Sunday, January 17, 2016

What Would Dr. King Do?

W.F. Woolworth sit-in, 1960
I’m thinking today about the terrible civil disruption black people cause sitting down in all-white lunch counter restaurants and sitting in the front seats of city buses because they wanted to be treated as equals. I’m thinking today of the inconvenience it cause people when folks in Baltimore gathered downtown to protest the death of Freddy Gray because black lives matter and forced a cancellation of an Orioles baseball game. I’m thinking today of First Nations folks occupying where the Site C dam is planned to be built in northern British Columbia because that’s sacred tribal grounds. I’m thinking today of five activist who were convicted last Friday of trespassing because they chained themselves to railroad property protesting coal trains coming through Puget Sound.

It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I’m thinking about making a statement in what you believe in with your voice, your body and your heart.

And then I think about guys with big cowboy hats and rifles occupying an Oregon nature reserve because they want federal lands given back to local governments. I think about Americans who set off bombs that killed and crippled people in Oklahoma City and at the Boston Marathon because they believed in some militant cause.  I think about Islamic State militants with guns and suicide belts shooting people and bombing hotels, concert halls, markets, and restaurants because they want religious and political power.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I think about how, if we care, we have causes that we believe in and speak out for, march for, sit in and occupy for. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I think about how we can discuss and  understand and argue about the differences in our beliefs and our causes.  But the line is drawn in discussion when the gun and the bomb are at hand. There is no discussion until the gun and the bomb are put down, there is no legitimacy to a belief or a cause while the gun and the bomb are brandished, there is no justice that comes out of the barrel of a gun.

On MLK Day, we speak out, sit in and march on.

--Mike Sato


  1. A powerful statement - thanks for giving me some ideas to ponder today.

  2. "You can't talk to a man with a shotgun in his hands."

    A troubled world.

    1. True. Let me share what Helen Engle wrote to me today: "What would MLK do? So beautifully said, Mike. Thank you...... I just went out to the garden to THINK AND THINK AND THINK. I lost my Audubon sister (Thelma Gilmur) yesterday. So I added her absolutely benign power (modus operandi of dogged Swedish perseverance) to the mix. She got so much of what she went after for Audubon. And she and I stood together receiving Honorary PhDs from UPS for what we did over 45 years. With NO violence, no threats, no gusn, just total respect and honest friendship for our “enemies.” It worked — but one has to have patience that Mothers are famous for. Helen"


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