The first one I saw Monday morning quoted him on “Small Things.”
The tweets, about Martin Luther King Junior, on his holiday.
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
Next, “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”
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That’s actually a slight misquote, which happens often.
Then, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
A Democratic media-type, a Republican media-type, and an African American political activist posted those. They sent me searching.
Typing “Martin Luther King” into Twitter produced tweets flying too fast to read. They finally settled in at a new one hitting every few seconds, mostly quote after quote after quote.
ABC News led with, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The Indiana House GOP posted, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Something called The Animal League chose, “I have a Dream.”
The Dream speech was the most popular.
The Timberline Tax Group of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Defense, and Cleveland Sports Talk all tweeted quotes.
Planned Parenthood went with “We need leaders not in love with publicity but with humanity,” an ironic crassness exceeded by the National Rifle Association: “The men and women of the NRA honor the profound life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (who) applied for a concealed carry permit in a ‘may issue’ state and was denied.”
The truth is, there is probably a Martin Luther King holiday only because he was murdered in Memphis on the balcony of one of the few motels in that city in 1968 that would allow a black man to book a few rooms at a decent rate.
The truth is, he was on that balcony only because he’d gone to Memphis to stir things up; to stand with sanitation workers on strike against the city.
The truth is, in life, Martin Luther King Junior was a kind of troublemaker. He led boycotts and sit-ins, rallies and revivals. He spoke inconvenient truth to power. He was dogged by our government, and not just J. Edgar Hoover.
He was thrown in jail.
Yes, King was a soaring orator. Yes, his words were aspirational and inspirational. No, there’s nothing wrong with remembering them.
The truth is, though, that in death — especially in his holiday — Martin Luther King Junior has been turned into something of a one-man Successories store, that wellspring of quotable conference room art of the 1990s; “No I in TEAM,” and all that. King’s message, especially in the Twitter age, is too often reduced to comfortable one-liners tweeted once a year to make the tweeter feel good.
Yet, the last thing Martin Luther King was trying to make anyone feel was good. What he was trying to make people feel was uncomfortable — uncomfortable with injustice, with inequality and with insidious intolerance of any kind.
The truth is, if Martin Luther King were alive today he’d have been kneeling in aspiration alongside Colin Kaepernick and would be orating with soaring inspiration against a wall.
What, then, would people be tweeting about him?