Monday’s celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth has special significance.
It follows a year when rainbow coalitions of demonstrators gathered on city streets to protest the killings of innocent black men by police. It comes as the National Football League and President Donald Trump trade blows over players, black and white, kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. It comes as women take down some of the most powerful men in government, entertainment, art, news and politics with charges of sexual assault.
This is civil disobedience in the early 21st century as new guiding principles burst forth in anger and protest.
King taught the value of nonviolent protest — teachings that hold up today. The demonstrations that exploded in the wake of police shootings of black men offer as good an example as any. Peaceful protests were the order of the day; those who burned instead of built were scorned. NFL players who took a knee and cast their eyes to the ground were protesting against injustice — not the American flag or the military, Trump’s tweets notwithstanding. The #MeToo Movement that sprang up as women came forward to tell their stories may represent the fulfillment of the most well-known of King’s teachings — that people can dislodge the status quo by the power of the spoken word.
As is their annual custom, students from Catskill High School on Friday observed King’s birthday in the March for Peace and Justice. The march began at the Second Baptist Church on Main Street in Catskill. Church services are also planned around Columbia and Greene county this weekend.
As the year begins, however, the nation’s strength has been sapped by interminable political tensions and economic uncertainty. What has emerged in 2018 is a need to rely on King’s less tangible teachings.
We have to acknowledge the value and meaning of sacrifice. We have to accept the importance of spiritual satisfaction in our lives. Most of all, we must stand for something or, as the saying goes, we will fall for anything.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings look more relevant than ever to society at-large and in our own lives. On the anniversary of King’s birth, we would do well to remember the ideals of equal rights, freedom and justice for all citizens are eroding. In these times when simple human decency is at a premium, we have little choice but to embrace King’s ideals and work to restore them.