This is the real man that America seeks to honor tomorrow:
Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.
-- Martin Luther King, Riverside Church, April 4, 1967.
There really is no doubt that Dr. King -- who might have turned 83 today had he not been cut down by an assassin -- would have been at the head of the line with the others who flooded back into Zuccotti Park last week after the NYPD took down the barriers. The real Martin Luther King would have been proud at some of America's progress since he died -- the election of the first black president being one part of that. But he would have been appalled by so much else in American life in 2012, including the right-wing assault on basic voting rights as well as the destruction of the American middle class, even as many fight to leave the sacred cow that is the military-industrial complex unscathed.
Tomorrow, millions of Americans will volunteer and do good works in Dr. King's name, and that is a wonderful and highly admirable thing. But that is not the hard part. That will have to take place later, in the streets of Washington and Lower Manhattan and Charlotte and Tampa, and the work will carry great risk but also a mightier potential reward -- an America that is not father from but closer to Dr. King's dream in January 2013.
(Programming note: I'll be on furlough for the next week, so talk amongst yourselves, and I'll catch you again on the other side.)