Monday, January 20, 2014

ML King on a bubble gum card? Would we really remember him otherwise?

It was a moment from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – with Schroeder saying he chose music by Beethoven for the Christmas pageant, only to be questioned by Lucy Van Pelt.

Let's hope these aren't the only reasons ...
“Beethoven wasn’t so great,” she said. “He never got his picture on bubble gum cards, did he? Have you ever seen his picture on a bubble gum card? Hmmmm! How can you say someone is great who’s never had his picture on bubble gum cards?”

SO I SUPPOSE it is fortunate for the memory of Martin Luther King that Topps Chewing Gum, Co., has – in recent years – come up with alternative sets of trading cards that focus on historical figures.

So King – whose birthday anniversary last week is officially celebrated with a federal holiday occurring Monday – can claim to have been on a bubble gum card.

Otherwise, I wonder if we’d be getting an argument from some quarters of our society who would want to claim that King just wasn’t that great. I really believe that our society’s memory is so short that many people don’t have a clue as to what King was truly about!

For all I know, some may think King is just a college. Or maybe just a street in a part of town they NEVER set foot in.

FOR ALL THE platitudes that will be spewed at various ceremonies on Monday, who’s to say how many of those people will even come close to describing what the real man was like.

Personally, I know that I will be working as a reporter-type person in covering a King Day rally where the keynote speaker is one of the same South Side preacher-types who last year was trying to stir up African-American state legislators into voting against the gay marriage concept.

... Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered
Although I also understand that one of King’s very own daughters has been public in her view that King’s “dream” of equality for all might not necessarily extend to gay people.

It seems like just about anybody will use the King image if they can spin it to whatever particular cause they might personally prefer. Which means many of us don’t have a clue about reality.

I SUSPECT THAT the King image has become one that most people don’t comprehend beyond the oft-quoted phrase “I have a dream,” as in the speech that we all remembered last August because it had been some 50 years since all those people congregated on the National Mall in Washington to hear him speak.

A speech that many school-children in black neighborhood-based schools get to memorize as part of youth King Day celebrations, but which others might not know beyond that date.

Two others turned from man to myth
It may well be a good thing that there hasn’t been a significant cinematic production of King’s life – yes, I’m aware of the made-for-TV miniseries that starred Paul Winfield. Otherwise the public truly would be confused, and likely would think of the actor first whenever hearing the name, “King.”

Think I’m kidding?

TAKE THE LIFE of civil rights activist Malcolm X (who also has become a community college in Chicago). For how many people has the whole image of the 1960s Black Muslim leader been reduced to the image of actor Denzel Washington saying, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on us!”

Perhaps it is a good thing that film director Oliver Stone said recently that he’s dropping out of being involved in a King film that may have wound up starring Jamie Foxx. It could turned out to be more like Stone’s “JFK” with conspiracy theories more than Foxx’ “Ray,” about the life of rhythm ‘n’ blues musician Ray Charles.

What is this southpaw's card worth?
The significance of King may well be that he provides us a barometer just how much our racial viewpoints have changed. He went through his life having many in our society seriously using labels such as “Communist” to describe his thoughts.

Now, only the most ridiculous amongst us would think such a thing – although some now shift such thoughts toward Barack Obama. Some nonsense will never fully leave; but it will wither away to the point where will be like a century-old carving in stone – it will be hard to read and figure out what was actually meant.


No comments: