Millions in his firing squad

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I meant to post this earlier this month and it was lost in the mix. The death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. changed our nation, but it also changed our perception of Dr. King. Why was the perception changed?

It is worth considering as this CNN piece points out:

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was called a communist, an outside agitator and a drum major for righteousness.
But now a growing number of people are calling King something else: A conservative icon.
As the nation celebrates King’s national holiday Monday, a new battle has erupted over his legacy. Some conservatives are saying it’s time for them to reclaim the legacy of King, whose message of self-help, patriotism and a colorblind America, they say, was “fundamentally conservative.”
But those who marched with King and studied his work say that notion is absurd. The political class that once opposed King, they argue, is now trying to distort his message.
King’s most famous words are the crux of the disagreement.
“He was against all policies based on race,” says Peter Schramm, a conservative historian. “The basis of his attack on segregation was ‘judge us by the content of our character, not by the color of our skin.’ That’s a profound moral argument.”
Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a trilogy on King, says some conservatives are invoking a phantom version of King to avoid dealing with contemporary racial issues.
“They want to claim they understand Dr. King better than Dr. King did,” says Branch, author of “Parting the Waters.”
The whitewashing of who Dr. King was is problematic on its face, but it requires deeper thought. It requires a lense from the perspective of someone who was there.
This is a piece that was written the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Written by Mike Royko 

Millions in his firing squad

FBI agents are looking for the man who pulled the trigger and surely they will find him.

But it doesn’t matter if they do or they don’t. They can’t catch everybody, and Martin Luther King was executed by a firing squad that numbered in the millions.

They took part, from all over the country, pouring words of hate into the ear of the assassin.

The man with the gun did what he was told. Millions of bigots, subtle and obvious, put it in his hand and assured him he was doing the right thing.

It would be easy to point at the Southern redneck and say he did it. But what of the Northern disk-jockey-turned-commentator, with his slippery words of hate every morning?

What about the Northern mayor who steps all over every poverty program advancement, thinking only of political expediency, until riots fester, whites react with more hate and the gap between the races grows bigger?

Toss in the congressman with the stupid arguments against busing. And the pathetic women who turn out with eggs in their hands to throw at children…

They all took their place in King’s firing squad.

And behind them were the subtle ones, those who never say anything bad but just nod when the bigot throws out his strong opinions.

He is actually the worst, the nodder is, because sometimes he believes differently but he says nothing. He doesn’t want to cause trouble. For Pete’s sake, don’t cause trouble!

So when his brother-in-law or his card-playing buddy from across the alley spews out the racial filth, he nods…

The bullet that hit King came from all directions. Every two-bit politician or incompetent editorial writer found in him, not themselves, the cause of our racial problems.

It was almost ludicrous. The man came on the American scene preaching nonviolence from the first day he sat at the wrong end of a bus. He preached it in the North and was hit with rocks. He talked it the day he was murdered.

Hypocrites all over this country would kneel every Sunday morning and mouth messages to Jesus Christ. Then they would come out and tell each other, after reading the papers, that somebody should string up King, who was living Christianity like few Americans ever have.

Maybe it was the simplicity of his goal that confused people or the way he dramatized it.

He wanted only that black Americans have their constitutional rights, that they get an equal shot at this country’s benefits, the same thing we give to the last guy who jumped off the boat.

So we killed him…

Last Sunday night the President said he was quitting after this term. He said this country is so filled with hate it might help if he got out. Four days later we killed a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

We have pointed a gun at our own head and we are squeezing the trigger. And nobody we elect is going to help us. It is our head and our finger.

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