Now that he is safely dead
Let us praise him
build monuments to his glory
sing hosannas to his name.
Dead men make
such convenient heroes: They
to challenge the images
we would fashion from their lives
it is easier to build monuments
than to make a better world.
So, now that he is safely dead
we, with eased consciences
will teach our children
that he was a great man … knowing
that the cause for which he lived
is still a cause
and the dream for which he died
is still a dream,
a dead man’s dream.
¾ Carl Wendell Himes, Jr.
Whatever image we may fashion from his life, this “inconvenient hero” rises to challenge us now in the year of imperial presidency.
His rising wakens “inconvenient” others whose words join his. He rises with words that tell the truths we would deny.
He rises with words that no nation can long exist on two priorities of butter and bullets.
He rises with words that warn of the “inevitable consequences of power in the hands of avarice.”
He rises with words to remind us that garbage collectors of every Memphis, of every age, are human beings, deserving respect.
He rises with words that caution reformers that “fear of losing everything intimidates them to ask for too little.”
He rises with words of a God who will not be mocked, to call upon white America to cease its oppressive ways or suffer judgment of the ages.
He rises with words to scorn a late century which accepted a new category of people called the working poor.
He rises with words that echo the truth that there are no poor people, only those who are made poor.
He rises with words to remind us that the check for past services by African Americans is overdue more than two hundred years.
He rises with words which “speak against the day” that claims superiority for one people over all.
He rises with words that tell us that violence begets violence; it always has, it always will.
He rises with words that tell us that vengeance begets vengeance; it always has, it always will.
He rises with words that tell us that wars are “no more won than are earthquakes.”
He rises with a reminder that when deciding what to do, cowardice asks, ” Is it politic?”, vanity asks, “Is it popular?”, conscience asks, “Is it right?”.
He rises with words to challenge the morality that plants miles of mines instead of yards for play.
He rises with words that name the lies of moral pygmies who say it is worth it to sacrifice the lives of Iraqi children to punish corrupt politicians.
He rises with words which claim every person behind every border as brother, sister, mother, father, child and friend.
He rises with words that “startle like a trump of coming judgment.” He rises with words like a “fire bell in the night.”
(Among those who rise here with Dr. King, are Maria Child, Elizabeth Heyrick, Bishop Tutu, Bishop Romero, William Faulkner, Jeannette Rankin, Frederick Douglass, David Walker and Thomas Jefferson.)