We need another Dr. Martin Luther King

posted January 15, 2007 by Jer


So the other day, I was talking to G.L.Jeff about how bad the world is right now. Civil rights are getting stripped away while the media jovially fails to mention it, all while my country causes socio-political wounds across the globe that won't heal before the planet has melted it's icecaps. Jeff and I have a difference of opinion on the matter to say the least. The difference is that I'm - perhaps foolishly - optimistic that things can take a turn for the better.

Now, I'm not excited about the fact that - by current estimates - there will be no snow on earth in 50 years. I rather like snow. Every time I hear people here in Seattle bitch about the icy weather lately, I want to smack them up and tell them to enjoy it while it lasts. It irks me to no end that I don't have the money to ski every skiable weekend of my life until it melts forever. I'm going to miss snow. However, as I like to write so often in my comic, we're not dead yet.

I believe that what the world needs right now is something so shocking good that it catches everyone's attention - something that has the impact of 9-11, only the other direction. Suggestions include a cure for AIDS, Israel-Arab peace, Star Trek style food replicators, peaceful first contact with an alien race, or maybe the first child born after 20 years of infertility. Trouble is, I don't see any of these happening in time.

I have, however, recently seen the force of good in a very non-religious way. As I mentioned, Seattle's streets have been nice and icy lately. Last week as I was driving home, I was stuck behind a shovel-and-sand truck in action. This one was going as slow as a vehicle can be going and still be considered "in motion." Now, I'm a pretty patient guy, and I was willing to wait it out at least another block, but behind me grew a stampede of impatient vehicles that figured driving one inch from my back bumper would somehow end their pain. So, I pull off the main road and try to go a couple blocks out of my way to get past the proverbial rock and hard place.

Two blocks out of my way, I see a car that hit an ice patch on a hill and ended half on the sidewalk. My Subaru barely notices the ice, but I have some emergency treads in my trunk so I figure it couldn't hurt to park and help a stranger out. I park on top of the hill, past the ice patch, walk down, throw the plastic treads under the car's tires and coach the driver - a mother with a baby in the back seat - slowly down the hill and to the well-sanded main road. Then I wave and leave, wanting nothing more in return than the story to tell.

The feeling I had as I left was that while bad things are huge and world-threatening, good things happen on the human level. There is no one huge good thing to counter the bad - there can only be a growing number of small good things that help people as a whole feel empowered to face the bad themselves.

Why then did I invoke Dr. Martin Luther King in the title of this rant? Well, it's his birthday for one, but more so, because he didn't personally change the world - he simply taught people how to change it themselves. When I hear interviews on the radio with people who met Dr. King or listened to him speak, they always talk about how he inspired them to make some small change that added to the greater movement. He made people realize that the little things they did to resist the anger and hatred of this world made a difference. He convinced the masses that they were not powerless and they did not have to turn the other cheek. He showed us all that if we can stand together, we can stand against the hatred, anger and fear and truly make the world a more peaceful and understanding place.

You may shoot the man who stands first, but there aren't enough bullets in the world to shoot everyone who stands behind him. I'm not religious, but I have faith, and with that faith I ask we bless Dr. Martin Luther King with whatever faith we have. In that blessing, let's hope the next man or woman so brave as Dr. King stand up and remind us of his lessons again. Stand, brave soul, and so shall we all.