Or does it help it?
It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! MLK Day is probably my favorite I-never-remember-today-is-a-holiday holiday. MLK Day is to Christmas or Thanksgiving what AMC is to CBS or FOX. That’s right. I just did a holiday/television network analogy. For what it’s worth, it made sense in my head. The bottom line is that I have a soft spot for Dr. King.
Where was I? Oh yeah, being disappointed in Dr. King.
Let’s recap: Every year, we celebrate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was an activist, a minister, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He changed our nation for the better, and he did so while maintaining a constant theme of loving your enemies.
Upheaval after upheaval has reminded us that modern man is traveling along the road called hate, in a journey that will bring us to destruction and damnation. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world.
Unfortunately, King was what he himself would call an “adulterer.” In other words, historians confirmed many years ago that King had extramarital affairs. The affairs are well documented, and they serve as a reminder that even our greatest heroes can be incredibly flawed.
The questions that arises when tales of hypocrisy, bigotry, and fraud are attached to publicly lauded figures include: Does it tarnish their legacy? Does it cancel their good deeds? Does it make their message void and null?
Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship.
It’s easy to discount trespasses when they’re performed by those we love or admire. Similarly, we can use people’s failures as evidence to write them off entirely.
In my opinion, the failures of Dr. King should serve as a means to glorify his message. The reality is that Dr. King’s flaws should be posted on billboards and printed in newspapers. Scratch that. No one reads newspapers. Take the raunchy, x-rated details of Dr. King’s past and plaster them all over the Twittersphere. Smear them on your Facebook wall. Tumble them. Reddit them. Put the ugliness on display for everyone to see. I do not believe we should do this so we can put all of the attention on his faults. Instead, I believe we should spread the word of his infidelity so we can take the attention off of him.
Because it was never really about Dr. King, was it?
Wasn’t it about equality? And love? And forgiveness? And if we can learn how to achieve equality, and love, and forgiveness, from someone who we know was inherently flawed, isn’t that kind of better? Doesn’t that make him more like us? Doesn’t it take him from his godlike stature and put him closer to our level? Once we accept that the man was flawed, maybe we can move on to his words. The longer we esteem the guy as a beacon of perfection, the longer we’re avoiding the real dilemma: We suck, too.
I suck at life in a lot of areas. I’m incredibly flawed. And yet, unlike Martin Luther King, Jr., I am not actively seeking justice. I am choosing to stay in my comfort zone and read scathing reviews about an incredible, flawed man. After accepting King’s failures, I have even less of an excuse to not follow what he said.
So yes, I do believe King’s infidelity tarnishes his legacy. But it also propels it.
Question time: Is there a benefit to everyone knowing the dark side of Dr. King?
The tough mind is sharp and penetrating, breaking through the crust of legends and myths and sifting the true from the false. The tough-minded individual is astute and discerning. He has a strong austere quality that makes for firmness of purpose and solidness of commitment. Who doubts that this toughness is one of man’s greatest needs? Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.