There is always a danger that we will come to gloss over the message and meaning of great figures in the process of raising them to a stature of eternal honor.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of conviction who sought to convict us. The great man’s words again and again turn our focus inward; to that quiet within, beyond the world’s noise and distractions, where at last — if you will listen — you must hear the voice of conscience.

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” 

That’s why it’s fitting that we observe King Day as a day of service: To answer the call of the inward voice to go beyond ourselves and engage with the world for the common good.

In stark contrast, the right-wing media megaphones keep the focus ever away from conscience-convicting self-reflection; instead pointing out at convenient scapegoats on which to heap scorn, derision and hatred.

King wrote this about the purpose of education:

We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda… Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

King’s movement was built on the values that come from a frank confrontation with truth both inward and outward and the faith and courage to act for the truth.

What happens to a society that loses the value of truth?

The right-wing media engine ceaselessly manufactures fantasy versions of reality to suit their needs and agendas without regard to fact or conscience. They twist the search for truth and meaning into a cynical rhetorical shell game which diminishes the spirit of our democracy and culture.

King led a movement by towering example toward a great, inclusive vision. Right-wing media figures manipulate and employ heated rhetoric to whip-up forces of division which threaten to extinguish that vision’s light.