The ironies of a King memorial

Monday, February 15, 2010

The saga of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial struck me as so thick with ironies it's hard to know where to start ["From dream to very solid reality," Metro, Feb. 11].

The statue honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose civil rights work, though it spanned a number of years and places, came to prominence in Washington, a city in which, within my memory, black folks drank from separate water fountains and used separate restrooms. The statue will tower over that of President Abraham Lincoln, whose presidency largely made it possible for Dr. King to achieve a doctorate and to speak as a free man in favor of civil rights.

The statue is being carved in China, which would not have tolerated a speech such as Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" oration. In China, such a speech and associated gathering would have been seen as anti-government and resulted in tanks, military action, arrests, imprisonments, even executions.

The site of the memorial is flanked by cherry trees, gifts from Japan, the archenemy of China in the 1930s and '40s and the United States in the '40s.

The ironies boggle the imagination, yet somehow, it all makes sense in 21st-century America.

William P. Winter, Silver Spring

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