The bloody rampage in Arizona on Saturday occurred one week before the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are sure that as in years past, on the MLK national holiday politicians and media commentators were planning to engage in the annual ritual of paying homage to the late civil rights leader and feigning allegiance to King’s agenda of social justice. Some will misquote his “Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington, while others will stand in pulpits as a way to convince audiences that they “identify” with the struggle. Do us all a favor: sit down, be quiet and spare us the hypocrisy.
What we are missing most in our country is courageous leadership; individuals like Dr. King that are willing to take a stand and are not enamored with celebrity. We are missing principled leaders, not concerned with the next election, television appearance or book deal. It is not a void created by a particular political party or confined to a particular race. The failure cuts across partisan and ideological lines, with all leaders bearing responsibility. Our nation is lacking the moral fiber to take a stand against the type of hate that inspires mad men to shoot innocent people, including children, gangs that terrorize our communities with guns and drugs, and elected officials who are more concerned with self-preservation than the welfare of our nation.
We see it every year on Martin Luther King Day. Disingenuous politicians claiming to uphold King’s legacy but bearing no evidence of a commitment to the civil rights leader try to convince us that they are champions of the poor and advocates for the powerless. It is time we called out the pretenders. Our nation is on the brink because we have had a failure of leadership. From our nation’s capital to state capitals and city halls, and communities across the country, the absence of real leaders is taking its toll. The true legacy of Dr. King was his commitment and passion fighting injustice, anywhere. We are coming apart at the seams because the silence of some so-called leaders, and the divisive rhetoric of others, has caused justice and equality to take a back seat.
So on this year’s Martin Luther King Day we urge you to voice your displeasure over the current state of affairs. Don’t be silent if hypocritical politicians show up at events when you know they have done little to improve conditions in our community. Don’t let this nation reduce King’s legacy to one speech – “I Have a Dream” - that did not capture his perspective on the state of our democracy at the time of his death. Do your homework. Read the published works of Dr. King and expand your understanding of his worldview so you will be better equipped to challenge those who stand in the way of creating a truly united States.
Let us speak truth to power and recommit ourselves to the pursuit of justice as we prepare to honor Dr. King.