As we prepare to honor the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, it’s hard to not wonder what he would think about the cancellation of ceremonies around the country.
During his struggle to secure basic civil rights for people of color, people endured beatings with police batons, attacks by German shepherds, high-powered fire hoses, incarceration and even death ... but a virus that causes head-cold symptoms in the majority of those who get it has once again shut it down. It reminds me of the years that a drizzle has stopped it.
It’s the same feeling that comes over me when I hear that Election Day turnout will be light because of rain, or Memorial Day ceremonies are canceled because of the threat of bad weather. Sure, it makes sense ... but it just doesn’t seem right to cancel events that are supposed to honor people who suffered and sacrificed greatly because the people don’t want to suffer and sacrifice mildly.
It’s just bad “optics,” to use a favorite buzzword of the pundits. And it’s yet another example of the “wussification” of America, to use a favorite buzzword of mine.
MLK and his supporters were real fighters, as were our troops of the Greatest Generation. They saw their mission as bigger than themselves. Freedom for future generations was a stake. That wasn’t some silly campaign slogan or meme; that was reality. Their courage and resolve earned the respect of the youngsters who were there to witness it, and they didn’t want to squander it. But as time passes, memories fade and the passed-down stories seem less real, less relevant.
I’m reminded of an old saying about self-made wealthy families: The first generation takes the risk and works tirelessly to start the business, the second generation grows it and the third generation spends it.
We’re seeing that third-generation effect in our society today.
They’re millennial members of Black Lives Matter and Antifa, entitled and in search of a cause. The “freedom fighters” of today are having to search for or even concoct things that just maybe, might be racism, and when they do, they gin up all the support they can muster on social media — and they may even come out of their mom’s basement or their public housing project to go to a rally or riot long enough to snag a selfie and a flatscreen TV.
When they think that someone’s intent was possibly racist, they call it a “dogwhistle,” and to them, it’s the equivalent of calling someone the n-word.
The failure to give preferential treatment to people based on the pigment of their skin can be considered racism in this new era. It’s all difficult to navigate. And it’s all so insulting to those who endured real danger and racism to achieve equality. I can only imagine what Dr. King would think ... first, if he could see the fruits of his efforts — culminating with a two-term black president — then, second, if he could hear the rhetoric used by people who inherited the freedom he died for to rationalize, defend and even embrace destructive lifestyle choices.
It’s likely that the good Rev. King wouldn’t feel honored by what he’d see along the many streets that are named for him all across the Southeast or by the race-hustlers who invoke his name as they push for a radical Democratic agenda that includes ways to facilitate voter fraud. It would also be interesting to get his reaction to seeing the inordinate potency that the n-word has now. He and his fighters heard the word constantly, and they persevered.
On the rare occasion that folks hear that word now, they wilt ... but only if a white person says it, that is. That’s another thing that’s difficult to navigate during these strange times. A bullet, a knife, a bat will wound you no matter who’s wielding it; it’s hard to see a word as the “weapon” it’s portrayed as if it only causes harm coming from people of another color. It’s a terrible word with a painful history, and I get that — especially with those who actually experienced systemic and violent racism. But the over-the-top reaction from people these days, who are constantly bombarded with that repulsive word from rappers and comedians, would be comical if it wasn’t so destructive and insulting to those who came before them.
It’s the same principle as the feeling I get about the people in the feminist and MeToo movements. On one hand, they’re marching with inflatable vaginas on their heads, telling you that they’re powerful and can do anything a man can do ... yet they wilt at the mere sideways glance of a co-worker who hints that he may be interested in going on a date with them or they have post-traumatic stress syndrome over a teenager who tried to get to second base with them when they were drunk at a party 30 years ago.
The combination of empowerment and hypersensitivity in both movements is ... yes, again, difficult to navigate.
Of course, those are all bad things, but it’s also life. Those are unfortunate situations that have to be dealt with from time to time. I remember when Murph tried to get to third base with me ... It was traumatic, but we moved on and have a good (but distant) working relationship now.
But seriously, the third-generation effect that’s overcome our culture is an analogy that’s accurate and scary. The further people get from the blood, sweat and sleepless nights it took to build something, the less it holds value to them, and the more it’s taken for granted.
Do you know what the fourth and fifth generations do?
They either pay it forward or go bankrupt. Which one will we do?