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Remembering Dr King & the Civil Rights Movement

April 4, 2018

“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.” ~~Martin Luther King Jr. (1963)

In 2016 Denise and I visited the Martin Luther King, Jr Historic site in Atlanta, Georgia during a trip to Colombia Theological Seminary for a Lifelong Learning course. Five years earlier we had stopped in Montgomery, Alabama to see the Civil Rights Memorial in front of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in downtown near the White House of the Confederacy. The first time this Padre from Minnesota saw the Memorial was in 1990. A young Chaplain, First Lieutenant went with several other Chaplains from the Basic Chaplain Course at Maxwell AFB. It was dusk when we saw the monument (designed by Maya Lin who designed the Vietnam Veterans’s Memorial I first saw in 1986). We spent time simply in awe and reverence… then we talked with the young African-American Security Guard and heard about the bomb-proof glass installed at the SPLC and about the continued threats from the KKK and other racist organizations. I also remember walking from Maxwell AFB in 1985 as an even younger Chaplain Candidate, Second Lieutenant to downtown Montgomery. After wandering around, I got onto a city bus where I sat in the back while an older African-American woman sat up front. The irony was not lost on me as I reflected on the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and Rosa Parks.

Visits to these holy places which represented so much of this nation’s horrible history sunk deep into my psyche. I saw and combated racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and other evils during my 26 years in uniform. I continued to combat it during the four years I spent in the Florida Panhandle following my retirement from the USAF. Sadly, I still see too much of it today around the nation and world. 2016 and the Presidential race and election only seemed to fuel the fire of such hate and embolden racists to spew their hate and ignorance in public instead of underneath their cowardly white hoods.

The fight is far from over, and it seems it has only become more urgent. The above quote from Dr King seems to sum up much of what I have seen and experienced during my own life and transformation (I grew up in a lily-white community and was more ignorant than racist, but still racist) as well as in my professional experience.

The legacy and voice of Dr King continues to inspire. Your Padre continues to wrestle with and speak out against injustice. Whether it is hate based on religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation/identity, nation of origin, or any other number of hate categories, we need to lift our voices and commit to be the voice of the voiceless and to stand with our sisters and brothers who are still being oppressed. Will you stand with me? Will you stand with Dr King and those who have taken up his mantle?

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