42 years ago: a revolution on the brink. 1968: the year of protests. the year that rocked the world. the year that Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were brutally murdered*.
I was born 14 years later, too late to understand the intricacies of the time. I showed up too late for the revolution. By 1969, those who might have changed the world had all been assassinated or disappeared, and the tone had changed.
I sometimes wonder what the world would be like were it not for the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the disappearing of Mehdi Ben Barka, the murder of Che Guevara, the shooting of Bobby Kennedy. I wonder if there would have been real revolution.
The most tangible of effects comes from the work of Martin Luther King. Jr, who today we honor. My words are not enough to do his justice, but today, I will honor him.
“A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard.”
King spoke for non-violence, but was also cognizant of the result of oppression. It is not just to look at acts of violence committed by the oppressed and equate them with those committed by the oppressor. To do so is to ignore circumstance. A genuine commitment to non-violent protest is principled, organized, committed. True calls for non-violence call first on the oppressor. King recognized the crimes of Black Americans, but he called them “derivative crimes,” crimes born of the greater crime of white society.
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
Like Pastor Martin Niemöller, King called out not only the perpetrators, but also the passive, those who stood by and watched as Black Americans were discriminated against, segregated in public life, lynched and hanged. Those who never spoke out. Now, just like then, there are barriers to speaking out against injustice, but barriers to living a fulfilling life with silence and passivity on one’s conscience should be much higher.
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Words of wisdom, and something we all struggle with. I am not a religious woman, and “love thy enemy” makes little sense to me, but loving my fellow human beings, and standing on the side of those who show me love resonates deeply. But forget love for a moment…Hate is something I struggle with, we all struggle with. When we witness great injustice, it’s so easy to hate the oppressor, to fall into hate’s hands. What I’m learning is that little productivity comes from hate; that those who are the strongest, those who are the most successful, focus their energies elsewhere.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
*”assassinated” has always sounded too sanitary for me.