Imagine hearing your life tick away. Imagine knowing that you are living on borrowed time. Knowing your wife will be a widow and that your children will be fatherless. The movement you gave your life and sacrificed your family for will become rudderless and directionless.
Imagine being powerless to finish what you started. What you sweated and bled for. You live everyday like it’s your last. Growing weary in front of the world; the inevitable motion of sand nearing the end of the hourglass. Then picture yourself having the fortitude to know this, and still have the guts to finish the game.
Imagine carrying on a crusade for a better and united America and knowing that America sanctions you to be followed and harassed. And the media that once held you as their darling now turn their backs on you and label you a communist. Imagine taking a knife to the chest for the freedom of your people and being called a coward. Imagine the beloved Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy signing off on wire taps.
Everybody wanna be King, till you laying on the balcony with holes in your dream-Jay-z
This is the true measure of courage. The true measure of what makes a man a giant, and what makes a giant immortal. Its why bullets have proven notoriously unable to silence ideas. Its why a silly phrase like a dream diminishes a force. Dreams imply the unreachable; that you are sleeping and reaching for the unattainable. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was many things, but sleeping and unaware were certainly not among those things.
The Riverside speech eliminated all good will of Lyndon Johnson from King’s side. Switching from civil rights to anti-war and economic empowerment for poor people is not intangible. Its not an ideal. It becomes a direct opposition to a ruling class. While no one with a true moral foundation can deny little girls blown apart in churches, denying those who would like to manifest destiny is something totally different. When you start talking about true change, real opposition to the establishment, you are no longer under the wing; you become a liability.
His real dream? Retirement. The fatigue of a decades old struggle, and the concrete gains from such left a man weary and worn out. The pressure from the people. The scrutiny. Being an absentee father and husband because a people need you more than your family needs you.
In comparison, a life as a pastor would be nice; commanding a nice big church, delivering sermons. Away from the fire. Away from the struggle. Away from the drama.
Able to check homework, and kiss your wife, and buy milk without an escort. But such a life is not for the great. Dr. King had as much of a chance achieving this dream as James Dean had of dying fat and old.
To make Dr. King a dreamer would be to diminish what he really and truly was. Dr. King was a rebel in the truest sense; a true warrior. He could have chosen the easy route and rode the civil rights movement off into the sunset. Black was always important. Dr. King stayed at the black-owned Lorraine Motel numerous times before that fateful day. Logistically it was a security nightmare complete with abandoned surrounding buildings, seedy rooming houses and a dangerously open balcony. When asked by a police officer earlier why he chose the Lorraine rather than a more secure White hotel, King replied Because I like the room.
I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America-Dr. King
King realized that while Black was beautiful, the human struggle took an even greater importance in the climate of the Vietnam War, Cold War hysteria, and the widening gap between rich and poor. He knew that facing those two enemies would bring the wrath of establishment. To attempt true change, you know that in all likelihood you wont be there to see it out. To make that decision is not the move of a dreamer, but a man living every day like his last on the planet.
Forty years later, the above speech is entirely appropriate. The silence of Congress five years ago was an explicit betrayal of America and her people. Dreams of freedom give way to dreams of oil profits. In a time when we are supposed to be more progressive and advanced, the body politic cowered, each not wanting to be the dissenter; the ostracized voice.
Forty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. woke up from his dream and chose to fight. The courage to walk that path alone makes him an even bigger, more colossal and three dimensional figure than we allow him to be; reduced to a phrase. Living the Dream as they say. You dream when you are asleep. You dream when you are inactive. We are dreamers. Dr. King was anything but.