If It Had Happened Today Rather Than 50 Years Ago….


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Round anniversaries are for remembrance and contemplation — and tweeting?

I like “round anniversaries” — the 20th of this, the 100th of that, the 500th of can you imagine? — because they prod us to remember what we otherwise overlook.

That is, at least, the theory.  We have not been doing well at commemorating, let alone pondering, the anniversaries of either the 1810a, 1860s, 1910s, or 1960s recently — we’re doing better with the 1990s, perhaps unfortunately — and it’s not for lack of plenty to remember.  The absence of any serious commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I this November, which someone recently suggested would have been exactly the time for a military parade (if Trump could bear sharing the billing with Woodrow Wilson), suggests that things aren’t going to be getting better anytime soon.

But it’s the next nine weeks, beginning today and extending through June 6, that I had for years expected would be a time of great reckoning and remembrance.  And maybe I’m watching the wrong news shows, but I’m not seeing it.  So we will have to make it happen ourselves — not with a 30-second tag at the end of the evening news, but with some deeper though that puts ourselves and our contemporary society into the story.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at a motel in Memphis, where he had been involved in promoting a strike by sanitation workers.  Dr. King had moved beyond civil rights alone to focus more on economic inequality and opposition to the Vietnam War — which, some believe, is what finally got him killed.  That — and whether James Earl Ray did it, did it alone, and who were accessories before and after the fact — have been hashed out in previous years without universal agreement (a true harbinger of today’s times.)  That’s not what I’m looking for here.

What I’d like to ask readers to imagine is how things would have been had there been no Dr. King, but (as was possible) things still would have proceeded more or less — perhaps more slowly and surely, and certainly less elegantly and eloquently — along the same lines of the unraveling of Jim Crow.  (LBJ and Earl Warren, as well as John Lewis and Thurgood Marshall and Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy, and everyone from the NAACP and from the Urban League to the Black Panthers, after all, were still around.)  But let’s imagine that it was in OUR times, in these past five years or more, that we had had the unprecedented (in our land) civil rights leader who captured the heart and attention of much of the country.  — someone bigger and more fiery than Barack Obama, who I’ll venture would not have become President were it not for the precedent of Dr. King, regardless of what other gains might have been made.  Someone who seemed like a prophet, who one could imagine someday having a holiday named after him.  And then imagine that that person was violently cut down in the prime of his life and his influence.

My question is: how would we react?

I’ll start you off with the NRA arguing that it had been the work of an isolated madman, and that it wouldn’t have happened if Jesse Jackson, standing near King, had had a gun — already, maybe that last bit goes too far — and that social media, would of course, explode, whatever that means and with whatever effect it would have.  And yes, there would be riots — as there were at that time — but they might be very different in nature.

I don’t think that we would come of so well if our version of Dr. King were murdered today — but I leave discussion of that, and the details, to all of you.  I propose this essentially as a way for us to chronicle how much the world has changed in the last 50 years, and perhaps how it hasn’t, and to at least give this round anniversary of the murder of a modern-day prophetic voice more of the deeper contemplation that it warrants.  We were here at the 50th anniversary, and we may well one day wonder, what did we do?  We can say that we did this.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)