King’s Shadow

New Orleans     On this semi-holiday recognized by most governmental workers, non-profits, and precious few others, it is interesting to find Dr. King and his legacy so much part of the debate in our public space. The Presidential politics on the Democratic side pitting a woman against an African-American of course pushes the question of race and its primacy in the American experience to the forefront, but more recently, former President Clinton stepped into the fray creating a mess around the issues of cause and effect in creating social change.

The President wanted to make the case, not surprisingly given the path he choose, that it’s all about the close work behind the scenes in the halls of power, while ignoring the critical role played by movements and their leaders, like Dr. King, in laying the groundwork, contesting the ground in a thousand skirmishes, and creating the pressure that can only be answered by change. It has been ludicrous to see the backpedaling since the President’s expression was simply one of those clear moments when the truth jumps out ahead of the spin, and someone says what they really mean.

In thinking about King’s life and death, one sees the unity of “poetry” and “prose” that confounds the sad and depressing argument being made these days that government is “prose not poetry” in the words of Senator Hillary Clinton. What has happened to the higher values of public service and the deeper aspirations of political accomplishment as a vehicle for change? The cynicism expressed in this expression are beneath the great Senator and perhaps future President.

How can one rise to the clarion call of the backroom bargaining and the dilution of ideals dumbed down to nothing but deals?

King and tens of thousands of others were part of a movement that fought, and in his case died, to force there to be poetry in the midst of the prose, real light in the darkest night, a song that breaks through the sadness. Let’s celebrate both the spirit and substance in remembering King and the times that have led us to today.

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