To honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I wanted to share a few thoughts on why I believe he’s been immortalized into statues, parks, street names, community centers, and even his own holiday.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is what you’d imagine a real-life angel would be. A force of nature so dedicated to the healing of humanity that during the Civil Rights Movement, he probably knew that there was a bullet with his name on it that would eventually catch up to him one day; a bullet that would turn his wife into a widow and leave his children fatherless.
He also knew that the more he spoke the faster that bullet raced. He chose to speak anyway.
He chose not to succumb to the crippling forces of hate, but instead to be elevated to a state of consciousness where love and forgiveness reigned supreme. Love was his sword and his shield. He was called every racist epithet imaginable; he was spat on, thrown in jail, hit in the head with a rock all in the name of love. He chose to love with reckless abandon. He chose to lean heavily on his unwavering, immovable, immutable faith in love and forgiveness as an act of divine service to others.
King believed in non-violence because — as impossible as it is to fathom for a lot of us — the good doctor was even fighting for those who would eventually take his life and also for those who would applaud his death. That thought alone evokes fiery anger and a burning resentment in me that is difficult to quell.
I’ll confess when Donald Trump won the presidency my rage consumed me; I was paralyzed by my fear for me and my family’s safety and the safety of the communities I serve. I couldn’t understand how so many people would prop up what I viewed as a symbol of hate. And as a result, I grew hateful. I put up walls. I lost people that I once considered friends. Allowing that type of energy to dwell in me caused insidious and unspeakable problems.
You see hate is easy, at first. But what it does to the host is the saddest part. When hate finds a home in you, it locks the doors and draws the curtains. It refuses to let light in; the lawn may be lush, green and well-manicured, but if hate can make a home out of you, it will consume you, it will stop you. It will destroy you from the inside out if you let it.
I understand keeping the doors locked; it is imperative to protect your emotional and psychological safety from the ills of the world. but keep the curtains open; not only will light flow inward, but it will flow outward as well.
At that time, I was so mad that I arrived at a place where I even thought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a naïve fool who should’ve taken a more aggressive stance, that he should’ve fought back with a little hate in his heart and given his enemies a taste of their own medicine. See how they like it!
But that is not what a good doctor would do and that is exactly what sets him apart from us mere mortals. A true alchemist, King was able to transmute hate into love. I was the naïve one; I was the fool.
I believe his life is a road map for our perilous times, and if I had to distill his life’s work down to the one quote of his that turned him into a statue and that echoes the loudest and purest in my heart today, it would be this: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
To choose to love despite all invitations to hate is the path into divinity or statue-hood.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. solved the riddle of how to walk the path of least resentment without abandoning truth and that is the path his life and legacy invites us all to walk.
Jordan Chaney is a Tri-City poet and author who works with youths in the community.