Today we honor as a nation the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a day when all of us have the opportunity to remember the extraordinary difference one life can make.
Around the country, there are those who are performing works of charity and national service to mark this day. But in truth, Dr. King was not simply about alleviating the pain and suffering of individuals; he worked to counter the huge political and economic forces that kept entire groups of people shackled by injustice.
If Dr. King were alive today, there is no doubt he would be a tireless soldier in the battle against income inequality. For the forces of oppression that he so eloquently called to account have not disappeared in the decades since his death. Today, it is up to us to continue the work of protecting and fostering justice in America.
The Civil Rights movement, through which Dr. King applied the philosophy of non-violence to the struggle for Civil Rights in the 1960's, was an example of what happens when groups of Americans forge the political power to channel the power of the heart. According to Dr. King, the desegregation of the American South was the political externalization of the Civil Rights movement -- but its ultimate goal was the establishment of the beloved community.
Today, it is time once more for the American people to address a fundamental gap between the compassion and decency of the American people and the policies of our government. For we are experiencing today a historic, dangerous swerve away from our ethical, democratic center – and in the spirit of Dr. King, it is up to all of us as citizens to ensure that our country, in his words, "live out the true meaning of its creed."
For over thirty years, the American government has been systematically siphoning off large portions of the material wealth of our country -- through banking, tax and trade policies -- into the hands of a relatively few Americans. In addition, many who have promoted such policies have promulgated a public relations scheme to demonize those who struggle in America, creating the caricature of everyone having a hard time as merely lazy "takers" who are parasites on the U.S. economy. In the words of Dr. King, “If they give it to the poor, they call it a handout. If they give it to the rich, they call it a subsidy."
America needs a new pro-democracy movement, once again creating a political vessel for the highest yearning of our hearts. May we, as today’s stewards of American democracy, do the work necessary to take America back to its soul. Not all of us are historic figures like Dr. King. But all of us are imbued with the same spirit of God, and the same rights and responsibilities as Americans.
Dr. King is not here to address income inequality and economic injustice; but we are. He is not here to address to scourge of child poverty in America; but we are. He is not here to address the injustice of our high mass incarceration rate; but we are. He is not here to resist America’s corporatist and militarist leanings; but we are.
May Dr. King’s work continue, in our hearts and in our country. May a renewed passion for the ideals of democracy rise up from our depths and spread its blessings far and wide.