Marching for Dr. King: A civil rights memoir
Following his tour of America in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville recorded his impressions in his classic: Democracy in America. Recent polling suggests that about 25-percent of young Americans have a favorable impression of Socialism. That brings this quote from de Tocqueville to mind:
"There exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom."
Modern history records, except for the ruling elites, Socialism, as practiced in the Soviet Union, Red China, Venezuela, and a number of African countries, does make equals of the masses, albeit at the cost of personal freedom, i.e. slavery.
By contrast, Capitalism teaches equality of individual opportunity is good; however, the mandating of an equal outcome for everyone reduces a society to a mediocre level of conformity.
Back in the 1960s, while serving on a U.S. Air Force base in the South, I saw, in the nearby segregated town, a lack of equality of opportunity for African-Americans. There was nothing much one lone Army officer could do about their lack of equality of opportunity. But, wearing civilian clothes, I could and did march through the small southern town with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. organization. An act that probably saved my life.
After Dr. King was assassinated, I planned to wear a suit and tie to the memorial service set to be held over in "colored town." But then, a Telex came from Third Army Headquarters in Atlanta directing me to attend the local memorial service wearing the Army Blue Uniform. On the day of the event, I signed out one of those blue Air Force sedans -- a big blue Ford Crown Victoria -- and headed for the church service. Due to the crowds, I had to park several blocks away.
Inside the church, I was received with embarrassingly great courtesy and seated on the front row of pews right next to the town’s white mayor. After the deeply moving memorial service, I got back in the Air Force-blue sedan. But I was almost immediately surrounded by a gang of young men who proceeded to try to roll the sedan over upside-down. An act, if successful, that might have turned my ride into a flaming funeral pyre.
Just when I figured I was about to be toast, a super-sized black woman came storming down off her front porch shouting, "Stop! He’s with us!" The boys stopped their efforts and ran away.
I got out of the sedan to thank her for probably saving my life and she said, "I saw you marching for Dr. King. Those boys don’t know who you are."
Over the half-century that has followed that incident, I sometimes think back on the day when that imposing black woman commanded, "Stop! He’s with us!" Of all the many nice recognitions that have come my way since that time, I dare say her order that ran off those angry young men ranks at the very top. One never knows when one random, righteous act might have life-saving consequences. Go figure.
©2019. William Hamilton.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017). "Central View," can also be seen at: www.central-view.com.