Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman and activist best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience. (1/15/1929—4/4/1968)
King said many things, but I find this quote (pictured) to be as relevant today as it was forty-five years ago; maybe even more so. It is one of those absolute truths life forces on us until we notice.
On this tribute day it came to mind to wonder what America might look like had King lived to teach us more about integration and not segregation; and here, I’m not speaking of shades of color. Instead, I’m speaking of humankind’s silence at a time when each voice is required to safeguard our hard-fought freedoms. It is, after all, our civil right!
November 23, 2010 – On that day I was beleaguered by previous lectures still swirling in my mind. On that day we were to visit an outdoor diorama that covered a full block in an old town in Russia (less vital than Volgograd or Uglich; towns we’d visited days before). On that day I chose to forgo the eddy about to assault my mind and instead, sat my bum down on a wooden bench in a small courtyard nearby the diorama. It was there, on that day, for the first time that I experienced the significance of the word freedom.
Wearing dark blue pants, a long-sleeved white shirt with Russian lettering on the pocket, the large man stood rigid alongside the curb across the street from where I was sitting. It was, as he leaned into the oncoming traffic that I first saw the metal wand that flicked off sunlight like empty cans hit by bullets at target practice. He raised his wand and motioned to an oncoming car to pull to the curb. The driver didn’t ignore the slight gesture. (Had it been me, I would have missed the nuance.)
The male driver pulled to a quick stop and placed both hands on the wheel. The woman in the front seat sat upright. The boy (six or seven) who had been leaning forward scooted back into the seat. I sensed anxiety from the body language of the occupants in the car. The uniformed man walked slowly around the car, tapping with the wand at doors, windows, trunk until he hit hard on the engine hood. This gesture drew the driver to exit the car and open the hood with great haste; then he stood back. After poking at the engine, the wand drew the woman from the car and moved her to the sidewalk. The wand then commanded the driver to open the trunk. He did and stepped back again. Everything in the trunk was revealed, scattered and tossed about until the wand seemed satisfied. It was now the boy’s turn.
On that day it was shocking to see a father open a door for his son while the wand prodded the boy from the car and held him in place until he finished telling the boy something that I couldn’t hear, let alone understand. So, on that day, as I sat on my bum, I decided never to take my American freedoms for granted nor squander them on convention.
To this day, I wonder if the boy, on that day, took for granted the imprisonment of his thoughts.