While in the process of updating one of my online profiles, I came across an interesting tidbit about which I had completely forgotten.... on this day in 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill declaring the third Monday of January to be the Federal holiday designated as Dr. Martin Luther King Day.
In an interesting quirk of history, on this day in 2005, we celebrate the life of Ms. Rosa Parks, the courageous woman whose refusing of an order to give up her bus seat because of her skin color sparked the civil rights movement that ultimately brought Dr. King to prominence and forever changed the world as we know it. Rosa Parks taught us one important lesson....that even the lowliest of us have the power to do the impossible if we are willing to act.
Oftentimes the gay rights movement is compared to the civil rights movement. In my opinion, such a comparison is both justified and unjustified....justified in that we too are fighting against unfairness and discrimination, unjustified because we have forgotten the main lesson that Dr. King was teaching, as exemplified in his words from his sermon, The Birth of a New Nation:
The aftermath of non-violence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of non-violence is redemption. The aftermath of non-violence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence however, are emptiness and bitterness. This is the thing I’m concerned about. Let us fight passionately and unrelentingly for the goals of justice and peace, but let’s be sure that our hands are clean in this struggle. Let us never fight with falsehood and violence and hate and malice, but always fight with love, so that, when the day comes that the walls of segregation have completely crumbled in Montgomery. that we will be able to live with people as their brothers and sisters.
Oh, my friends, our aim must be not to defeat Mr. Engelhardt, not to defeat Mr. Sellers and Mr. Gayle and Mr. Parks. Our aim must be to defeat the evil that’s in them. But our aim must be to win the friendship of Mr. Gayle and Mr. Sellers and Mr. Engelhardt. We must come to the point of seeing that our ultimate aim is to live with all men as brothers and sisters under God and not be their enemies or anything that goes with that type of relationship. And this is one thing that Ghana teaches us: that you can break loose from evil through non-violence, through a lack of bitterness. Nkrumah says in his book: "When I came out of prison, I was not bitter toward Britain. I came out merely with the determination to free my people from the colonialism and imperialism that had been inflicted upon them by the British. But I came out with no bitterness." And, because of that, this world will be a better place in which to live.
In a nutshell, folks.....love your enemies, and do good unto those who would harm you. Dr. King understood that if there were winners and losers in the battle against segregation, there was no victory.
Let those of us who are gay never forget that lesson.