The Martin Luther King Holiday should mean more to us than a three-day weekend. It should be an opportunity for reflection on the life of an American who was dedicated to the non-violent resolution of conflict. As a Florida civil trial lawyer, I spend my days mired in disputes among my clients and the hospitals, doctors and corporations that have harmed them. Dr. King’s message, as I understand it, was based upon a foundation of love. I wonder if Dr. King were alive today and able to counsel lawyers what advice he would have for us?
I suspect Dr. King would urge us to have a grassroots organization to protest laws that protect the wealthy and powerful. I imagine he would oppose Florida’s complex medical malpractice statutes that serve doctors and hospitals at an injured patient’s expense and insist that doctors practice with medical malpractice insurance. I doubt he would be pleased about Florida’s caps on damages and the shortened statute of limitations.
I imagine he would insist that before any civil law suit could be filed that the parties be forced to sit down and try to resolve their claims. He would object to lawyers and law firms campaigning and donating money to the very same judges running for office that hear cases before them. Dr. King also fought hard against poverty and would inspire lawyers to do pro bono work as a mandatory obligation for the privilege of practicing plaintiff’s personal injury law in Florida. He would inspire lawyers to use their knowledge of the law and political influence to prod local, state and federal governments to strengthen anti-poverty efforts. I am sure Dr. King would be dismayed to see the number of Americans living in the streets or children without adequate food, 45 years after his death.
Dr. King would have organized marches and protest surrounding the detainment of prisoners in Guantanamo. He would be disappointed in President Obama for not closing the prison as promised and would counsel him regarding the lack of identity given to the human beings America is holding prisoner for over ten years without a trial.
Lastly, I cannot imagine that Martin Luther King would not find the illegality of gay marriage in our country to be an offensive, homophobic contempt for life. He would deem it arrogant that a single sexual orientation would have the right to dictate its absurd dogma over others. I can see Dr. King organizing protests and marches across our country in support of same sex marriage in the spirit that he fought and poverty, racism and militarism.
In his memory I proudly reprint the words Dr. Martin Luther Kin, Jr. said in his last speech on April 3, 1968, the day before he was shot and killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s 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!”