January 17, 2022- About a hundred people marched from Prescott College, to and around Yavapai County Courthouse and back to Prescott United Methodist Church, as the first part of a celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , in mid-morning today. There were both impromptu, and well-known, songs being offered by local musician-activists. and people of all ages gladly joined in, as best we could.
Each year, as this observance approaches, I think about the way Dr. King was regarded by many in my once-ultraconservative childhood hometown. Many adults, including some in my extended family, swallowed the fiction that he was a card-carrying member of the United States Communist Party. When he was murdered, there were some in my high school class who joked and cheered. I personally was disconsolate. It was clear, even then, that he was working for the good of everyone.
Time and more information have combined to moderate the notions that many have about Martin Luther King, Jr., his life and his work. Revelations of his less than chaste activities have long since come to light, but without having the effect-on most people of negating the larger body of his work. It has never been shown that he was anything less than loyal to this country and to its government, despite the best efforts of those opposed to full citizenship for people of colour to discredit him. It has never been shown that he was anything less than committed to the rights of all, even those who opposed him.
There are still people who promote the notion that freedom is a finite thing. Those who crave power, above all else, variously spread the word that, if Black and Brown people are given a full seat at the table, freedom will be taken from those of European and West Asian descent. Others appeal to conservatives of all racial groups, saying that mandated collective action is inherently evil, when it bumps up against individuals creating and pursuing their own destiny. Conversely, there are those who do seek to exclude even those conservatives who are merely seeking to forge a life for themselves, without government largesse. I believe Dr. King would want us to work to overcome our self-imposed limitations, much as he did in his own life.
We all want and deserve Divinely-endowed freedoms and rights. These come with responsibilities-among them the duty to care for one’s children and family members, the trust to take part in the affairs of community, to exhibit a sane and intelligent patriotism towards the country in which one has taken citizenship and beyond that, the care and protection of our planet.
As I later walked with my hiking buddy, in her first foray into nature in several months, the notion that there should be no barriers to a full life, for every human being, other than those they impose on themselves, came to my heart. That there need be no exclusionary elite, but that each should be able to choose working with others or forging on alone, but without throwing up barriers to others who wish to achieve their goals in a different, and ethical, manner, remains my paramount wish.
Freedom is never a zero sum game.