My first knowledge of Martin Luther King was the day he spoke on the Washington D.C. Mall from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The expanse was filled with people. It was 100 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, August 23, 1963. Up until then I had known only two black people while I was in college.
We lived in Terry Montana; the weather was hot, our baby girl was napping, and we were three months from adding a baby brotherl. I was ironing and watching the one channel we could receive on our little black and white Philco TV.
I was spellbound by the power of this man's rhetoric: the truth he spoke, the passion of his delivery, the intense silence as the crowd listened. If you heard this speech, you knew it was a great moment in history.
I had read Black Like Me, published in 1957. The treatment of blacks in the south horrified me. But it educated me about racial prejudice. It stunned me that people treated other people so hatefully. And, sadly, so sadly, some still do.
The 60's were a time of many terrible conflicts---the anger over the war in Viet Nam, generational differences, and rage over integration. I remember the water hoses and police dogs being turned on James Meridith as he walked on the campus at the University of Mississippi. I remember screaming crowds in Little Rock as black children, accompanied by federal marshalls, walked into the school as George Wallace tried to block them from entering. John Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie records that scene so vividly it takes your breath away and brings tears to your eyes. It was a shameful time.
Little did we know that by November 22, 1963, we would be stunned by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Our baby boy was over due, but how I prayed he would not be born that day! And then the horror when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby while being moved in Dallas. And the conspiracy theories still swirl around.
How our hearts were wrenched at the Kennedy brothers walking behind JFK's casket! The sad, sad sight of little John John saluting as his daddy's casket passed by, pulled by the gorgeous horse, Black Jack. The saddle was emply and the boots were backward in the stirrups, an old symbol of a lost leader.
And demonstrations and riots raged on. There was a draft, a lottery to chose who went to Viet Nam, and who did not---unless you had special connections and avoided service as Bush and Cheney did. Families, friends, and neighbors were torn apart over this war. Current research is revealing that Nixon sabotaged Johnson's Peace Process to extend the war! How many additional lives were lost due to this self-serving "crook?"
And then, 45 years ago today, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. It seemed like a nightmare. Bobby Kennedy spoke to crowds of angry people and urged peace. Jesse Jackson walked the street pleading with armed people to keep calm and not react with violence. They saved the nation from who knows how many more deaths.
Bless the Peace Makers...
And, again, I waited for another son, and prayed that he would not be born that day. i was so grateful he waited three more weeks.
Bless the Peace Makers!
Then came June 6, 1968, and Siran Siran shot Bobby Kennedy in Los Angeles! My God, how much more could the nation take?
And now I hear bilious voices urging people to buy more guns, more powerful guns. Some people want to take guns into church. God's house! Blessed are the Peacemakers....
I wonder, how many remember the fruits of hatred and violence on this day of Martin Luther King's death...how many more will die of an assassin's bullet...
Will we never learn all people are brothers and sisters? Go in Peace...and Remember.