Today's Visionary, Not Yesterday's Celebrity: Martin Luther King, Jr's Words with Contemporary Images
By Richard Eskow
Campaign for America's Future
A lot of people in the media are so afraid of offending anyone with controversial truths that they can't even tell the truth about the man whose holiday we're celebrating this weekend. Their coverage could give you the impression that the purpose of Martin Luther King, Jr's life was simply to make everybody in this country feel good about themselves - so good, in fact, that we deserve a day off just for having the wisdom to be born American.
You might be forgiven for thinking that everybody liked and admired Dr. King while he was alive - except maybe for a few angry old white people down South, who later realized the errors of their ways and were very sorry. The media have been so reluctant to convey Dr. King's true message that Glenn Beck can claim to have inherited his mantle and millions of people believe him. They're so afraid of telling his truth that a Pentagon official can claim that the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the spiritual heir to Gandhi's mantle of nonviolence, would have supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In this fame-addicted age, this activist and challenger of comfortable ideals has been presented as just another celebrity. And these days "celebrity" is another word for "commodity." Dr. King: Didn't they use his picture for one of those Apple ads? Or was it Nike? Didn't he have his picture taken with movie stars and singers? Future generations may come to believe he was famous just for being famous - you know, like Heidi Montag.
This weekend Dr. King's name will be spoken by politicians and business leaders who would probably despise what he would have had to say about 21st Century America. They'll try to appropriate his name and memory to ensure their own well-being. They hope to domesticate his moral challenge in order to protect their own ambition.
Fortunately, Martin Luther King left his words behind. In his honor, here are ten quotes from Dr. King, illustrated with images from today's events to show their continued meaning. If they don't manage to comfort the afflicted on this national holiday - and at least unsettle the comfortable - they're followed by a slide show with even more quotes.
To Read the Ten Quotes with the Images and the Meanings