Posted: January 20, 2015 in Uncategorized
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MLK Selma to Montgomery

Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King lead marchers in Selma

Like many others I recently found myself in a darkened theater reliving a story of fifty years ago, the story of the activism, hatred, sufferings and sacrifices in the heat of one of our nation’s most dramatic transformations. Selma became emblematic of the thorniest racism and discrimination in the land. It was enforced with sheer brutality. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many leaders of the civil rights movement attempted to conduct strategic protests non-violently, something difficult for me to comprehend the older I get. It is no wonder that the name of the city itself, Selma, carries enough freight to serve as the title of the movie without any other word modifying it.

Selma Brutality

Police brutality to the peaceful marchers

Of course, the retelling of the story awakens us from any amnesia about segregation and its fruits. We remember that though the law of the land insured rights to all citizens they were partial rights, sculpted to the preferences of a white dominant culture that systematically repressed the voting of black citizens. That repression curtailed participation in almost every other civic aspect that conveyed power, like serving on a jury, for instance.

However important was the reminder of the obstacles to and content of this movement and the way that moral conviction galvanized the public into political action for change, a great deal of the impact of the film, for me, was found in  the vast complexity and ambiguity of attempting anything good or righteous.

Living is hard and living well is harder. Doing the right thing does not mean that you don’t make mistakes along the way, that human failings don’t come into play, or that leaders are always courageous and never flinch. To the contrary.

Selma Bridge

The march from Selma across the bridge to Montgomery

As we were escorted through the suffering of King and his family, we witnessed the worst of their doubts and fears. Part of our cinematic journey helped us demythologize the hero figure; we moved from romantic ideal to encounter with a brilliant leader who was flesh and blood, who struggled and made progress with uneven stops and starts, who improvised as he went, whose spiritual nature contended with his humanity. That is the person I want to know. That is the person I want to know made a difference in the same way that all of us, by degree, can make a difference.

You don’t want to miss Selma.

  1. Great to hear your thoughts on it. We saw it yesterday too and appreciated the complexity of the portrait. Many people were involved in making a difference. It was powerful how he accepted his role as a symbol and sacrificed his own desires as an individual.

  2. Gloria Beranek says:

    It was excellent. Add to this the best synopsis I have ever read about this man . . . particularly the description of poor whites and their oppression (at least we aren’t black)!

    Martin Luther King Was a Radical, Not a Saint

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