Don't let inauguration fever obscure Dr. King's memory

The path to the future goes through the past with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo: (AP Photo) Dr ML King

DOTHAN, AL, January 21, 2013 —Today is both inauguration day and the day we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m not a fan of inaugurations. They seem too much like crowning ceremonies and I have a serious allergy to being ruled by kings or queens. Unfortunately, judging by the last election, it seems I am in the minority on that. Americans today want an omnipotent ruler who will promise them anything, and there are plenty of politicians ready to offer that. The modern inauguration has become an event to celebrate mediocrity and political victory for whoever tells the most convincing lies.

I can hear liberals groaning that I’m about to pounce on President Obama again. No, if they want to believe he is lord of the manor then it is not up to me to dissuade them from offering him the crown. I won’t be too popular with conservatives either by saying that if they want to live in the 19th century then they should stop whining about modern politics.

To everyone in America, today’s message is that this country is doomed if we don’t stop the bickering and come together as one people again. There is too much evidence that the guy in the White House right now has no intention of ending the divisions. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in Washington who cares enough to either.

So how can we unify the nation again? It’s simple really, and ironically it involves a king. Not a real one, just a man by that name, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is the only king I have ever had any serious respect and admiration for, and this country needs him more than ever. Unfortunately his memory is being seconded to the romp and circus-stance of the 2013 inauguration.

I don’t get nostalgic for the late 1960s when King was still alive. The music was great, but having tanks and armed soldiers in the streets was not really conducive to easy living. At one point I couldn’t drive from my town to the next to visit my grandparents because the roads were blocked off due to riots. You haven’t lived until you have six nervous-looking National Guardsmen point their rifles at you while you try to turn your car around.

Several men emerged in that time period, including Dr. King, who gave us hope for a better America. Then they were murdered and it felt like someone turned the lights out on a whole nation for the next decade. Just the same, their thoughts and ideas remain for us to use today, if we care to. Their memories offer us a rich treasure trove of wisdom and insight that we need to tap into more than ever.

Dr. King didn’t give us empty words, he gave us hope. He didn’t promise an overnight fix to the world’s problems, he taught us patience and perseverance. He didn’t cater to special interest groups, he spoke to everyone. Most importantly, he didn’t preach to the back of the room. He taught us to reach higher, not lower. He was a man we could look up to, not down at.

I encourage everyone to take a few minutes and turn off the televised wall-to-wall coverage of the inauguration. Then please spend some quiet moments reflecting on the words and wisdom of a great man who is no longer with us. Dr. King was the real thing. He represented the best and the brightest of what America can offer. God bless his memory and God bless America.

(Be sure to get The Backstory and more at Rick’s author blog

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Rick Townley

Rick Townley was a bookseller before switching to electronic publishing with The New York Times, Reuters, Grolier and others. He is the author of a humor book, For Boomers Only – Exploring Life in the New Millennium, a supernatural novel, Stepping Out of Time, and numerous short stories. In addition to contributing to the Washington Times Communities, Rick is working on a fiction series called Stigma and resides in southern Alabama with his 7-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.


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