Martin Luther King Jr pivoted halfway through his I Have a Dream speech. He cast aside his notes and suddenly spoke spontaneously to the sea of civil rights activists gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Something clicked, and he broke out of his composed, calm self. His passion poured out. He became a Moses of our times, as he called for freedom to ring from the heightening Allegenies of Pennsylvania to the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado, to the curvaceous coasts of California.
55 years later, we have elected a black man to the White House, and then put a Very Stable Genius in the White House who calls African nations unmentionable names.
Martin Luther King Jr continues to inspire. He reminds us that the dream belongs to “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics”. We might add, men and women, children and adults, the able bodied and those with disabilities. No individual can truly enjoy freedom while his brothers and sisters in God are denied their power.
He spoke for black civil rights, and he spoke even more for love that transforms darkness into light.
I wonder about the passion of this man, who knew what it was like to be shocked and angered by injustice:
– A young playmate from earliest childhood stop playing with him once they start school. He was “greatly shocked” when his parents tell him why, and “determined to hate every white person” even as he grew older, for “How could I love a race of people who hated me and who had been responsible for breaking me up with one of my best childhood friends?”
– The 14 year old MLK wins an oratorical contest and travels to another city to collect his prize. On the ride home white passengers board the bus and he is forced to stand for the rest of the ninety miles home. “That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriest I have ever been in my life.”
– He was beside his father when a policeman pulled them over and called his father, a big man of importance in his community a “boy.”
Martin Luther King Jr tapped into these deep wells, and the deeper wells of slavery and oppression. He did not forget. Like an alchemist, he transformed anger into compassion, and compassion into a call to act in the “urgency of the now” to achieve justice and freedom for all. “To transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood” and allow “love… to have the last word.”
And I wonder, What if he had never felt really angry, and shocked, and humiliated? What if he had grown up in a world where everything was just nice and he was at most, “annoyed”? A childhood sanitized by ideas of innocence, with the help of instruments promising happiness and tranquillity? Would he have been able to temper his fierce emotions and brilliant mind into a vision of “a new kind of power infused with love and justice?” And a new kind of man who is not just free from this or that Power-that-Be, but free to become fully human?
Would he have been able to see that we have been cheated by a history of religion that pits power against love? He saw that “Power…is the ability to achieve purpose…the strength required to bring about social, political or economic changes.” And he concluded that “power without love is reckless and abusive and love without power is sentimental and anemic.”
I doubt it. One who cannot face his own anger lacks the will to change anything.
As a homeopath, I can’t help but think of the special remedy Hahnemann created that resonates with injustice and how it transforms indignation that festers in the body. Stay tuned.