Sunday, January 14, 2007

Epiphany Man

On the eve of the feast day (and national holiday) of The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. I think it's appropriate to take a look at how we despise the radical thinkers of our time until their thinking has made an impact for change. Then we celebrate them, enshrine them, have holidays in their honor.

I lived in the South as a child until I was six years old. I remember riding through "colored town" with my grandmother, on Sunday mornings, looking out the window at the black people getting into their Cadillacs as they were leaving for church. Grammie would shake her head in disapproval. "They always have nice cars," she told me, "but they live in shacks." I was more interested in their lovely outfits. It seemed to me (at five) that they had their priorities pretty straight if they dressed up so nice for God. I remember once being thirsty when we were downtown, and seeing a water fountain, wandered over for a drink. I couldn't reach the faucet, so an elderly black man kindly lifted me up. He had just placed me gently on the sidewalk when my grandmother snatched my hand and dragged me away. "Don't ever drink from a colored water fountain! What were you thinking!" I was thinking I was thirsty and there was water... what's a colored water fountain? Children aren't born racists, they are made that way.

Americans once said we stood for: Truth, Justice and the American Way. Am I so naive to be the only one not to get that the concept only existed on the after-school episodes of Superman? Perhaps. Yet it existed in the heart of Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke radically for his race, for his ordinary human rights, for justice and change.

Like Jesus, he was killed for his message of warning and his insistence on change. And, like Jesus, we've given him a national holiday to say thank you very much. Don't ask for anything else. You got your integrated water fountains, now shut up, and please go away.

Yet the Epiphany season is upon us. We've put away the creche, packed up the ornaments, thrown out the tree, swept up the lingering needles... now what? Epiphany is about: NOW, we do something.

We've been offered a gift... a gift of light in the darkness of our thinking. Yet it's so much easier to pull out a leftover sleep mask from some airline flight, and cover our eyes to the real work that needs to be done... to the suffering and injustice still going strong in the world. It's easier to say "not my problem, I didn't start it, I didn't do it, not my fault."

Of course it's my fault. I either create, promote or allow the world to be the way it is. Bush may have created the mess in Iraq but he had plenty of greedy promoters to help him along, and he had even more negligent/indifferent citizens who allowed it by saying "I can't do anything about it... I'm not in charge."

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, not just a good speech about it. He was willing to do something about that dream... An Epiphany man if ever there was one.


Pat said...

Thank you for this. You say calmly, clearly, and pointedly what I more often than not shout and stomp around about.
In addition, I like your new photo!

Luke said...

Amen Sister!

Zanne said...

Amen from me too!

Jackie said...

wonderful Claire, I'm gonig to quote you on my blog if you don't mind.
Of course you will get all the credit.