It’s hard sometimes to believe so much time has passed. I remember it so vividly. I remember the day Dr. King was murdered. I remember the diverse reactions within my own family.
I remember being deeply ashamed of my paternal grandfather for the first time in my life and telling him so. I remember his ‘deer in the headlights’ look at me. “What?” he asked. I was nine years old and told him if he didn’t understand then I couldn’t explain it. After all, he was the adult and I was the kid.
I was nine years old and already an old soul. I remember sitting with everyone in the living room thinking ‘are you people blind?’
I remember a couple of months later when Bobby Kennedy was murdered and thinking we were all going to die because the world had gone crazy.
I was thinking just now as I listened to a favorite old Dion tune, that we seem to keep going in circles as a species. So much of today reminds me of back then. Like I’ve walked in one giant fucking circle sometimes.
Tell me, what good is it to be King with a bucket of KFC and golf balls if half your kingdom’s population thinks you’re a fucking idiot and half the world wouldn’t think twice to nuke your kingdom?
Or what good is it to be an ‘activist for change’ if you have no real love for those who oppose you and you’re willing to kill or destroy things to make your case for peace & justice?
I wonder if we’ll ever truly learn to walk together toward freedom for all human beings? I’ve no idea. But this morning I have such visceral memories of a time when millions believed and acted as though we could.
When I think back fifty years ago, I remember having already been awakened by my maternal granddad’s words: ‘Ain’t no such thing as a saint, baby girl. We’re all part sinner, part saint. You should remember that.’ He used to tell me I should feed the side that meant the most to me. That called to me relentlessly. Granddad wasn’t a religious man. In fact, he was a devoted atheist, but he knew I was not and wanted me to follow whatever path I desired as long as it was MY choice and I never believed I was a saint who couldn’t fall from her pedestal (a lesson that would take a few years to understand).
And being much like that granddad in spirit – I’ve never held any man or woman in sainthood status. I learned firsthand that we are all flawed pearls. Some hide it better than others, but I’ve yet to meet a person without any.
These men were anything but saints. Each one had their own list of personal weakness and character flaws like everybody else breathing on this planet.
No, I’ve never seen them as saints, but I did hold these murdered men in high esteem for their courage to confront issues, to lay their lives on the line for something bigger than themselves.
I loved (and miss more each day that passes in this Twitter Twilight Zone) their intellect, oratory skills, and most importantly, their gifts for inspiring others to climb higher as human beings.
I sit here thinking about going home and confess that as I much as I am thrilled to hold my family tight in my arms – I am also experiencing the same old trepidation that precedes going backwards. Going back to a place that never felt like home to me. A place that holds memories, and scars, of those events of fifty year ago.
It’s a difficult thing to explain but it’s the reality of who I am. I don’t like going backwards. I know it hurts those I love on some level and that hurts me to hurt them. But the truth is, I was born to leave. Born to find my own heartbeat and follow it.
These men taught me a little about how to do that in the sixties and I will forever be grateful.