Every year on MLK Day, I like to read MLK’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail. It reminds me of where we’ve been and where we thought we were going. Where we are is much better than where we were and not nearly as good as where we are going.
In his I Have a Dream speech, he verbalized his hope that one day his children would be judged by “the content of their character” rather than the color of their skin. Who today has the moral courage to stand up and demand that we judge people by the content of their character rather than by their membership in some group or another?
Yeah. Almost no one.
Non-violent civil disobedience was King’s weapon of choice for effecting change in his country. He believed that by provoking moral outrage in average Americans, he could direct their anger and their power towards creating a moral revolution in society.
His recipe for positive, non-violent change as described in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom included these 6 observations:
- Nonviolence is not passive, but requires courage
- Nonviolence seeks reconciliation, not defeat of an adversary
- Nonviolent action is directed at eliminating evil, not destroying an evil-doer
- A willingness to accept suffering for the cause, if necessary, but never to inflict it
- A rejection of hatred, animosity or violence of the spirit, as well as refusal to commit physical violence
- Faith that justice will prevail
The core of King’s message was libertarianism wrapped in a strong faith in the essential goodness of his fellow American citizens. That’s still a potent formula for change.
It is good that we remind ourselves of his words, his deeds and his results.