Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
That a line in an important song from my era. With Martin and friends, their lives were snuffed out and the horror beyond that is what they might have contributed to important dialogs. My thoughts on Mister King have ebbed and flowed over any number of issues and wondering.
I wasn’t a huge fan early on. Who doesn’t hate disruption? My view was clouded by not recognizing the issue fully. We played in the park with black kids and it didn’t seem strange. While some of my friends had noticeably more or less than others, I failed to recognize that Negros — yes, that was the common term for the day — were held back economically in ways that didn’t affect most in our community.
I saw what was going on in the South and didn’t equate that to our area. A lot of that view was at least somewhat true. I didn’t look deeper.
I had a job in sales with offices on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. For a Friday meeting. I drove up the Dan Ryan watching smoke rise on both sides of the expressway. It seemed everywhere. My National Guard unit trained in riot control. Whatever sympathy waned. But the real destruction went beyond the obvious loss and it never recovered. Everyone was a loser.
M. L. King was an imperfect man as we all are. Hoover tried to use his imperfections while ignoring that what he represented could not be destroyed. It has taken me much time to realize that fully. I don’t agree with all of King’s proposals. I am sure some were firing for effect and would have developed deeper impacts. We’ll never know.
I thought Abernathy, his successor, tried to follow King’s hopes. He seemed a sincere man but in over his head. Jackson continues to appear an opportunist — lacking King’s moral compass. Nobody could replace King’s ideas and messages and inability and greed has shown us what was lost. Don’t take me wrong; King wasn’t ever a pushover. But he did have a real dream and that was allowed to drift on without his guidance.
The media of the day was mixed. And it didn’t need an MSNBC-Fox variance. It was part of the mainstream, big three media outlets on TV with the broad spectrum print that, in total at least, provided balance. Reporting isn’t as questioning as it was then. Like humans in general, media can’t always be right and diversity is it strength.
Yes, Martin came to Chicago with the goal of change. I don’t think it transitioned into the change he envisioned. I am sad that his ideas never came to discuss future issues with a context he could then address. His murder didn’t serve any cause well. And we are struggling with ideas and programs that he never was allowed to impact. For all his flaws, ideals and goal, today, to me at least, he seems one of the last clear voices that could negotiate the path to needed changes. His integrity is lost and missed.