This week as we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., it would be good to remember the breadth of his vision and where we stand today in relation to his dream for us. He worked on more than civil rights. While some progress has been made and we now have an African-American president, many of the causes King championed so magnificently are still waiting to be realized. In fact on many fronts we are now moving backwards and I believe Dr. King would not be pleased.
For one thing, here in our own state we are disenfranchising voters with requirements that remind one of the poll tax that kept minorities from voting in Southern States. A simple internet search reveals we have no voter fraud in Kansas. In fact its hard to find many cases in the entire country. The whole "voter fraud" issue is itself a fraud, cooked up to keep Democrats from voting. Remember the Federal Judge scandal under the Bush administration? Federal Judges were threatened and pressured to find any excuse to drum up voter fraud cases. Now, after 10 years of propaganda, their "fraud" has gained ground and more and more states, including ours, are tightening voter requirements, making it harder to vote. I think Dr. King would be as alarmed as I am at this direction our country is going. I want voting to be easier, not harder. (I want every citizen to find it as easy as possible to vote, so maybe we could get more than a dismal 40 percent voter turnout.)
The big issue Dr. King was working on when he was murdered was something he called The Poor People Campaign. He wanted to eradicate poverty in our country. He said that poverty and economic inequalities threatened the future of our democracy. "Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere". In 1967 he said "A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth." Little did he know that things would get worse before they hopefully get better. There are now 16% of us living in poverty, and in some regions the percentage is higher. The "glaring contrast" between rich and poor in the U.S. is growing akin to third world countries. Our best hope for achieving that "revolution of values" that he foretold may be the Occupy Movement. In fact, King himself may have started the Occupy Movement. Some say Robert Kennedy first suggested the poor people come to Washington, camp out and show politicians their plight, but it was King who planned it. He prophetically said The Poor People Campaign would be the last thing he would work on. He died April 4, 1968, before it began, but in May of that year his organizers built a tent city in Washington D.C. For several weeks in May and June 3000 - 5000 people camped out on the National Mall. They came from all over the country - black, white, Hispanic, Native American. They say some even came by mule train. They set up camp and filled every space in a way very similar to our current Occupy Movement. They had community structure, they had classes, and every day they marched on government offices to talk about their poverty. They were still there on June 6 when Bobby Kennedy was killed. I pray these dreams of Kennedy and King will someday come true and poverty and inequality will end. Till then we must keep the faith.