Monday, January 17, 2011

reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr.

I know that there must be many who hate Americans
and what my country has done. I take refuge in many things.

During the Vietnam War the National Liberation Front said that
they made a distinction between the American Government and the
American people. And, the country of my birth, of which I have
not lived in since 1997, is run by a wealthy elite that has
always oppressed the people of colour within America.

It has always oppressed it's workers.

America has since it's inception waged genocidal wars
against the native population, built itself upon the
labour of African slaves. Millions of them kidnapped
and brought across the ocean.

Yet, for all my country's faults I feel fortunate to
have grown up there. For do we not all feel that way about
where we were born or grew up?

Those who grew up and are growing up in Gaza must despite
all the trials and tribulations feel grateful for growing
up there, for the parents they had, their brothers and
sisters, their extended family...for the many things that I
having not lived there could not say.

I imagine that those who grew up and are in Iraq
and Afghanistan must feel grateful for the specialness
of who they are and where they are from.

I imagine, and know the same for the Vietnamese,
for they seemed such a kind and peaceful peoples. And,
in those few moments when I was able to sit and have a
coffee and watch that beautiful and magnificent mountain
that was in Laos I felt at peace. Yet, I knew that I may
die that night.

But, God, Allah, is Good, and I am here now.

I feel especially blessed to grow up in America
where two men made an enormous impact on me and American
society. I speak of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X,
Muhammad Ali.

But, in America today is Martin Luther King Day. And,
I truly feel privileged to have grown up in America
just for the fact that I saw him...even if on TV, and that
he went to school in Boston...near where I lived.

To have seen his example, and to have felt great sorrow
at his death...for what my country is/was.

He was a most powerful speaker, the likes of which
only come every so often. America had three of them in a short
space of time: Martin, Malcolm and Muhammad Ali.

I have always struggled with being non-violent for I
was in a war and taught to kill people and find it very
hard to be a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., did, that is
to be non-violent in the face of violence.

Last Saturday I fell just as I was stepping onto the side walk
after crossing the street about 11pm. I felt exhausted, and was
run down with a cold. I landed with full force and wrenched my back.
It was painful getting up.

Two men sitting outside a bar were pointing and started laughing
at me. A friend told me to ignore them; that they were idiots. I tried.
But, they did not stop. I called across the street and warned them, and
'flipped them the bird'; the finger.

They were about 25; I am 60. I went over and told them that if I
saw someone fall I would help them up, not laugh. They had touched
some part inside of me that I call 'The Animal.' It is who, or what
helped me survive those dark nights in the A Shau valley and other
places in Vietnam...and outside after.

I told them that I was a Marine and went to Vietnam twice, and
had training in three martial arts...and that I like to put people in
hospitals, and that if they ever laughed at me again I would pick them
up and toss them through 'that small window behind you.'

I waited for two minutes, and when they said nothing. I started
across the street again, and the wise guy said 'Do you mean if we laugh
at anyone, or just you?' I went back, and told them 'me.' And then, I said
'I'm here now; do you want to test me?' They said nothing. I waited a minute
and left. As I was crossing the street I saw them get up and go inside the bar.

Yet, I do know that if we as a people are to lift this
planet's people up to a higher level, then we must not be like I am at
times, but the way Martin Luther King was.

There was also Rosa Parks, a brave African-American seamstress, who at
the age of 42 refused to give up her bus seat to a white man on December 1st 1955 .

There were also Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Ezwll Blair Jr., and
David Richmond pushed history forward (as the Tunisian people are doing now),
who on February 1st, 1960 began a movement that ended segregated lunch
counters when they refused to get up from their stools at the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth store.

Franklin McCain, and Joseph McNeil were joined by Clarence Henderson and
Billy Smith on February 2nd. Their actions, like those of Rosa Parks and others before and after pushed history forward.

But, it was Martin Luther King who spoke with such eloquence, and by his and
others example of confronting violence with a resolve, without the resort to
violence that I respect...and hope that I may inshallah, (God willing) learn
to shed my ways.

It is the people above in the civil rights movement, or any movement for
change who brave threats of violence with non-violence who show a far
greater courage than that that I had on those dark nights in Vietnam.

The courage of Martin is a much greater one...and that is what I
think about on this day. When I was him speak or how he conducted himself
I see how far I have yet to travel.

I am 60 and on this day I have been watching the videos and listening
to the speeches of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King...and hope to change the ways #
that have caused me pain...both in and out of Vietnam.

They have changed America for the better, but it has light years to go.
بارك الله فيكم God bless

No comments:

Post a Comment