For MLK’s birthday, the gift of love from a 9-year-old girl

February 26, 2011

Well, Martin Luther King Jr., another birthday approaches. So let’s open a few presents, see what your friends sent this year — starting with that box from Nonviolence postmarked Tucson.

Empty, you say? Except for a note:

“Dear Rev. King: You wrote an article, ‘Showdown for Nonviolence,’ that was published posthumously, just after your assassination in 1968. A similar confrontation just occurred here, and I’m sorry to report that we lost — again.”

On Saturday, a gunman shot and killed six people and wounded 14 at a constituent gathering hosted by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) . Still too much hate, too many guns.

How about the package from Peace, postmarked Laos?

You won’t believe this, Rev. King. It’s a cluster bomb, one of the hundreds of thousands that the United States dropped on Laos between 1963 and 1975 during the Vietnam War.

The unexploded ordnances are still being found on playgrounds and agricultural fields throughout Laos, and they kill about 100 people each year, mostly children, according to a recent report by the Minnesota Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munitions.

Remember your sermon protesting the war in Vietnam, “Trumpet of Conscience,” which caused an uproar in 1967? “Somehow this madness must cease,” you said. “We must stop now.”

Well, we didn’t. And now we’re waging war in Afghanistan, which means kids in that country will be suffering the consequences for years to come.

Enjoying your birthday so far?

Here’s a gift from the Church, called the “Social Gospel.” Very popular with preachers. All you have do is tell a congregation that social evils can be eradicated with a little reasoning, charity, goodwill and moral persuasion. No need for civil disobedience or nonviolent protest anymore.

If you want the government to stop spending trillions of dollars on wars that aren’t justified, just Tweet out a complaint. And tithe. It’s the new passive-passive resistance.

So what’s in the box from Justice?

Looks like seven men wrongly convicted of rape or murder — some imprisoned for decades — were exonerated by DNA evidence last year. Not exactly “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” as you put it in that 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. But thanks to the Innocence Project, we’ve at least got a trickle.

Here’s something else: Back in 1957, a civil rights division was formed at the Justice Department to protect Freedom Riders and black students trying to integrate public schools. After falling into disrepair in recent years, the place was refurbished by Attorney General Eric Holder and once again has begun enforcing anti-discrimination laws and investigating hate crimes.

Not bad.

In the box from Vigilance, there’s a warning.

“Patriot groups” are on the rise, including militias and other extremist organizations that target the federal government.

Last year, on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, the Southern Poverty Law Center sounded an alarm about an anti-government climate more toxic than the atmosphere preceding the attack.

“Mainstream commentators and politicians are pouring fuel on the fire with heated anti-government rhetoric and outrageous conspiracy theories,” said the center’s Mark Potok. “It just stokes the fire, and I don’t see anything that’s moving us toward any kind of calming down.”

Maybe that tragedy in Tucson will give us pause.

Anything from Love?

Looks like a story, Rev. King — about a 9-year-old girl, born Sept. 11, 2001, named Christina Taylor Green. She had a penchant for wearing clothes that were red, white and blue, having come to realize there was significance to the date 9/11, beyond being just her birthday.

With uncommon insight, she noticed inequities in the world and set out to remedy them, pursing an interest in civics and winning election to the student council at her elementary school, Mesa Verde, in Tucson.

“We are so blessed,” she was fond of saying. “We have the best life.” And she wanted to share that life with others.

Christina was among those who were killed at the Giffords event. But hatred did not triumph, as the outpouring of sympathy proved. And her loving spirit, like yours, lives on.

milloyc@washpost.com

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