A Word on Martin Luther King Jr. and the Attempted Assassination in Arizona

Today is the day we celebrate a man who spoke his mind and his heart; who changed the way America functioned; paved the way for an America where we can have a President Obama; showed us that we can live together in peace.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister, a position of influence and respect. If he had been just some schmoe off the street, he would not have had the same impact. He would not have had the skill to communicate his Dream to anyone without this practice or this position. He is remembered especially for his speeches and his political demonstrations.

And his speeches and actions were rhetorically loaded–designed to make people respond, ie.:

Civil Disobedience.

It means that when you’re hauled off to jail for sitting in the white person’s side of the restaurant, you go with the cops…but you sit there again the next time you go in.

It means to keep moving while fire hoses are shot in your face.

It is non-violent protest.

For this, for upsetting the world so completely, for winning the Nobel Peace Prize…he was shot.

Because here’s the truth: people in positions of power, who speak out, put themselves at risk.

On January 8 of this year, a gunman shot and wounded United States Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, killed six, and injured another twelve people. There’s been a lot of shouting about the political rhetoric in the U.S. being a contributing factor. One side yells “Yes! It’s the politician’s fault because they’ve created unrest!” The other side yells “No! Politician’s have no cupability in this crime!” (See global reactions here.)

Like Martin Luther King Jr., whatever a politician says implicitly carries more weight than a heavy metal music lyric or a movie script. Why? Because they are policy makers. One swipe of a pen and Obama can tell us that, yes, universal healthcare is in effect. One well-argued debate in the Senate can mean that NASA no longer gets funding. One dumb mistake in the House can jack-up education for decades.

So when the people hear the shouting and the posturing, the politicians may think that they’re only playing for a vote or to score that one, last point…but it’s worth so much more.

I would hope, that when it comes down to it, leaders would speak their hearts and minds because, in the end, that’s the only thing that brings real, substantial change. And it’s the only thing worth risking your life over–and make no mistake, when leaders speak, they do risk their lives.

What is being said today cannot be coming from our leader’s hearts. I just can’t believe that: “It’s the Right’s fault because they use violent rhetoric” and “the Left is looking for someone Blame so they’re villifying us instead of looking at their own problems” is what needs to be said right now. This shouldn’t even be a remotely divisive issue.

An asshole (who is definitely not-right-in-the-head) just shot a bunch of innocent people. This should be a time of mourning. A time of unity.

Especially for politicians.

Shouldn’t they be standing together saying: “Our sister was shot today”?

Shouldn’t they be looking at the nine-year-old who died and say:
“There was a little girl who wanted to learn about what we do; she is our daughter; and she was killed today”?

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jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

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