perhaps the single most powerful ally our Hero, our Country, has ever had. And died for it.
- Confront Evil, Defeat: We awaken in stages. Those most deeply in the dream, as well as snakes, burrowed themselves deeply within the system, learned to change their rhetoric, and create alliances with people who needed their votes. As the world continued to change, they were compressed and cornered enough to create a politically Newtonian counter-action. It was not “all about race”. But anyone who thinks race was not a component hasn’t been paying attention.
- Dark Night of the Soul. Listen to the despair, fear and anger, mostly from people who were not around during the 60’s, or weren’t paying attention to how bad things were.
- The Leap of Faith. Between the Civil Rights movement and the Cuban Missile Crisis, there is simply nothing we’ve not seen before. And we got through it. And THEY were not as bad as things the human race has fought through for all its 250k years of existence on this planet. We endure. We grow. We connect. And when we speak to each other, from the heart, we see our own souls in the eyes of others, and if we feel love, we can begin to drop our guard, don’t need to defend the sins of our ancestors, and face the future.
- Confront Evil–and win. This is the next step. If we’ve taken the previous steps, we can have confidence in the next one. There will be doubters, of course, and those who fight against it, and those who are so beaten down that they cannot believe.
- The Student Becomes the Teacher. Whenever we learn, grow, find a new and better path we can lead others. America held up its ideals for centuries, and we’ve shed blood to try to live up to it. We are part of that dream of freedom and joy the human race has nurtured, with only fear and predation preventing us from embracing each other.
Love and faith conquer fear. And I have a dream that we will finish awakening from the nightmare. Get down to that last 12.5%. I might even live to see the next “bump” of about 6.25%. But you know something? I’m damned proud of us. We’ve come a long way.
And MLK was, as I said, one of the greatest allies the national conscience ever had. Just remember that he wasn’t a cream puff. And that the crap you hear hurled at “Social Justice Warriors” today was hurled at Civil Rights advocates 50 years ago. And for the exact same reasons: trying to fight the future.
The future always wins.
Happy MLK Day!