Today, more than ever, we need King’s words

Today is the last day in a three-day weekend for many, particularly school-aged children. But it is not just an excuse for a mini-vacation, it is the observance of the birthday of the late civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parents finding themselves at home with stir-crazy kids today should take a moment to explain to them why King’s life is worth remembering, and why his mission is as important today as ever.

A pathetic example of the kind of behavior against which King fought, and against which we must all continue to fight, occurred last week when a group of teenagers in Make America Great Again garb taunted first a group of black teens and then an Omaha tribe elder who tried to diffuse the situation. The confidence and glee with which that bunch of young white men harassed people they perceived as “other” is sickening.

One is forced to wonder whether they were encouraged by the adults who were supposed to be chaperoning and teaching them that day — either because those “adults” turned the other way or actively suggested the wardrobe choices and behavior. Certainly none of the children behaved in a way that suggested they expected consequences, or even understood how devastatingly wrong their actions were.

But Nathan Phillips, the tribal elder who walked into the midst of that gang, drumming and chanting a prayer of healing, understood how to combat them; and did so in a way King himself would have encouraged. That kind of ignorance and hate cannot be fought with insults and violence. There is a lot of patience and restraint involved in changing hearts, and that change is desperately needed.

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love,” King said.