This is going to be quite a week with lots of meaning. Today we start off celebrating Martin Luther King and the mostly successful civil rights movement. We then move to Obama’s Inaugural and then two days after that the anniversary of the murderous Roe v. Wade decision. These three days and the events associated are tied together and it is quite symbolic that Obama’s Inaugural is juxstaposed between them.
Moving first to MLK. I was ten years old when is was assassinated. The elementary school I went to took a day off in the aftermath and this was long before the national holiday. I was told he was a civil rights leaders, though had no idea what that meant. It was not until High School that I started to get an idea about MLK and the civil rights movement when I first started to see pictures and videos of the marches and treatments of blacks in the South. Seeing pictures of segregated water fountains and stores was like seeing a whole different world that you could never have imagined possible. Though growing up in Portland we had our own injustices to blacks that showed itself in a a sort of segregation and poor public schools in those areas. It wasn’t till High Schools that I ever even seen a black person at school. At one point PBS came to my High School to do a documentary because we were the only school in the city where integration of blacks into the school via busing did not result in violence. I don’t know what factors set the school apart other than that we were a rather poor school. I do know that I never heard a racist comment from any of my friends or from others that I knew. No doubt there were problems I was unaware of, but on the whole the school was a positive example of unity.
I wasn’t until I got into the Navy that I really ran into somebody who was actually a racist. I was really shocked to hear what came out of the mouth of this recruit from Georgia. I later ran into him at A school in Memphis, but he was flunking out and being sent to the fleet with no training. Years later I worked with a guy who tried to tell me Robin Trower played the guitar on all of Jimi Hendrix record since Hendrix being black could not be that talented. I laughed in his face at this, but I was dumbfounded somebody could believe this. He also a Neanderthal opinion of women. Everybody in the shop I worked in mocked him and his opinions. Though he worked quite well with the black E-5 in the shop and others and his racist opinions seemed to be more theoretical then on the practical level. Certainly if it had been otherwise he would have been kicked out. But my limited experience has shown me that racists are not the sharpest tools in the box. Racism requires a certain level of stupidity and not thinking things through. It is quite a good thing in that progress that has been made over the year in regards to racism.
With the recent death of Fr. Neuhaus who marched with MLK and at one time was pastor of a predominantly black church in New York we are reminded that he always considered the pro-life movement to be the natural evolution of the civil rights movement. In the start of the post I labeled it the “mostly successful civil rights movement” because of the fact that the civil rights of children in the womb are violated over a millions times a year in the U.S. alone. We have made some progress in getting people to not judge others based on the color of their skin, but have gone backwards in considering a person based on their size. Horton said “A person is a person no matter how small” and their is great wisdom in this Dr. Seuss character. The right to life is the fundamental right and you can not go onto to enjoy other civil rights if you have been slaughtered in the womb beforehand. As long a human persons are discriminated against for factors they have no control over such as skin color or being in the womb at the time the civil rights movement will have a long way to go. With original sin we will always have those who treat others not as persons, but something inferior. But we don’t have to have a government or set of laws that do so and these injustices have to be repaired.
While Fr. Neuhaus correctly saw the linkage of the civil rights and pro-life movement and how they are both based on the dignity of the human person, unfortunately others have not done so. The niece of MLK, Alveda King certainly has talked about this connection. Unfortunately a large number of those who saw the righteousness of the civil rights movement are against the civil rights of those in the womb. It was OK for a Reverend like MLK to lead the civil rights movement, but a religious person being involved with the pro-life movement gets met with cries of theocracy. It was OK for religious persons to be involved in the slavery abolition movement, but they are forcing moral down your throat if part of the pro-life movement. The pro-life movement has made incremental gains, but there is still a long way to go before the need for the March for Life is not longer required.
Which brings us to the inaugural of President Obama between these two events. Some would think that his election represents the answer to the promise of the civil rights movement. There is some truth in this, though I do not think he fulfills the goal of MLK where people are based on the content of their character and not their skin color. I can’t say I am impressed with the content of his character as he called a pro-life group liars for telling the honest truth about his record. That he palled around with a domestic terrorist, listened for years to the sermons of Rev. Wright, and got a cozy house deal with a friend now in prison. But we were to look past all of that for the promise of a post-racial age. That by electing him we would be seeking healing and repairing the evils of the past. Yet they never seem to tell us how electing someone because of their racial heritage is much different from rejecting someone because of their racial heritage. Both attitudes make race the criteria. Plus somehow our post racial society required that a black person must replace Obama’s Senate seat. Sen Burris initially not being seated was described as being similar to dogs being set upon him – sound really post-racial.
As a pessimistic-optimist I will wait and see what the Obama presidency will mean for the unborn. For the man who touted hope I do not have much hope that he will give the unborn hope. An administration filled with pro-abortion supporters in every corner from the top down reminds me that the culture of death will be predominant in the celebratory parades. I trust in God totally to bring good out of evil and that even when the culture of death marches on I know that ultimately it will never triumph. In God there is neither Jew or Greek, black or white, unborn or born; we are all ultimately united in Christ as God’s creation. Though some will separate themselves from him via their own will. Soon to be President Obama needs our prayers as does everybody in his administration.