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The King of Love Is Dead

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You don’t see too many images of Martin Luther King Jr. smiling. His was a mighty burden. And maybe that’s why I love this picture so much… he’s beaming! And I guess one day I’ll write a lighthearted post, but I’m not there yet. I recently read “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides (loved it*) and when the young gals in the story are discussing serious personal stuff, they call it “having a heavy”. I’ll try not to have a heavy with you here on Doctor King’s day, on Inauguration Day.

Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th president of the United States. 44 sounds kinda significant to me. But I rambled around the web, because you know I’m always ready for a new mystical take on things and I also just love numbers- and well, after that, I’m not so sure that 44 is significant. What I can tell you about 44 is that it’s the international dialing code for the UK (quick, call Chrissie Hynde and tell her she got out just in time and keep up the good work and to call me because I wrote her into my bike messenger script).

I guess I’ve got white guilt or class guilt or something like that. Thankfully not much, but for heaven’s sake, just look around at the mess. I mean, even a working class stiff like me, showing up at the Post every day… well, I feel bad about it. The Native Americans, the slaves, the soldiers, the prisoners, the sex slaves. The collective burden of all that misery… it manifests in some interesting ways. If you liked Jane’s Addiction, then you probably remember this jewel from the early 90s: Black Girlfriend by Porno for Pyros. Uh, yeah.

But anyhow… I didn’t want to let this big day go by without posting, and I’m thinking that as long as I post before midnight EST, I’m good. Billie Jo Joy is a small, clever gal in whose Restorative Yoga workshops I occasionally melt.  She wrote (and performed) a one woman show called “Small White Woman Impersonating Martin Luther King”. Even though I never saw the show, I bow to her. How can we ever sufficiently acknowledge the magnitude of this man’s contribution- and his sacrifice? These are his words:

… love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.

Doctor King broke it right down, telling it like it is**. He told them: Jesus had the right idea, and this is exactly how you do it! And by the way, if Jesus isn’t your guy, that’s cool. I can’t believe that there is a God, finally, anywhere, that really can fit into Jesus’ body, or into Christianity, or into Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism or Hinduism, but… just dig the message, if you can. And if you can’t, I’m going to love you anyway.

My friend Tracey Primavera, who is as lovely as springtime, shared this video today of the late, great Nina Simone singing a Gene Taylor song called “Why? The King of Love Is Dead”. This video is apparently from a performance three days after Doctor King’s assassination- and it hurts to hear the words, but I suggest that you listen, and watch.

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And OMG is that Nico in the audience at around 1:45? I know, I know… I’m a jackass sometimes. I’m human. Love me!

Anyway, Nina sings “Tell your parents they’d better stop and think. Cause we’re heading for the brink, now, better believe it. What’s gonna happen now that the king of love is dead?” That is Heavy.

And it’s like the shootings (the many many many shootings… in the schools in the schools heaven help us in the schools). Live by the sword, die by the sword. Have you had a look at video games lately? If you’re blissfully ignorant, tune in to Comedy Central around 9 pm and wait for the ads. Kids get a huge portion of their “education” from media, including the internet and television (plus all the old school stuff like records and books, from time to time). Where on earth would a child get the idea to go into the school and kill some other children, and adults too? Well, how about nearly everywhere they look?

Enough raving about the killings the killings the killings. Just so you know, I’m not anti-gun. In fact, an armed populace might be the only thing keeping things in check… how do I know? The government- our government- has drones that can not only take anyone out at any time (I imagine there were a few buzzing the Inauguration), but can easily surveil anyone anytime. Fun, right? I don’t even like typing the word “surveil”. Ughhhh. But I will say here and now, for the record: I am unabashedly in favor of background checks, gun safety training and limiting the distribution of automatic weapons. Nick Kristof, almost always thoughtful, had some interesting things to say last week (a fast, easy read). But I’m not happy with him for slamming the Postal Service around the same time. Hey Nick… snarkiness doesn’t become you, bro!

But honestly, sometimes I feel so helpless in the face of all the violence. To my way of seeing things, the guns the wars the video games… are all part of one big dead-end story. It’s nowhere. It’s not the way to proceed. But what do we do, if we feel helpless? Aung San Suu Kyi, the amazing woman from Burma, said “If you’re feeling helpless, help someone.” And so… I’m going with that.

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P.S. By the way, this image of a Shepard Fairey mural featuring Aung San Suu Kyi came from a guy who writes a blog called Cincy Voices.

*and I also really love Book Club with Snacks (BCWS)- the people with whom I read the Eugenides book. Although we probably should call ourselves Book Club with Somewhat Elaborate Meals and Love.

**I cannot type those words without a nod to the great Aaron Neville and his take on a song written by Otis Redding. This beautiful star-studded rendition is just for y’all: Tell It Like It Is.

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  1. * 575haikutaxi says:

    Love

    | Reply Posted 4 years, 10 months ago


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