January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Day

Last night, I did the perfect thing to get ready for MLK Day. I watched 1964: American Experience on PBS. (Link leads to full show.)

What heady days those were. I'd almost forgotten, though I lived through them. I was a senior in high school in 1964. This show puts the whole explosive era in context.

It was a year of wild racial tensions, civil rights marches and the murder of three young people working for voting rights in Mississippi. At the same moment, the Beatles came to America and Bob Dylan released "The Times They Are A'Changing". Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" was published, and women everywhere were waking up and demanding full rights.

Martin Luther King was a heroic, able leader for the nonviolent civil rights movement that was busting out all over the country. And of all people, Lyndon Johnson successfully pushed for the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It was a year when student activists, enlightened by working in the South during Freedom Summer, brought their activism back to schools, and an era of student activism was born.

It was a year like no other, and Martin Luther King, Jr. was one powerful element among many. But it was King and his brave followers who brought success to the push for civil rights. He was a leader when one was desperately needed, and he was the right man for the job.

There's so much more in that American Experience show. It was the year the new, brain-dead Republican era began. Listening to the campaign promises of Goldwater, the GOP candidate, was like listening to the Tea Party of today. And that convention brought Ronald Reagan to the notice of Republicans. Thus, it was the beginning of true civil rights in our country and the advent of ugly, small-minded, backward Republicanism. It seems the birth of our country occurred in 1964.

If you get a chance, watch the show. It raised my blood pressure as it brought those times back to life. And it reminded me of heroes and villains, and their perpetual place in our country's history.

Today, we celebrate one of the heroes. Do something kind today as you remember this great man.

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