"Lien phat lo trung thap vi can
The lotus, blooming in the furnace, does not lose its freshness"
Ngo An, 11th c. CE Vietnamese Zen Monk,
as quoted in Thich Nhat Hanh. Vietnam: Lotus in
a Sea of Fire. Hill & Wang. New York: 1967
It's the day after the holiday, and the week after his birthday. Most of us remembered and perhaps honored King's life yesterday, and have returned to our affairs. Jane R, Girl Reporter, sans pareil et sans reproche, among other things, at Acts of Hope, has posted King's famous Riverside Church sermon of April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was assassinated. As a student of the History of U S Foreign Relations and sometime university Instructor in "Twentieth Century America", I was pleasantly surprised to see the accuracy and depth of King's knowledge in early 1967. It should be a "must-read", together with "I Have A Dream" and "Letter From Birmingham Jail". Go to Acts Of Hope for the speech; the wise will linger to savor one of the best blogs anywhere on any topic, IMRVHO (In My Rarely Very Humble Opinion.)
Precisely a year after this sermon, in the early evening, in Memphis, King was assassinated. As some one, Sadie Baker, I think, noted, the troops were called out to America's cities to "maintain order"; some of those troops being Black combat veterans just back home from Vietnam.
I know this not from personal experience, even at second-hand; I was barely aware that Dr. King had been killed for some days, for, just past midnight on that April 4th Pacific time, I had walked across the tarmac to a Cathay Pacific chartered Boeing 707, Honolulu at about 0330 local time, some night covered speck in the Pacific--Wake or Guam, seized in the Nineteenth century as coaling and refurbishing stations for the thrust of U S power to China-- after another eight hours flight, then another eight to arrive just after Noon the same day I left, though some 24 hours had passed: Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam.
Those who fly know the experience of "Airport Land": being a little isolated and one or two steps away from the ordinary flow of life; this was airport land "at its finest". Everything was prepared for us, to move us from where we were to where we were going, with no outside interference. For several days it seemed as if the outside world didn't exist. For 392 days, to be more precise. And yet more precise: every day since 4 April 68, though I still am learning what this means to my life, with more help than I am able to tell.
King's sermon to Clergy and Laity Concerned at the Riverside Church brings me back to mourn that lost opportunity he spoke of, six years before the war ended, the opportunity to be the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. Losing it then, I joined those throughout the world who question the truth of that line that ends our National Anthem, because they are people of color, or poor, or female, or gay, or live somewhere else besides "the Land of the Big PX" (think shopping mall). And to mourn the present he hoped we might avoid: more war, blood, treasure, and good will squandered by callous fools.
After seven years of this horror of an administration, in the midst of a Presidential campaign, in the midst of a war (did you remember that?), some may ask "Where did this begin? What happened to us?" as King did, and urged us to do, in 1967. It did not begin with Dubya, however much he exemplifies our national nightmare, nor even with Reagan. So many no longer know history, even our own (Why should they?) perhaps we can no longer fix a specific time. No matter. I believe this leads us to think our wounds and our faults as a nation are more superficial than they are in reality. I remember the anguish of another patriot,
"they have treated the wound of
my people carelessly,
saying, 'Peace, peace.'
when there is no peace"
Jeremiah 8:11 (NRSV)
May Godde have mercy on them and us