Monday, January 19, 2009

In honor of MLK

Andrew Sullivan posted perhaps the most poignant clip of Martin Luther King, Jr. on his web site. (More poignant, I think, than his "I have a dream," speech.)

It is of King on the night before he died. "Like anyone, I'd like to live a long life," King says. "Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he has allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight -- I'm not worried about anything, I'm not fearing any man, because mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord."

I've seen this clip before. And it bears a shocking (almost eerie) resemblance to the death of Moses in Deuteronomy.

Chapter 34, verse 4: "The Lord said to [Moses], 'This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, "I will give it to your descendants"; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.' Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the Land of Moab."

Sometimes people just get a notion about when their end is near. Carl Jung wrote about this. (I read it in Man and His Symbols.) But never have I seen symbolism so jarringly relevant. He has looked out on the promised land, but the Lord decided he could not enter.

King would have been 81 last week had he lived. Tomorrow, we will see the swearing in of America's first black president. Racism will not have ended in America, but we are edging ever closer. Our eyes have seen the glory...