By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.
With each passing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it seems America’s destiny has become more perilous and his vision of equality and a multi-racial democracy is slipping away. There are many reasons: tolerance, acceptance, and ignoring racism that has come out of hiding; suppression of voting rights targeting communities of color; and perhaps the most insidious, laws banning the teaching of or even the discussion of race in schools, books of by and about people of color and whitewashing history.
While these actions taken by an embolden extreme “New Right” are abhorrent and antithetical to the ideas of our nation’s founding principles and its charge to its people to “create a more perfect Union,” there is one thing worse and more dangerous that is propelling them forward. The silence and complacency of good, and true conservative Americans to speak up and speak out against the regressive, immoral lies being propagated by the far right of their party. As Dr. King said,
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
They fail to realize the simple reality that,
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
One need not look any further than our current political climate to see this. Had good people of conscious on the right had the courage to denounce the former President’s big lie of a rigged election, his attempted coup and insurrection on January 6th, or embraced the indisputable facts of the J6 Committee, America would not be in the life-or-death situation it finds itself in today. Our Presidential election would be about ideas, policies and lifting up the lives of everyone, not a choice between preserving our electoral democracy or surrendering it to the authoritarian rule of a dictator.
“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but on must take it because it is right.”
But as Dr. King also said,
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
For our nation that time is unequivocally now.
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
On MLK Day, many will honor America’s greatest civil right icon, with his words; and others who will pay political lip service to the Nobel Peace Prize winner by quoting his visionary words at every public opportunity to show the courage of their convictions is on the right side of history, when their actions have demonstrated they lack the courage to do right.
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All Americans who enjoy the freedoms of our democracy, both left and right, can take inspiration from Dr. King’s words but being inspired is not enough. They must be put into action.
We must be inspired to come together, so those who know the truth, but are afraid to speak it, find their courage to call out lies and propaganda. We must find our courage to engage in the processes of democracy and not fear those who seek to destroy it with political violence.
Yes, the growing darkness in our nation is profoundly frightening, but don’t forget times were equally frightening in Dr. King’s day. One has to believe the stars he spoke of are the people who come out in dark times of adversity to fight for freedom.
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”