Monday, January 16, 2006

A Few Words About and From MLK

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the papers are full of deserved praise. This is also a good day to compare the life of King with one of his avowed enemies, my state's former senator, Jesse Helms. Jesse fought this holiday for years claiming King was a communist, a womanizer, and rabble rouser. If you can judge a man by his enemies, then MLK was indeed a great man. Let's take a look at the record.

A few quotes from Jesse Helms:

"I was with some Vietnamese recently, and some of them were smoking two cigarettes at the same time. That's the kind of customers we need!"

"That is why I fought against abortion and that is why if I were still in the Senate I would be doing everything I could to defend the sanctity of marriage."

"The big secret to winning elections is to get more votes than your opponent."

In 1984, Helms accused his opponent, Jim Hunt, of being supported by "homosexuals, the labor union bosses, and the crooks." He said he also feared the "bloc vote." Asked what bloc vote, Helms clarified, "the black vote."

For years, Helms championed the most repressive, murderous thugs in Latin America, including Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Raoul Cedras in Haiti, and Roberto D'Aubuisson in El Salvador. Confronted with evidence that D'Aubuisson directed death squads to murder civilians, Helms said, "All I know is that D'Aubuisson is a free enterprise man and deeply religious."

Helms also said, "My values and beliefs were imparted to me by loving parents, committed teachers, demanding mentors and wise elders."

A few quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

"The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

In one of his last speeches, King reminded his audience that "in the final analysis, God does not judge us by the separate incidents or the separate mistakes that we make, but by the total bent of our lives."

Happy Martin Luther King Day.

1 comment:

Olen Steinhauer said...

Beautiful way to lay it down, David.

I remember that communist accusation only because my own dear grandfather uttered it to me when I was a teenager and didn't know squat about MLK. My grandfather and Helms were seriously warped by being both southern and of a certain age during the Cold War. In the end I most regret not being able to sit and cogently argue the issues with my gramps before he died. Oh well.

I suppose it's most important that, on your deathbed, you believe your beliefs were right, rather than them actually being right.