January 2011: MLK's Birthday: Shot Full of Holes
Today, January 15, is the birthday of a man who will never die, Martin Luther King, Jr. If any mother ever dreamed her son would change the world, Mrs. King Sr. saw this dream come true and then lost him because some irresponsible idiot possessed a gun. All assassinations in this country have been performed by guns.
And yet the NRA fights for its rights, as if the ability to kill someone were a freedom. Death occurs just instants after the trigger is pulled, many accidentally.
They point to the outdated Second Amendment, which refers to those in militias, a right affirmed by the Supreme Court even though there is now an organized military and militias represent a tangential fringe of gun users. They point to the need for an effective means of self-defense, but how does a drunk gun owner interpret self-defense--as the solution to a dispute that goes out of control, over some triviality like the victory of one professional (or amateur!) athletic team over another?
Most lately, the USA ranked eighth in the world in the number of murders committed in 2009, a figure higher than 9500. Comparable statistics in other developed countries are laughably lower--381 in Germany, 179 in Canada, 63 in the UK, and seven in Japan. Most strikingly, the chance of an altercation resulting in death rises substantially if one or both or more of the contenders possesses a firearm, handguns comprising a large majority of these weapons.
The USA also offers far higher statistics than its colleagues in the area of murders committed with knives.
Why so much violence here, I ask on this holiday that celebrates nonviolence, among other ideals MLK possessed and effectively activated.
If MLK were to return today, he'd be thrilled to see Obama leading the world, but repelled by the veiled racism within the highest chambers of our government, and demand that day when election of people of color is a routine occurrence and racism a thing of the past. That day has yet to come but it will, unless Republican dreams come true first, something we fight against every day. The tokenism they offer as proof of their level of tolerance is nauseating.
Were MLK to return, he'd be amazed that such a still-segregated society managed to elect a black president, defeating a popular and pedigreed WASP. Even though the percentage of African Americans in white-collar positions and middle-class neighborhoods has soared since his day, he'd wonder if our society is moving toward integration or not. To me it seems that office spaces are integrated but private lives exist in different sections of cities. At least nine times out of ten, the head of each department is a white man in a suit.
Given a round-trip ticket back to reality here, MLK would be hugely disappointed that such an inordinate percentage of prisoners in this country are still African Americans while mass murderers occupy the most powerful political positions. He'd be stunned at the US presence in Afghanistan, Iraq and, more covertly, Pakistan, after he left the world so wounded by the Vietnam war, an event that preoccupied the last year of his life. War is a recourse and solution now as much as it ever has been.
Would he recede into the nth dimension and wait for more time to pass and pray for this state of affairs to improve?
What would he say about the fate of violence in general in our society, let alone the gun murders?
What would he say about the Steele manifesto, that to eliminate violence we have to alter male chemistry? Would he call me a reverse sexist and shake his head? Would he tell me to keep on praying?
He might look very deeply into the eyes of Obama, another eloquent, though less poetic orator. And just stare until he faded back into the death dimension.
If there's a message I can draw from MLK's birthday this year, it is that the NRA, who preaches that guns are not the problem, must realize that they, the NRA, are a huge problem.
It is that never has anyone accomplished so much and left the world so embittered, though he never gave up the dream even with his strong opposition to senseless war.