January 17, 2022
Today, we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and what he has meant to us as country and as a people. There will of course be speeches and pronouncements across the political spectrum, as there always are. There is nothing like a bandwagon and, in hindsight, aligning yourself with the “right” side is easy to do.
In the fifty-four years since Dr. King was taken from us, he has gone from having a 75% disapproval rating to being one of only two people to merit a US public holiday. Even retrospection can take a while. MLK day was passed in 1983 over the resistance of the sitting US President and not universally recognized as a holiday until 2000, when South Carolina finally came on board. Even today, Alabama and Mississippi dilute the day by recognizing it the birthdays of Martin Luther King AND Robert E. Lee. Old habits die hard.
It is something of a parlor game to ask, “if you had been of age, what would you have done?” Would you have gone to the deep south to be a Freedom Rider? Would you have defied the Nazis and protected your Jewish neighbors? The greater challenge is not so much to identify “right” and “wrong” in the moment, but to decide how to act on that identification. What makes this difficult is that it often comes with other considerations – what will this cost me, will it put my family or job at risk, will my social standing be diminished? The more relevant question today then is not “what would you have done?” but rather, “what will you do?”
Today, we are in a fight for democracy. The Republican Party has become anti-democratic, is actively dismantling elections at the state level, and is preventing a fix at the Federal level. They have even excommunicated one of their congressional leaders – a staunch conservative, but one who is committed to democratic institutions. Here in Georgia, two 2022 Republican candidates, one for Governor and one for Secretary of State, are campaigning explicitly on idea that the 2020 elections should have been overturned and given the opportunity, will in fact do that in 2024. These people are not hiding their motives. They are answering both questions honestly.
We either believe that our democracy is at stake, or we do not. If we do, fighting for it, today and always, is the ultimate tribute to Dr. King. The next several years are crucial. Join us in this fight. To honor MLK, focus on his work and translate eulogy into action.