As I reflect on our nations most recent holiday and the man it honors. My thoughts turn toward the events that led to, some say, his inevitable death. Of course, I am speaking of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Yet, oddly enough, my attention is drawn not to the man that stood up and lived for what he believed in. But to the man who crouched in the roach infested flop house toilet directly adjacent to the Lorraine Motel and pulled the trigger. His name, though many would rather it be lost to history, was James Earl Ray.
You might ask why I would choose to focus on a person who took it upon himself, out of pure hate, to end one of the most prolific lives in American history. Wouldn't I rather use my energy to write about the enduring spirit, that out of pure love, changed our world and how we view the basic human rights of every man, woman and child living on this earth? I would like to say yes. But I have to be honest and tell you no.
I was not born in Dr. Kings era. I have never suffered the atrocities of his race or generation. I've never fought for anything as important as the civil right movement and I certainly have never been prepared to die for what I believed in. Dr. King, who earned his Ph.D by 25 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by 34, is a person I could in no way presume to know enough about to express my naive opinions. I could never begin to truly understand what he did for his people. I will never feel the emotion that the mere whisper of his name invokes. Because of my genetics and age, everything he so desperately preached for and spoke out against has always been and hopefully always will be, a god given right. But what I do know and have in common with the great Reverend Doctor, is James Earl Ray.
You see, James Earl Ray wasn't a militant revolutionary. He wasn't suffering from a psychotic break with reality. He wasn't even a racist making a stand for what many at the time considered the salvation of the white race. If you study the character of this man you find he simply had nothing to believe in. James' intention wasn't to kill Martin Luther King Jr. His intention was to kill the one thing the civil rights activist held so closely to his heart. His dream. I to have encountered many who would try the same. People, who out of fear or jealousy, would tear apart my aspirations in an instant. Simply because they themselves did not possess their own. Or maybe because any they might have had were stamped out long ago by an individual who had no vision for what they themselves could be. James Earl Ray was and is the epitome of what we all face everyday in our lives, the dream slayer.
These people will conspire with all their might to destroy what you hold dear. They will attempt with all their will to convince you that you are not capable of becoming what ever it is you want to become or do what ever it is you were meant to do. They will attack your mind, they will attack your heart, and they will most definitely attack your soul. They will try to drag you down to the depths of their own dark misery. For a dreamless existence, is a lonely one. I have dealt with these types of people everyday of my life. And though I do not attempt to compare myself to such a monumental being as Dr. King. I have experienced the dream slayer. My own personal James Earl Ray.
So I say this in the most humble of words and with the inspiration that I draw from a man who's greatness I will never be able to fully comprehend. Never let anyone tell you that you can't accomplish what is in your heart. No matter how big, no matter how small, wild or unattainable it might be. Dream. Dream everyday. Dream every night. Dream until you dream in your dreams. Work fervently toward your dream. Work until your fingers bleed. Work until you realize it. Let them accost you. Let them berate you. Let them laugh straight in your face. Then, let them crumble in defeat and shame as you triumphantly reach what the Revered King himself called, "the mountain top". For James Earl Ray taught us all one very important thing on the evening of April 4th, 1968.
You might be able to kill a man, but you will never be able to kill his dream.
Tragically, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not live to see his dream realized. I hope you take the time to realize your dream... And live it.