He was 39 when he died. He was only 39. I think about that all the time. When people hit that age now, they are still using the word “adulting.” Or at least, the entitled people who have a cushion of some sort—a cushion of money or education or white skin or some other privilege they’re wantonly taking for granted. Something that makes them think they don’t need to pick up a pitchfork or a picket sign or the concerns of others. Martin Luther King Jr wasn’t one of those people. He was a person who led with light but also might, who loved everyone but suffered no fools, who knew he would end up sacrificing his own life for a line that was not just ancestral not just racial but the dream of the human race at its absolute best. He said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” He said, ““Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.” He said, “Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle.”
I am like Marge Piercy. I love best the person who pulls like water buffalo, with massive patience, who does what has to be done, again and again and again. MLK was that person above all else. To honor his legacy we must embody him in our actions and words. We must stop waiting for someone else to say something, be something, do something. We must embody the best grownup America ever birthed, with the sweetest child’s love. Not for nothing was Martin Luther King Jr the only 20th century American who scored a national holiday. We are never too young and we are never too old.