Vail Valley Voices: What would King say now?
Vail, CO, Colorado
On his 82nd birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have a lot to say about the current situation in America if he were still alive.
As well as anyone in history, he empathized with the downtrodden, those suffering economically and people society has forsaken.
In one sense, the economic crisis in this country has been a great equalizer.
Many people who were living comfortably before 2008 now are struggling to make ends meet. Jobs have been lost, pensions were decimated and home ownership has become a great challenge for even middle class families. All of these issues and much more continually plagued African Americans throughout the 20th century and before.
With the unemployment rate at 9.4 percent, millions of people are out of work, joining an even greater percentage of idle black Americans. The easiest jobs to eliminate in bad times are unskilled positions as this group has so little clout with employers and most are not unionized.
King might say that white America is getting taste of what his people have experienced all along, even in better times. And because this wise man was comfortable relating to all Americans, he would say this is an opportunity for blacks and whites to work together for the common good.
Our economy was held together by cheap dime store glue in the years after the high-tech debacle. The supposed economic boom we experienced at that time was a disaster waiting to happen.
Our euphoria was based in large part on housing, as everyone was promised a home even if they couldn’t afford one. Credit availability for mortgages, car loans and credit cards was seemingly bottomless. Banks were mailing unrequested credit cards to most of us.
King would have advised us to be more frugal and to save for a rainy day. Maybe he would have even predicted that economic thunderstorms were in the forecast.
And what about our national discourse? As economic conditions deteriorate, our elected officials always seem to get nastier. Comity is tossed aside and warring political factions blame each other for all the evils in society. Economic turmoil has been responsible for so many revolutions around the world throughout the centuries.
King might have proposed that non-partisanship efforts to alleviate the pain and suffering of so many Americans would be a better option than rhetoric that pits one neighbor against another. And just maybe, the crazed gunman in Arizona wouldn’t have been quite so angry and intent on ruining the lives of others.
In these dark hours, as we fight and claw our way out of recession, we need King to help us understand the big picture. Surely there is more suffering that will take place as cutting expenditures becomes a national priority. And you know who suffers when cuts are made, don’t you? King could advise our leaders as they decrease spending and social programs become targets.
Perhaps King would explain that our federal government has been remiss in regulating the flow of benefits. Maybe we’ve been too wasteful. Maybe there’s been too much cheating. And excesses and fraudulent behavior are the real culprits.
I’m afraid that many in this country don’t understand that America is at a crossroads. Either we decrease spending from defense, entitlements, welfare and/or a number of other huge expenditure programs, or America’s financial condition will worsen globally.
We need people like King to help us pore over the options and decrease the pain that will inevitably come.
Sal Bommarito is a novelist and frequent visitor to Vail over the past 20 years.