In those denominations of Christianity that venerate Saints, Feast Days are not placed on the date of a Saint’s birth. Rather, we place them on the day of a Saint’s death. This is not to celebrate their martyrdom per ce, but rather to celebrate their dies natalis into Heaven. On this day, in the Year of Our Lord 1968, exactly forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born into Heaven by an assassin’s bullet.
I’m white. I’m a northerner. And I’m only twenty. I can not presume to know what this date means to those who lived through it. I can’t tell you where I was or what I felt when it happened. It is like telling you where I was when Dietrich Bonhoeffer was martyred, or that I can understand what he and his people were going through. All I know is what’s in the textbooks and what I have read. Words lack the color that experience holds. No matter how personal those words may be.
As I’m sure all of the politicians are noting Dr. King’s “Dream” is not yet reality. The most obvious, and recent example being the controversy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments. Even though it was really a question over patriotism it became an issue of race. The divide between two cultures that have yet to completely understand each other. For the most part there is equality under the law, but culture is something that cannot be legislated. Culture is also more powerful, and more important than the laws of the land.
There are deeper wounds than I can understand. Which makes my attempt to heal them futile. Things like this take time, and I’m proud to live in our country 40 years removed. Let’s hope that in another 40 years we will be make it even further to understand the cultural divide, and unite as one.
To quote the good Doctor:
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
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