The Rant 

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Richie Lomba |

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Many people could learn a lot from the woman who works in the entrance and exit booth at Parking Can Be Fun on Union Avenue next door to the Cotton Exchange Building. I am embarrassed that I don't know her name, but I see her and hand her cash about once every two weeks when I park there to eat lunch downtown.

Although I'm not a regular, she always remembers me and always has a huge smile and we talk briefly about the weather and tell each other to have a wonderful day. I love going to see her and sometimes park there when it would be more convenient to park elsewhere and she just makes me feel like a million bucks. I can't imagine what it would be like to be in that little booth all day long but she gets by just fine with her Kindle and her spirit.

Why is it that all people can't be that nice? I've been trying and trying to figure out what makes some people so mean, and for the life of me I can't come up with a good answer.

How is it that someone could reach a point in his life where he feels it necessary to spray innocent children with nerve gas and kill them, as Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has recently done? What goes through the mind of someone like that? Do you just wake up one day and think, Oh, why not gas some children today?

I know it's more complicated than that but I really do wonder what could possibly make someone think doing that is okay. These are not rhetorical questions. I genuinely want answers. Same with serial killers, violent gang members, racists, and the three teens in Oklahoma who shot and killed that Australian baseball player not long ago because, as one of them said, they were "bored." They were "bored" so they decided to commit a murder? My feeble mind simply can't comprehend that. And when they go to prison and get no kind of rehabilitation because there is none in the American prison system, they will probably become even meaner and kill more people in jail. It makes me wonder what kind of a bizarre experiment Earth is. I'm not a religious person but it does make me wonder if there really is a Satan who invades some people's psyche.

I think one of the things that is making me wonder about all these unanswerable questions is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington. I'm thinking about what it must have been like to be captured, separated from family, crammed into a ship with life-threatening conditions, delivered to the United States, stripped naked in front of a crowd of people, and sold to the highest bidder, who had every legal right to kill you if you talked back to him or, God forbid, learned to read. What kind of minds did those slave owners have? What was going through their minds when they were buying people to work and torture? Was it greed? Was it hatred? Was it ignorance? And don't tell me that's just the way it was back then and they didn't know better. I don't buy that nonsense for a second.

I also find it odd that despite the fact several Republicans were invited to speak in Washington, D.C., during the anniversary ceremony, NONE accepted the invitation. (Despite all of the things he has done with which I disagree, I bet George W. Bush would have been there if not for his recent heart surgery.) Do they hate President Obama so much that not one of them could be there to speak on the anniversary of one of the most important speeches in American history? House majority leader Eric Cantor was invited but declined because he was busy in North Dakota and Ohio looking at energy sites.

How can someone be too busy to speak at a ceremony commemorating King's "I Have a Dream" speech? You can't be a little flexible for something like that? You can't take a break, go make a short speech alongside a sitting American president, two former presidents, and some of the most notable civil rights leaders alive today? And you want to change the Republican Party's image to get more African American votes? Not such a great strategy to achieve that goal if you ask me. On the flipside of the coin, the organizers of the event didn't invite Tim Scott — the only African-American serving in the Senate — to participate, which also seems a little strange.

I've also been wondering if America will ever have someone like Dr. King again. We still have horrific poverty, which he fought against like a lion. He ultimately died while trying to help Memphis sanitation workers get a decent wage and better working conditions. And now, fast-food restaurant workers who work full-time and still live below the poverty level are striking to get a living wage and the right to unionize, some of them even carrying the famous "I AM A MAN" signs from the Memphis sanitation workers' strike in 1968.

Will there ever be another person in this country who will be willing to do the kind of work Dr. King did to try to remedy these kinds of situations? Or is that something from a past era that's just gone. I think Newark mayor and Senate hopeful Cory Booker has it in him and maybe he will be the next equal rights icon. Who knows? All I know is that I am leaving now to go see the woman at Parking Can Be Fun. She is my hero.



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