The Kid’s toughest question: Why was he killed? It didn’t end there. He also wanted to know why Gandhi, JFK, RFK, MLK and Benazir Bhutto were all killed. (We didn’t even bring up Jesus, Rabin, Sadat or any of countless others.) Why did people hate them so much that they wanted to kill them? Why does wanting peace attract so much violence? What is it about non-violence that makes other people violent?
I had answers, but I don’t think they were good enough, so I won’t bother sharing them, because I don’t think The Kid found them good enough either.
What I could tell him, with enough information and conviction to hold his attention and keep the good questions* coming, was that the assassination of Martin Luther King is the worst single thing that happened to our country in my lifetime. An incalculable sum of hope, optimism and progress died when Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968. It wasn’t just the anger and riots that followed. It was the absolute absence of the leadership Dr. King had provided, and without which our understanding of so many subjects — chief among them the worth and power of non-violence — was diminished. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy two months later increased that dispair to a sum beyond measure. Almost forty years later, I don’t think we’ve healed from those wounds.
These words haunt me…
|I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.|
… because I know that final word will not come in my lifetime. Worse, I fear it may never come, because those that lead through unarmed truth and unconditional love are also likely to be killed for teaching both. Our species needs their leadership. But our species retains, for all its love of Love, a monstrous ability to rationalize its worst deeds. Martin Luther King knew that. And we only knew him for 39 years.
Delmore Schwartz comes to mind:
|How could I think the brief years were enough
To prove the reality of endless love?
* You know what people mean when they say “That’s a good question?” That they don’t have an answer.
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