Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Day

Though I was only 10 years old at the time, I well remember my shock, dismay, and disbelief (sorry for the cliched word choice, but those are the ones that fit) when Martin Luther King was shot. I learned of it from my parents (who must have had the TV or radio on), I would think in the early evening.

Recently I was reading a very compelling book, Hampton Sides' "Hellhound on His Trail," about Dr. King's last days, the assassination, James Earl Ray, and the FBI's pursuit. When reading about the horrific deed itself, even all these years later, I found myself getting choked up as if it had just happened.

At the time of King's death, his primary mission of combating legal segregation was pretty much done. He was struggling to define and advance a secondary mission, pertaining to poverty and economic opportunity as well as to U.S. military involvement abroad, but in a much more fragmented political environment, with fewer allies or good choices, and with less of a clear sense of how (or towards what ends) to proceed. But he certainly didn't think he was done.

The issues in his secondary mission faded from politics for a while in the decades after his death, and probably he would have had a hard time changing that. But today they arguably are even more pressing than in 1968. Something to think about on a day devoted to his remembrance.

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