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The most important American since......

Someone said that facts are stubborn things. Democracies can put off dealing with facts for an amazingly long time, but when things get to crisis mode, those damn nagging facts are still there. We could pretend all we want that all the negroes in the South are happy with the way things are, but when you see them exposing themselves to fire hoses, dogs, and beatings without resisting, you are seeing a fact that can't long be ignored in a Democracy, where it's hard to shut the cameras off.  The violence was all one sided when MLK was in charge-it became harder and harder to justify a beat-down on this 'threat' when all they were doing was refusing to stay out of the lunch rooms on sit in the back of the bus.

I think they shamed us, both North and South, and segregation could not stand when fundamentally decent people couldn't kid themselves any more about who the villain was. MLK got his inspiration from Ghandi, and he is supposed to have steeped himself in the writings of Thoreau. Nelson Mandela took a page from both their books, and even the semi-functional Democracy of South Africa eventually cracked under the pressure. Things haven't been perfect in America, India, South Africa, or the U.S.A. since then, but they have been more just, and very few people got killed except the proponents of passive resistance.

That's probably not a co-incidence either. Among those who are not quite so decent and will not accept any changes, they correctly identified the true threats to the familiar and comfortable hatreds that they had been raised with and eliminated them. The South Africans killed a few, and then imprisoned Mandela to keep him from being a martyr. Didn't work. On the other hand, they saved themselves from possible terrible retribution by caving in when they did.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if someone like these great men had sprouted up among the Palestinians, instead of Yasir Freaking Arafat. His ideology was violent from the start, and when he was offered a good part of what he wanted at Oslo, he turned it down because he knew he would be a target, just like the other peacemakers in that part of the world had been, like Sadat and Rabin. That's why it takes a whole order more courage to make peace than it does to go into hiding and plot revenge.

Isreal, with all of it's faults, is also a working democracy, and years of passive resistance, with all the rough treatment and religious fundamentalism that seems to be slowly transforming Isreal into a quasi-theocratic state would have made most decent, ordinary, voting Isrealis find it a little harder to feel that they were fighting for their lives. As it stands, they would have to be a little slow in the head to think that they could ever make a deal with Hezbolla.

Sometimes, miracles happen, like what happened in Rwanda, but, again, in Kagame, they have a charismatic leader who had the moral authority to let the healing begin. Some rumblings of autocratic tendences are beginning to percolate, and a grand beginning may yet come to little, but I think it's clear how important one key person can be to both sides of a bitter dispute, and Martin Luther King was our gift from God, and saved us from who knows what. Surely, we would not have an African American President at this moment were it not for him. For the rest, we can only guess, and probably all be grateful