President Reagan initially resisted the idea of a day celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. It was not that he was against King, but men in general are not worthy of celebration. Even great men have their failings, no human being is without them. George Washington was a great leader and man without equal in his time, but failings he had. What made Washington great can’t be found in flesh and blood but in the ideas he embodied. The same can be said of all great men, including Martin Luther King Jr.
Men are not worth dying for, ideas are. Men go to war not to defend a man, not even a king. They will fight for ideas. King fought for the idea of racial equality and brotherhood. His I Have a Dream speech laid out what he was fighting for and what he would eventually die for. In it he spoke of black and white children playing together and a time when men would be judged not by the color of their skin but by their character alone. To see this fulfilled he knew would need not just a spirit of confrontation but one of reconciliation. To that end, non-violent protest was the only method he could use. Greatness of ideas drove King and made him the figure he was.
Unfortunately, the ideas of Reverend King have been lost. The holiday that bears his name is a day of relaxation for some, a day of protest for others. If Reagan had not relented, if he had insisted on a day celebrating the ideas of King instead of King himself, things might be different. Imagine a day of brotherhood, racial harmony or even human dignity being heralded each year on or near Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. How much more fitting it would be to the legacy of the man who gave all to these causes?
The left, many of whom did not even like MLK, would not settle for anything less than a day celebrating a martyr. Martyr’s can be manipulated and used for purposes of one’s own making. Days celebrating ideas are of little use in this regard. For them it was a Martin Luther King Jr. day or nothing at all.
It should be of little surprise that King’s legacy has been bastardized by those who have sought to capitalize on his fame. Not by default, but by design. Jesse Jackson went around after King’s assassination claiming King died in his arms, a flat out lie that has put a wedge between Jackson and the King family to this day. In fact, some of the family believe Jackson was complicit in the assassination. Al Sharpton also has used King for his own purposes, as has many other so called black leaders.
It is a sad state of affairs, but the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday has become part of a Pantheon of sacrilege being committed in his name. No longer are his ideas of brotherhood mentioned by those who invoke his name, instead it is division and hatred they wish to inspire. MLK is nothing but a means to and end to most who speak of him. His words ring hollow in their ears, of no more meaning than the calls of a morning dove of the patter of rain.
For conservatives this is not the case. We remember his cause, for it was ours. King was a Republican as was his father before him. Conservatives passed the first Civil Rights legislation, fought against lynching and returned to southern blacks the right to vote. King was not conservative in all his ways, but his core ideas were. Liberals forget this, like they forget much about him. It would be good if conservatives start using the Martin Luther King holiday to remind the world of what he stood for and what conservatives still do.
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Martin Luther King Jr.