History lived through has more meaning…

January 15, 2018

I started thinking this morning that Martin Luther King Day for me and others that lived through the events that are being honored today somehow has more meaning than it MLK image over DOwntown MIlforddoes for those who have just read about it or watched old new footage of the events leading up to his death. Thus who were alive in those days remember the context of the events that we now memorialize. We remember the nightly news casts showing black protest marchers being attacked by police dogs and being dragged away by police officers.  We remember the speeches and the great gathering on the Washington Mall. The memory of Martin Luther King being shot  at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968,  also provokes memories of where we were and what we were doing five years earlier on the day that President Kennedy was shot, Friday, November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. in Dallas, Texas. It also will be forever linked in our minds to the fatal shooting of Bobby Kennedy just two months later. Those were tumultuous times.

I’m not trying to say that those who weren’t there can’t have an appreciation of the events, the people involved and the consequences that followed; just that they will forever see it from a different perspective from those who lived through those times. It is less abstract and more personally meaningful, if one can recall how it affected us at the time.

History is also full of great breakthroughs and inventions that can leave one wondering how we ever got by before those things were available to us. Some diseases that were a fact of life back then are almost unheard of today and medical science has advanced so much that survival of what were life ending events is now possible. Even as we take these things for granted today, it is possible to look back and wonder about “the good old days.” How did we make it through those days?

Our nest big parade of the year in Milford is the Memorial Day parade in May. I have watched from my spot in the Viet Nam Veterans group of marchers as the ranks of WWII and the Korean War thinned over time. I have few, if any, personal memories of those days, although I was born during WWII. I do recall Harry Thurman and Dwight Eisenhower as the first two Presidents, of whom I was aware. I remember the glow of the short-lived Camelot Presidency of Kennedy and the turmoil of the Viet Nam War years. Those years provided the backdrop for the emergence of the civil rights movement and the leadership role that Dr. King played in that movement. They led up to my own time serving in Viet Nam at the turn of that decade.

So, Martin Luther King Day for me brings back a torrent of memories and images and emotions from my past. The day does not pass quietly by, unnoticed. It is not something abstract to me; it is something that I lived through and that has more meaning. I will go MLK Day parade in Mlfordto the MLK Day parade in Milford later today. It will be cold, as it always is this time of year. As I march, I will be reliving the memories of not just a day; but, of an era in our history at once brilliant in the ideals that it sparked and sad in the aftermath of the attempts to douse those hopes and dreams. Yes MLK’s dream is alive, but so too are the dreams of JFK and RFK and the many others of that era who envisioned a brighter future in America for all of its citizens.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

The streets still echo with his steps…

January 18, 2016

“When you are right you cannot be too radical.  When you are wrong you cannot be too conservative.”  (MLK Jr) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

MLK image over DOwntown MIlfordOn this Martin Luther King day, America and the world are still struggling with many wrongs that need righting, many injustices that beg for justice and many old prejudices that seem to refuse to die. People still take to the streets, as they did in King’s day seeking redress of the wrongs, although many times not as peacefully as he would have liked. Too often there is still a lack of recognition between the right and wrong positions in many of the areas that still cause division and pain. There is too much of a mentality of “them vs. us”; rather than searching for a solution that involves “we”.

The struggles that Dr. King lead, that were so clearly defined along racial lines, have expanded to embrace other groups who are discriminated against because of their differences; not only differences of appearance, but differences in lifestyles. Other groups have added their ethnicity to the discrimination issue fight and a growing issue concerning religious beliefs has begun to creep into the conversation. And, the streets that Dr. King marched upon have not fallen silent. To this day we have people of color marching in the streets caring signs that say “black lives matter”; and new groups marching with them with signs that say “all lives matter.”

In a perversion of Dr. King’s thought, some of the most wrong in America do call themselves Conservatives and seek to justify their discriminatory actions my proclaimingopinionated their righteousness in their “defense of American Family values.” Apparently they think it is OK to discriminate so long as they also proclaim themselves to be evangelicals who are mounting a Bible-based defense of American life as they define it. What’s that old saying about two wrongs not making a right? That’s apparently not in their Bible.

Dr. King might be proud of some of the progress that has been made in the struggles that he led; but he also would surely recognize the unleveled playing fields that still exist. The people that he led can ride the buses and eat in the restaurants now, but the same factions that he was fighting back then still own the buses and the restaurants – and almost everything else. There are laws that allow for redress of wrongs; but also many laws or loopholes that protect those who commit the wrongs, especially at the economic level.

Jim Crow may have put away his guns and called off his dogs, but he did not give up control; he just found a less obvious and violent way to exert it – thru economics and rich man poor manpolitical power. He also found new adversaries to try to hold in check – those who were different from him in almost any way. For quite some time this new strategy worked well by employing tactics such as direct political contributions, Political Action Committees and gerrymandering to maintain political power. That political power allowed the structuring of laws that stripped away what power the masses has accumulated through the tort process or via organized labor. Rather rapidly, in terms of history, those in power amassed most of the wealth of the country, too. Now the top 1% of the world’s people control 99% of the wealth of the entire world, and with that wealth they can buy all of the power that they need to maintain their positions.

I’m not sure if Dr. King would have wanted to lead the coming class wars against this oligarchy, but I think he would have seen it coming and understood that it is both necessary and a noble struggle; one in which it will be impossible to be too radical. The “Occupy Movement” was more of a baby step than a real opening salvo in this war. Historyrich snob is full of instances of the people eventually getting fed up with existing on the crumbs that fall off the tables of the rich rulers and rising up against them.

Those will not be echoes of Dr. King’s marches or distant drums that you will hear but the pounding of millions of feet on the streets of the world and they will all be carrying the same sign that reads – “our lives matter”. The 1% cannot buy enough politicians or arm enough police to hold back this movement. Did someone on Wall Street
say “let them eat cake?”