Rick Perry's God, who on Aug. 28, 2010, blessed Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally with bright sunshine, sent his soggy messinger Irene to smite the Aug. 28, 2010, dedication of a Martin Luther King monument on the National Mall. No worries. As Cornel West reminds us, Dr. King wouldn't have wanted an inanimate granite figure to be his legacy, anyway:
King weeps from his grave. He never confused substance with symbolism. He never conflated a flesh and blood sacrifice with a stone and mortar edifice. We rightly celebrate his substance and sacrifice because he loved us all so deeply. Let us not remain satisfied with symbolism because we too often fear the challenge he embraced. Our greatest writer, Herman Melville, who spent his life in love with America even as he was our most fierce critic of the myth of American exceptionalism, noted, “Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges; hence the conclusion of such a narration is apt to be less finished than an architectural finial.”
King’s response to our crisis can be put in one word: revolution. A revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens.
In concrete terms, this means support for progressive politicians like Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Mark Ridley-Thomas, a Los Angeles County supervisor; extensive community and media organizing; civil disobedience; and life and death confrontations with the powers that be. Like King, we need to put on our cemetery clothes and be coffin-ready for the next great democratic battle.
In a sermon on Christmas Eve in 1967, Dr. King described himself as a victim of “blasted hopes.” He declared, "I still have a dream that one day the idle industries of Appalachia will be revitalized, and the empty stomachs of Mississippi will be filled, and brotherhood will be more than a few words at the end of a prayer, but rather the first order of business on every legislative agenda." The abiding chasm between America’s haves and have-nots reminds us that Dr. King was a true prophet, and of our responsibility to fight for justice in all its forms.