Chipping away at the dream

I’ll be honest with you. I have had mixed emotions about many of our iconic figures. On close examination, we discover that their personal lives are not much different from our own. It doesn’t matter who they are: John F. Kennedy, Tiger Woods, FDR, Dwight D. Eisenhower or Dr. Martin Luther King; they, like the rest of us, as the book of Romans reminds us, fall short of the glory of God.

It is best to honor our heroes for their deeds and the impact they had on our lives. Martin Luther King Jr. made such a difference in so many lives that I was pleased when I learned he would be honored with a memorial in Washington, D.C.

Pictures of the memorial are all over the Internet. A prestigious committee was responsible for the memorial’s design and construction — but what in the name of all that is holy were they thinking? You see, I have a great deal of trouble with two aspects of their decision — their choice of a sculptor, and the source of the marble used in the memorial. Both are from China.

The sculptor, Lei Yixin, has sculpted more than 150 monuments in China, including one of Chairman Mao. It is a historical fact that horrible methods of torture were employed under Mao’s direction. The deaths attributed to him and his policies number between 2million and 6million.

Does the guilt for those deaths fall on Lei Yixin? Of course not. He is guilty, though, of creating one of the most repulsive pieces of sculpture I have ever seen. It depicts a stern-faced Dr. King, arms folded across his chest. The posture and expression say to me: “I have a dream — and I’m not sharing it with you.” Even the jacket Lei Yixin dressed Dr. King in looks like something Mao would have worn during his great leap forward. Similar statues have been torn down and toppled into the streets by people who have been set free from dictators.

Fifty-one percent of the marble used comes from America, says Harry Johnson, president of the MLK Memorial Foundation. However, the portion of the memorial that features Dr. King’s likeness is made from marble from China. Supposedly Chinese marble is of a higher quality than that quarried in America. Yet, marble from this country was good enough for the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials and the Washington Monument. Chinese marble is about one-third the cost of American marble. Perhaps that has something to do with how Chinese workers and paid and how they are treated compared to their American counterparts.

Dr. King gave his life fighting against injustice. He championed the rights of American workers. He fought for those whose freedom was “battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.” The causes he championed and the rights he won are still to be championed and won for Chinese workers

So much of what we already use in America comes from China. Must the memory of those we revere come from there, too? King once said: “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” This monument neither lifts up his dignity nor portrays the excellence of his life.

“I have a dream .. .” Martin Luther King shouted from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. This statue turns his dream into a nightmare.

 

 

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