I had mixed feelings about the Martin Luther King Memorial. Those mixed feelings were created by my strange yet over abundant need to think about all things. All that exists deserves thought. Leaves. Ants crawling on the ground, individual air particles, all of it. Everything that exists on this planet deserves my undivided attention. Have you ever thought about what that means? Undivided? Does that mean that undivided attention is worth more than divided attention? But if your attention is divided, and you decided to undivided, wouldn’t the divided attention be worth more than the undivided attention? You see? That’s me pretty much all the time.
I was thinking about why I was against a Memorial for Doctor King and then I remembered back to when I was in college. Every semester or so, I would get letters from some foundation or something, saying that I received some award and that I had to go to some ceremony. It was more than the Dean’s list, because I was always on that. It was something special for African Americans. This isn’t the technical term for the award, but I think it was called, “You are over 21 and you don’t sell drugs” award. I’m almost positive that’s not what it was called. I never went and received the award, and usually just tossed the piece of paper in the recycling. A friend of mine asked me about it, once, as I carelessly tossed it down on a table somewhere.
“You aren’t going to get this?” They asked me.
“You shouldn’t be rewarded for things you should be doing anyway,” I said. I have no idea where I picked that up. Maybe I saw in on Star Trek or something. Anyway, the premise is that, when you do good things, doing the good thing is award enough. But that was the younger me, the young guy who thought he knew how the world moved and played, how the world spun even though I was barely even old enough to vote. But, going to the Memorial today, I understand something a bit more compelling than I thought I would, and I understood that awards are more for other people than they are for ourselves. Think on it. Martin Luther King is an inspiration. How many men can claim to have done what he had done? Who has accomplished as much as he has? If we don’t lift these men up, then no one can understand that these things can be done. Inspiration isn’t caused by not seeing the world. Inspiration is a direct result of seeing good people make the world better. It’s strange that we need this big, huge, stone mammoth to keep our eyes straight and to keep us walking forward. I thought the massive stone sculpture of King was a bit gaudy in the all the pictures I saw. But, being there in person, looking at it, it’s pretty awesome. It helped, too, that most of the people at the Memorial weren’t black. Half of them were children, running around and jumping on everything, pointing up and asking their parents to tell them what all the words were on the walls. The best was when I was walking out and a old man, with a cane and everything walked into the Memorial.
“There it is!” he yelled as loud as he could. “Look at that! There it is!”
Forty years ago, no one would have even dreamed of a monument to Doctor King existing in the National Mall. But it’s there. It’s like we’re in some strange future time, where all the people now talk about how odd and backwards and wrong the people then were.