Dr. King#039;s work shows peace can defeat terror

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Forty years ago, the world seemed much smaller. Most Americans had no notion of the word "terrorism" and the sense of global understanding was often measured by one's having traveled to Mexico or perhaps England.

Yet 40 years ago, the United States was under a constant terrorist threat. Long before the days of al-Qaida and the Taliban, a relatively small group of individuals came together, bonded by hate.

In the 1960s, particularly in portions of the South, the Ku Klux Klan terrorized Americans with threats, rhetoric and hate. Eventually, their hate turned to violence against black Americans and others including foreigners and non-Christians.

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These terrorists didn't look different from most Americans. They wore business suits by day and terrifying white robes by night.

All too often, society allowed these thugs to run amok. The Klan in the 1960s often infiltrated high ranks of government. They "owned" politicians and used their threatening ways to coerce otherwise law-abiding citizens to simply "look the other way" when criminal behavior was necessary to fulfill their cause.

A number of Americans had the bravery to stand up and fight the Klan and its decidedly un-American ways. Fortunately, most of these valiant crusaders for freedom chose peaceful protest as their weapon of choice.

In the turbulent era of the Civil Rights Movement, quite a few of these brave men, women and children, lost their lives - not because of something they did, but simply because of something they were - black skinned, for example.

Among those brave crusaders who gave the ultimate sacrifice, was a black southern preacher, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King somehow managed to see what many others could not. He saw that eventually, time would help do what man struggled to do - level the playing field. King understood that change was necessary for the survival of the American way of life and he also understood that non-violence was the best means to that end.

Earlier this week, we celebrated a holiday dedicated to King. And, while we are certain King would be honored, he'd be more honored if we internalized his many lessons of peace and equality. By doing so, we can all continue moving closer to seeing King's dreams for this country become a reality.