It's not just 'I have a dream.' The radical left also is part of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy
Opinion: What exactly is the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. if not activism? It's something to ponder in a nation that remains divided by race.
Those offended by the rise of a radical movement led by the likes of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Arizona’s Ruben Gallego have one thing in common with the foes of Martin Luther King Jr.
They feel threatened.
That fear has sent America back to the future – to the 1960s, when this country was one America, under God, divided by race.
Any reasonable person would acknowledge the tremendous progress made since King’s assassination in 1968. Public restrooms for “colored” people are no more. School segregation is legally gone. Voting rights are guaranteed under the law.
And Barack Obama became president of the United States.
You’d think America would be proud of the treacherous road it traveled to get to this point. But, sadly, no.
Instead, we’re celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., as one America, under God but still divided by race.
MLK also spoke up for the poor
King’s 90th birthday is the perfect moment to reflect on the renewed fear that has plunged the country into this dark period since the election of President Donald Trump.
Nothing crystallizes that fear more than Trump and his followers' demonization of immigrants, Muslims, women (to a certain extent) and anyone else who looks and speaks differently. Theirs is a fear of being taken over – being displaced – by “brown” people.
And nothing crystallizes the “them vs. us” political warfare like the radical left sparked by Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Gallego and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not mince words while talking about President Donald Trump during a "60 Minutes" interview. USA TODAY
The tactics and language of these politicians scare the hell out of mainstream America – Republicans and moderate and conservative Democrats.
Because they speak for the poor. They speak for immigrant rights. They speak for universal health care, free college for everyone and taking power away from the nationalists led by Trump.
But wasn’t that Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream for America?
It's easy to cringe at the left's message
I, too, am skeptical of the aggressive messaging from Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic congressman from New York’s 14th district who took America by storm. I’ve questioned Sanders – the one-time Democratic presidential contender – and his radical socialist agenda. Locally, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego is a rising star precisely because of his unapologetic criticism of the country’s president.
And then you’ve got Sen. Warren of Massachusetts, a lightning rod seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has announced she's forming an exploratory committee for the 2020 election, her first major step toward launching a campaign for president. (Dec. 31)
I confess that I often cringe when listening to their ideas, not to mention their rhetoric that effectively incites civil disobedience, including immigrant activists' protests, women's marches and people getting themselves arrested.
Like many Americans, I embrace – in principle – their socialist agenda of universal health care and free college. Who doesn’t want that? But I don’t believe it is realistic. And I most definitely prefer a civil discourse in pursuing King’s dream.
But what exactly is the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., if not activism?
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter," he once said.
Is it peace or confrontation that we admire?
What is it that we admire the most about King now? The words of peace he spoke or the violent street confrontations that paralyzed the nation and led to the profound civil rights changes that we enjoy today?
King was arrested 29 times, according to the King Center. We’ve all seen the images of the bloody confrontations between his followers and police.
And we’re familiar with images of King’s body outside a hotel in Memphis, where he was gunned down in 1968.
When we cringe at Ocasio-Cortez, Gallego and Sanders, let’s remember that Martin Luther King Jr. used similar tactics.
After all, these political activists want to carry out their revolution at the ballot box. And that, my friends, is one of Martin Luther King’s greatest legacies – the profound change through freely electing our leaders.
We all have a role to play in this thing called King's legacy with, as he once said, a "fierce urgency of now."
How we carry that out that legacy will determine the country’s trajectory – will it be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?
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