It’s the weekend that we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and because of his work, 50 years ago the Voting Rights Act was signed, guaranteeing the rights of all Americans to exercise their right to vote. There are a number of events to attend, as described in Holly Hollman’s article, and the fact that in Alabama white folks and black folks now walk in a parade in front of the courthouse, as well as sing together to celebrate is a testament that Dr. King’s dream has taken hold, even if at times it is thwarted.
While there are some who feel that we are more divided than ever, that we have gone backwards and not forwards, 50 years ago there would not be a clever sit-com like Blackish where the African American teenager wants to change his name to Shlomo, (Hebrew for Solomon,) and wishes to have a bar mitzvah, much to the horror of his father. 50 years ago people would not have had discussions where several African Americans could be described as serious contenders for President of the United States. And 50 years ago, all of us, white, black, or any other color would have been aghast at the assaults of the Islamic State. We would have found them inconceivable, given the fact that WWII had only been over for a decade.
Martin stood for the principles of non-violence, something from which he never wavered, and which may have ultimately cost him his life. If he were alive today, I do believe he would have gone to Paris to march in support of the journalists who were murdered by jihadists over a cartoon. Martin would have been proud to say “Je suis Charlie,” French for “I am Charlie,” the buzz phrase of the movement that was birthed essentially overnight to show solidarity with people who died standing up to jihad, even if it was through the use of a cartoon.
Leaders from all over the world attended, and our President, who has made history as being a part of Martin’s dream, was notably absent, as was the Vice-President, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State. Not a good day at sea, I’m thinking, if one is commanding the ship that has historically sailed through the rough waters of terrorism in order to arrive at a safe harbor.
By contrast, Benjamin Netanyahu, whose country is surrounded by folks who actually send tweet messages saying that Israel must be destroyed, was front and center. He was joined by Chancellor Angela Merkel, of Germany. Please remember that Germany was the nation who a bit more than 50 years ago was occupying Paris, would have gassed Benjamin Netanyahu, and then would have yanked out any gold he might have had on his teeth. Who would have thought?
What was it about the cartoon that was so offensive that it seemed reasonable to gun down the people at the magazine Charlie Hebdo, who portrayed Mohammed as saying, “All is forgiven?” To a reasonable person, forgiveness is essential to all of humanity, to being a whole person, and for moving forward. But we are not dealing with reasonable people, and it would be good to settle our differences, let past history be just that, and stand together against the Islamic State wherever it attacks with cowardice and hatred. It is what Martin would have wanted.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner