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What would MLK Jr. think about today's situation?

Martin Luther King Jr. brought a new concept of political change to America, calling on a racially divided nation to use the nonviolent tactics of Gandhi and Jesus, to seek communication, understanding and even love with those who have dominated and harmed us — and to help build a society that extends justice, respect and equality to all. 

King was abused, jailed and threatened from the start of his civil rights career, at age 26, with the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955. 

Some fascinating King facts: His birth name was Michael King but his dad changed it at age 6. His dad’s grandfather was Irish. His dad beat him a lot. His dad set the example, standing up to cops and clerks who called him “boy” or served whites first. 

He attempted suicide at age 12 and was depressed much of his life. The son of a minister, King Jr. studied the Bible and at 13 exhibited independence by expressing disbelief in the fleshly resurrection of the savior and other claims. 

As a high school junior, on a bus trip back from winning an oratory prize, King was told to give up his seat to whites. He refused. But, in a model of his future career, his speech teacher told him it was the law so he had to do it. He did, though he later confessed it was the angriest moment of his life. 

In college, King fell madly in love and wanted to marry. However, the woman was white. Friends told him he would be hated by both whites and blacks and would have no future in being a minister or anything else. Quite miserable, he dumped her. 

Like many world-changers, King clearly was no angel. But he did hugely change America — and forced it to come eyeball-to-eyeball with what many call its “original sin” of slavery. 

King’s inspiring quotes are legion, but here are some of the most enduring: 

• "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish as fools.” 

• "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

• "In the end, we will remember, not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

• "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality ... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” 

After the Ashland MLK celebration Monday, we asked people, “If Martin were alive now, with our excessive jailing and shooting of black men in our criminal justice system and our railings in the presidential race against immigration, what would he think?” 

Gearland Obey — If King were still alive, I don’t think we’d have an issue with black men in prison. When he died, we blacks fell apart for a while. He would be very dissatisfied with what’s going on now. The fight against immigration? Everyone except slaves and Native Americans are immigrants. 

Waymon McDonald — King would be very dissatisfied. He’d say we need to change this now, not later. This is not his dream. The assassination of Martin really struck home. That was our significant leader and speaker. Having a black president, that’s a good start. 

Maya Verzonilla — He would wish his life made more of an improvement in our country because he gave his life away. He would be sad about the lack of progress. He would hope people would lift themselves up. This country needs more heroes like him. His contribution is huge. Spiritually, mentally and psychologically, we need to lift from ignorance and darkness. It has to do with the color of your heart, not your skin. What he gave was to heal the wounds of the past. People need to speak up about this country — and people are afraid to speak about what’s happening to America and where it’s going. 

Alexander Mesadieu — He’d be very disappointed how little we’ve changed since his life. He’d be proud the world is not apathetic. Obviously, he’d be proud we have a black president. He’d be disappointed about the rhetoric around immigration from people like Trump. 

Marc & Amy Hoerrmann (son Max) — Marc: We have to move on from the '60s. The job is far from finished. The momentum is there. He’s be surprised and a little disappointed. Amy: He’d be encouraged that people are spreading the word, using the social media we have now. There’s a lot I wouldn’t know about a lot if not for that. When you have knowledge of something, you have a responsibility to do something and educate others and the little ones not to be intolerant. 

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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