Is it cheesy to say that Dr. King is still a hero of mine? There are so many reasons he was a bad-ass radical that we could all learn from (BTW when I say “he” below, I know he didn’t do it alone, and had many allies sung and unsung):
1. He thwarted stupid laws.
2. He hit his enemies in the pocketbook, and won.
3. He forced racist police forces to show their true, cruel colors on television and got the world to condemn their actions (this latter lesson is one we need to learn, and it’s perhaps tied in with…).
4. He preached and practiced non-violence and made it WORK.
5. He proved the power of oratory to move people and win converts. No one of his era, of any political bent, not JFK or Malcolm X or John Kerry or Gore Vidal or Bob Dylan or Bobby Kennedy or Lenny Bruce or Jessie Jackson or Johnny Cash or Ronald Reagan or Charlton Heston or ANYBODY, could claim to be as poetic, or powerful, or life changing–not even Billy Graham, whose powers of persuasion aren’t given enough credit for setting this country down the evangelical path of self-destruction we enjoy to this day! (Graham convinced mainstream America that religious fundamentalism was somehow warm and fuzzy rather than wacko and dangerous, which was no mean feat! But King convinced people to walk 5 miles to work, to spend nights in jail, or even maybe, just maybe, to love their neighbors as themselves.)
6. He brought the radicals AND the normals to his side.
7. He used reason and won with THAT.
8. Once he achieved a goal, he moved on to the next. Some of his dreams go unfulfilled, but many concrete goals WERE achieved during his lifetime or soon afterwards. He didn’t just ask if we could all get along, he said we fucking BETTER.
9. He ended a certain kind of absolute institutionalized terrorism in the south … in part through the power of numbers, but also through the power of shame, even ridicule.
10. He fought for the rights of African-Americans but showed that such a vision could be applicable to many causes.
There’s a lot more than that. I don’t own his legacy… but I find him to be an inspiration and am not ashamed to say so. Wish he was still here.