In his speech he imagined God giving him the option to live at any point in time. He soars through many of the peaks of history but ultimately tells God he choses to live in the second half of the twentieth century. He comments on his decision saying, “Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars... something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up...the cry is always the same-- 'We want to be free.'”
Sounds a lot like the first half of the twenty fist century to me. As Dr. king noted about his day and age, we too are “forced to a point where we're going to have to grapple with the problems that men [sic] have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn't force them to do it.” Dr. King tells us that the demands of the times now force us to do it. It is no longer, as he rightly points out, a question of violence and non-violence; it is a question of violence and nonexistence. Be they war and peace or human rights, these problems persist and so must we.
Not surprisingly, in his final speech, Dr. King gives us some sage advice for how we go about non-violently confronting these problems. It begins with staying united. Those of us who favor the side of peace and the promotion of all human rights must stay united. As he, points out with great historical acuity, when the Pharaoh needed to prolong slavery, he promoted disunity amongst the slaves. Unless we wish for all of humanity to continue to be enslaved to violence, unless we wish for select groups to continue to be abused and marginalized, we must stop our petty infighting and stand with a united voice that speaks out louder than any divisions based on nation, creed or educational background.
Dr. King also asked us to stay focused, to “keep the issues where they are.” We cannot be distracted by violence, name calling, holier-than-thou attitudes or hatred. We must be focused on our purpose – love. We must be brave and be bold in that purpose, but we must not let the seeds of hate take root in the fertile soil of righteousness. If we let them take root, it will grow into a thicket that will prevent us from reaching our goal. When we gather to non-violently oppose war and the abuse of human rights, the presence of violence, name calling, holier-than-thou attitudes and hatred only distract from the vision we are trying to cast. The vision will be obscured by our lack of focus on the message of love and while people will talk, they will talk about the hate and not about the core issue of debate. We must not be distracted.
To borrow from Dr. King, the question you must ask yourself is not, if I stop to help the victims of war and those whose civil rights are being ignored, what will happen to me? The question you should ask yourself is, if you do not, what will happen to them? You see, we must stay united and we must stay focused against the storm of violence and abuse of civil rights which continues to roll in on us from the mountaintops upon which the powerful sit. From Union busting to preemptive wars, a storm is brewing and it has been brewing.
Dr. King asks us the question, will you gather in spite of the coming storm? Will you unite? Will you stay focused? Are you determined to go on anyhow?