Saturday, August 20, 2005

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Coretta Scott King suffered a minor heart attack and a major stroke that impaired her ability to speak and affected her right side, but she is ''completely aware,'' a doctor said Thursday.

King's daughter said the family expected a full recovery.

Dr. Charles Wickliffe, a cardiologist at Piedmont Hospital, where the 78-year-old widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. had been hospitalized for two days, said a blood clot had moved from King's heart and lodged in an artery in the left side of her brain.

''This same clot caused a small heart attack and a big stroke,'' said Wickliffe, addressing reporters along with King's four children.

''She's completely aware,'' he said. ''She's not able yet to relay her wishes.''

The stroke caused weakness in King's right arm, her right leg and the right side of her face, and she was not able to speak, Wickliffe said. He said she would remain in the hospital for days and would need intensive therapy.

Folks, she's a symbol of something that started happening many years ago, and is still happening. Civil rights is dynamic, not static. The process is never ending.

It demands vigilance as some people can and will always succomb to evil and base instincts. It is a process, never ending, always beginning.

Dr. King came along at a time when many in the US were truly appalled by the rampant and vicious racism promoted and practiced here. It was not new in the '60s but had been festering since the country was founded. There was always some group to hate, mistreat, and demean. By the time of Dr. King's ascendance to the role of national spokesperson, many, especially on the left, were more than just ashamed and angry about racism, but were willing to take action (see: Schwerner, Goodman, & Chaney).

I spoke to someone in their 20s a year or so ago, we talked about racism. This person DID NOT KNOW that apartheid was practiced in South Africa until '90, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. That's an indictment of our education system, certainly, but even more, an indictment of our culture in general.

We can't ever forget what happened before, lest it happen again, And it's still happening on a daily basis, in smaller ways perhaps, but it's still there. We don't have Bull Conner anymore, but we have David Duke. We still have the KKK, the Confederate battle flag, and "dumb Caribbean hitters." When one of my conservative friends opines that we don't need affirmative action anymore, I say that I will work to stop AA the minute any school in South Central LA gets the same money per pupil as does Beverly Hills High.

Ms. King is a symbol, but also a person. Since all people have flaws, she, as is everyone, is imperfect. So she should be recognized and revered as the symbol, the proud partner of her late husband in his historic quest for major change in the US. He also was a flawed person, but his cause was righteous. And that's all that counts.

Cindy Sheehan is also a person, who has become a symbol. The bleating goats on the right have focused on her personhood, and have lost sight of her symbolism. But that is exactly her true strength. She is standng up and saying 'look at me, listen to my words. It's not who I am, but what I am asking'. As she says on HuffPo,

Even after my repeated attempts to keep the focus of my protest on the war, the Drudge Report and others continue to try to make the issue about me. But I am not the issue. The issue is a disastrous war that's killing our sons and daughters and making our country less secure. They attack me because they can no longer defend this war.

I am not trying to show equivalence between Sheehan and Dr. King. Only history, fairly told, can do that. But I can say that she has the potential to jumpstart a huge anti-war movement now, and so far seems to have avoided, by her purity of purpose, any missteps that would tarnish her image. I think she is poised to become an even bigger symbol, of a change that hopefully will take place in America.

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