The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King
Like many of you I grew up in the aftermath of Dr. King’s murder. I came into the world along with the Civil Rights Movement. I was raised in the fields of Southeast Kansas, where racism wasn’t a “thing” only because there were so few families who weren’t white.
But I was a reader, and an observer, and I knew that the world that I was living in wasn’t fair. And that a lot of that unfairness wasn’t accidental, and it wasn’t necessary, and it certainty wasn’t right.
I was just learning to read when Dr. King delivered “Beyond Vietnam.” It wasn’t quoted as much as the famous “I Have a Dream,” but his plea for peace in Vietnam reminds us that he was more than a “civil rights leader.” It reminds us that he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. It reminds us that he asked of us more than equality for his fellow African Americans. He asked us to grow up enough to work for peace.
“These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before.”
He said that nearly 50 years ago. And still we can say it is true “as never before.” Perhaps because it will always be true. But also because we, as a “civilized nation” have displayed the emotional maturity of an insecure eighth grader.
“Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream, and we’re still dreaming it. Now is NOT the time to say that we can’t make this dream come true.” Last summer I wrote that in “Dreams Only Die if You Kill Them.” But we aren’t killing his dream, we’re killing our own dream, and our dreams for the children now in the world and those who have not yet come into it.
“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.”
We’re questioning, although many are still defending, but what are we doing to create policies for our future that are fair and just? One sign of emotional maturity is a belief system that acknowledges that only choices that care for the needs of all are ever sustainable without violent oppression.
“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.”
How many of us were told that part of growing up is learning to share? Letting go of the fear of “not enough for everyone” is part of the emotional maturity.
“A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just.”
It’s the easiest thing, when we feel threatened, or belittled, or when our comfortable status quo is challenged, to lash out. Violence is the child’s answer to fear.
But we cannot afford to be children. So when are we going to grow up?
More articles about Dr. Martin Luther King on The Good Men Project.
All quotes taken from “Beyond Vietnam.”
Photo: Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., right are taken by a policeman as they led a line of demonstrators into the business section of Birmingham, Ala., on April 12, 1963. (AP Photo)