Monday, we pause as a nation to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of our countryʼs most visionary leaders. All over, parades will be marched, speeches given, and his words quoted as we attempt to honor the man who had a dream of an equal and hate-free America.
Dr. King shaped policy with his counsel and led a movement that made it harder for America to look away from the festering sores of white supremacy, inequality, and racism.
In his last days, Dr. King was planning The Poor Peopleʼs Campaign which focused on economic inequality, and he was advocating for a universal basic income as a means to eradicate poverty. This wasnʼt an aspect of his work that I was very familiar with until recently, nor was this message well received by those in seats of power and privilege.
In his final book, "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?," King wrote the following: “The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity.”
...compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity.
That phrase sat heavy in my chest as I contemplated all the times Iʼve gagged on my own excess.
He goes on: “If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.”
As all of Dr. Kingʼs work was informed by his spiritual life, his words immediately brought to mind James 2 in the Bible, the chapter on faith and works.
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:15-17
I understand progress isnʼt always linear and obviously, I donʼt have all the answers on how to accomplish a more perfect union with our citizen brothers and sisters. But I do wonder what King would think of our progress these last 50 years.
Nationally, we boast and have faith in our identity as a free and equal people. The economy is booming! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Land of Opportunity!
Meanwhile, the haves are gagging on superfluity while the poor have not, and the gap between them is wider than ever.
Perhaps the best way honor Dr. King is to focus our energy on decisive actions which will ensure a more free and equal people in all aspects of life. Because faith without deeds is dead.
Holly Rosser Miller has lived and worked in Muskogee for 18 years.