My adult life has had an interesting learning curve. My political views have been pulled from one extreme to another over time, although I have always considered myself a "conservative" in the classic sense of the word. I am considered a right-winger by virtue of the fact that I am a devoted Christian and very active in my church. I have some latent "liberal" tendencies by virtue of that same religious devotion. I am a Republican, but not so staunch that I won't vote against the ticket if given a better offer. Political trust must always be earned.
Through that learning curve I have been influenced to one degree or another by many different schools of thought. These were generally presented by individuals with whom I had some sort of contact socially (hard to fathom, I know). Each of them felt at the time that their views were not only valid, but the closest thing to the "truth" as they understood it. During my flirtations with libertarianism, one such individual tried to change my views and perceptions regarding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By way of background I should probably mention that I am not a huge fan of revisionist history. I am also not a partaker of the histeria that every person of any historical significance was somehow flawed and should automatically color my appreciation for their contributions to this country and/or the world at large.
If I may wax philosophical for a moment (I'm not sure just how one would wax their philosophical, but I imagine it involves lots of elbow grease), it seems to me to be counter-productive to dismiss out of hand everything an individual says just because of some perceived character flaw.
I don't even really want to get into whether or not one believes that Dr. King was (pick the aberration of your choice) a philanderer, a socialist, a petty crook, or just plain wrong-minded. In carefully reading his more significant writings and speeches I must conclude that he had a good grasp of some very basic truths, and those truths are important to our society today.
It's unfortunate, really, that such people as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have taken up the torch, because they do Dr. King's work a distinct disservice. Instead of understanding, as Bill Cosby does, that Dr. King made it possible for black people to take control of their own destinies, Sharpton and Jackson instead believe that only through political intimidation can the case be made for blacks and other "minorities" to make their way in our culture today.
Such distractions aside, our realization that the fight for civil rights is an honorable one is largely due to the ideals that Dr. King preached. He deserves to be honored for having the moral courage to fight for those rights using the talents that God himself gave him. Setting aside any other considerations, his published works speak to some very basic human needs, and we owe them a careful study.
Thus, even if we choose not to honor the man, we can honor what he said by attempting to eliminate color as either a crutch or an excuse. Even if we don't feel he deserves a federal holiday, we can still honor his dream of judging people not by their color but by their character. Even if Dr. King's character was something short of stellar as a man, we can only look to ourselves and question how squeaky clean we are before we cast him into the collective pit of public personalities who fell short of our expectations.
He has lots of company.
UPDATE: Scott Johnson of Power Line ably demonstrates the legacy.
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