Monday, January 16, 2006

A True Leader

I've never felt comfortable with holidays, especially those that purport to honor the birth of a man—Jesus, Washington, Lincoln—or of a nation, be it our own or another country's independence day. For one thing, the people and institutions that these days monumentalize are either not worthy of the honor (no one is, come to think of it); or else they would be the first to tell us what a silly idea it is to celebrate their birthdays, long after they are dead.

But MLK is a different story. This is a man who lived what he taught; who practiced what he preached. He knew, unlike Lincoln, that once you commit yourself to violence, you are trapped in its iron meshes. You can prevail in a war, but you cannot win it. Violence is a snake devouring its own tail; it is a cancer on the heart of Nature.

But my words are weak compared with those of the man whose memory we are observing (and need to observe more frequently). So the rest of our space today will be to let his voice remind us of what he did, and what remains to be done.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction....The chain reaction of evil--hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

Somehow this madness must cease. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

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