We celebrate the birthday of Dr. King in the fine American tradition of honoring him on a day other than his birthday. If it's good enough for Lincoln and Washington, then it's good enough for Dr. King.
People will sidle up to the memory of the civil rights leader by endlessly requoting his famous speeches and quotes. Blah blah blah blah "Injustice anywhere is...." . Been there and done that.
Let's try something new.
What if we could talk to Dr. King today? If he was somehow able to travel in time before his murder, what would he see and what would we tell him?
Here's the good news Dr. King. You will be gratified to know an African-American man was elected president twice. You need to know Dr. King that we no longer use the term "negro". We now use African-American or Black. Women routinely run for president and sometimes they get the most votes but don't win (it's a long story). For the most part (we aren't there yet, but it's better) people hire doctors, lawyers, accountants, dentists, chefs, engineers, and mostly people in any profession without regard to race. But there are still only three black head coaches in the NFL.
We lost the Vietnam war but somehow managed to get stronger, learning the lessons from a bitter defeat. There are more nuclear weapons, but thankfully we haven't used them since WWII. We routinely live in space and launches and splashdowns don't even make the news. Videos of kittens jumping on balls of wool get more attention than a space launch.
Queen Elizabeth is still on the throne, but her youngest grandson just resigned from The Firm. By the way Harry (as he is called), married a divorced woman of mixed race and that is the least interesting part of the story.
We make meat from vegetables. Fat is healthy (not being fat, that's still bad. But unbelievably, we learned that eating fat makes you thin. It's harder than it sounds.) We eat a lot of sushi. The ramen noodles that generations of college students lived on for 69 cents a package now costs twenty bucks a bowl served in fancy restaurants. McDonalds still sells hamburgers for less than a buck. No one smokes cigarettes anymore, but young people do something called vaping.
Here's the bad news. Your intention in going to Memphis in April of 1968 was to begin the struggle against economic inequality by supporting striking sanitation workers. You were planning a second march on Washington, this time for economic justice. You saw that the real battle for the soul of America was not racial equality, but economic equality.
We are far away from achieving your goal.
A large percentage of Americans, White, Black, Hispanic and Asian work multiple jobs to support their families. For example, teachers routinely work a second job in a place called Starbucks selling seven dollar cups of coffee or drive what used to be called taxis for something called Uber. The thought of a one or two income household providing a home, food, healthcare, transportation and even the ability to take a vacation now and then never seemed farther away.
Our upcoming election promises to fracture the country even more. On the right we have Republicans that have little concern for hard working Americans that just cannot make it. Super-corporations skirt the laws of tax and health care by providing jobs just a few hours under what is required for full time benefits.
On the left we have socialist candidates that want to break up companies that have provided our country with the technological advantages that have allowed us to compete in a global economy. We don't seem to have anyone who can unite us and find common ground. And there is this weird person who runs the Seanate called Mitch McConnell. And there is an even weirder senator named Bernie Sanders who is running for president even though he just had a heart attack.
The world is over-heating; the oceans are polluted and acidic almost beyond repair and the polar regions are melting which means coastal cities around the world will be flooded. 100 year droughts are routinely followed by 100 year floods and world leaders don't seem to be able to agree on how to heal our planet. Some politicans flout science and evdience to wild cheers from their constituents. Xenophobia is at a peak. Things look grim.
Video phones are real, but we don't use them a whole lot. Actually we don't talk to each other very much. We send these electronic messages called texts from phones that we carry around. Walk down the street of any city and 80% of the people are hunched over staring at their electronic devices. It's fun but it's not good.
The news is on 24 hours a day. You can shop without ever leaving your home. There are thousands of TV channels available. The Rolling Stones are still giving concerts. Really. Yes we have done the math. They are older than Moses but rock and roll hasn't died out yet. We also have something called Rap. Remember that commercial of the Native American with a tear rolling down his eye because someone threw some garbage out of a car? Rap would make him weep uncontrollably.
We have these really neat things called Uber- Eats, Netflix, Tinder, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and someone called Kim Khardashian.
Every city in the US has a Martin Luther King Street, Avenue, school, or other public property honoring your life and work. And of course we take a day off to celebrate your birthday. But you gave us more than you took and we still owe you more than we recognize.
You really wouldn't recognize the place.
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