Friday, January 18, 2019


Takeaways from Martin Luther King, Jr. for America, 2019 

Martin Luther King, Jr. (abbrev. "MLK") was a great leader in a time of social stress: the 1960s. The U.S. has set aside January 21, 2019, as a memorial to him.

I have memories related to MLK, mainly because I associated with people who knew and supported him. I spent the academic year of 1963-64 in Chicago as an intern at the Parish of the Holy Covenant, located back from the lake-shore on Diversey Parkway. My work there was to fulfill requirements for the Master of Divinity degree at Evangelical Theological Seminary, Naperville, IL. I was newly married to my lovely Lucille. We lived near the church.

An important church executive, Stanley Hallett, happened to be an active member of Holy Covenant. Hallett was Executive Director of the Church Federation of Greater Chicago. Stan befriended me and taught me a lot about urban development, his specialty. But I remember more having participated in a trip he organized to Jackson, Mississippi. 

Stan had a friend, the Rev. Ed King, the chaplain of Tougalou College. Tougalou is located north of Jackson.

Ed King had telephoned Stan for help in saving students' lives. Ed told Stan that 16 Tougalou students had lost their lives for protesting on behalf of black people in Jackson. Stan agreed to help, and did so by organizing delegations of pastors from the Chicago area to stand with the students in demonstrations. Especially as they sought to enter segregated churches. 

I joined one of those groups and remember well the sound of approaching sirens as our integrated group sought to enter an all-white Methodist church one Sunday morning in 1963. After discussion with the police and ushers, we left church property. We clergy returned to Chicago to safety with our families and our congregations. At least, we provided the students with some cover in their quest for freedom and equality. A death of a black student would draw little attention in those days, but an attack on a white pastor from Chicago would get lots of press.

The name Ed King brings to mind Martin Luther King, Jr. (M.L.K., Jr.), whose day we celebrate on January 21, 2019. M.L.K., Jr. fought for equality; Trump has delivered inequality in many ways, especially by delivering higher tax rates for the lower classes while lowering rates for the rich and corporations. M.L.K., Jr. fought for inclusion; Trump is fighting for a wall. M.L.K., Jr. fought for voting rights. Republicans in some areas (with Trump's blessing?) seek to restrict voting roles. 

2018 Peoples' protest  in Seattle. Photo:  Elliot Stoller,
used with permission

1965   President Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr. at the signing of the Voting Rights Act
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

What if Hallett, or Ed King, or MLK, Jr. were here today. What would they advise that we, the people, seek to do?

What’s for Americans to do in 2019? Prioritize these six things. I take them from the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

l Steering our President toward decent government, however possible, whenever possible, if possible. Restoring orderly governance is essential for the good of the people. The President’s own staff should advise him, reign him in, or just resign as so many have already done. Yes, it'd be a tough job but that’s their responsibility to us, the people, and our Constitution. It's pure MLK, Jr., too.

l We the People must act as one body, but how? In 2019 let us have recourse to the traditional values we hold in common: liberty and justice for all. Let us refuse to be divided and driven by fear.  MLK boldly strove for unity around those two values: liberty and justice for all.

Work for, contribute to, and vote for candidates who genuinely support liberty and justice for all.  Thinking of 2020 in particular.

l Favor our long-held American taxation measures that impede domination by corporations and the already-wealthy, lift the poor and strengthen the middle class.

l Use the time out to November 2020 to hinder voter repression in every jurisdiction. “Open and fair elections” in 2020. An essential, necessary and worthy goal. Voter registration and motivation was huge for MLK, Jr.

l Let 2019 be known as The Year of Recovery of Our American Values.

I can dream in the spirit of King:

  • that as robots and automation take jobs, no one be left behind. I have that dream.
  • that as Artificial Intelligence replaces human thought that the values of equality and justice be programmed into every algorithm. I have that dream.
  • that as elites thrive on higher incomes, wealth be shared through proper tax programs health insurance. I have that dream.
Let justice flow down like rain on the mountains!

Given the authoritarian rule in our nation just now, what else do you think King's dream would include were he here to lead us?


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