MLK clearing my head in Atlanta

October 8, 2009

In the Atlanta airport in a drab hallway above an escalator there is a shockingly minimal kiosk about the life and beliefs of MLK. It is literally in the shadows and hard to see in relation to the radiant glow that comes from the stores and eateries – ‘the court’ – further on. How lowly our life at court has become.

It feels as if Atlanta is embarrassed by its history and the change brought by its great son. The signs of segregation – “whites only,” “blacks to the back of the bus” – are placed on the backside of the kiosk facing a too close wall. And Andrew Young, pictured with MLK, is the mayor of Atlanta!?

Nonetheless, I am grateful that it was there at all. I read it all and will take a quote from it as a question to the warriors and peace searchers in Afghanistan: “When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love.”

What I find most interesting about the good and evil dichotomy here is that there are those in Afghanistan fighting foreign forces that believe they are good and the American’s to be the burners and bombers. Of course most on our side of the planet would read it and without question believe the Americans are on the side of good. What I get out of this, and what I treasure about this kiosk reminding me of the struggle for non-violence – is that it is the moderates in the middle that are the good, those on both sides of the planet who choose not to burn or bomb, who must find the way to stop the violence and build a sustainable path to peace.

I am going to Afghanistan to investigate whether an emphasis on economic opportunity and poverty alleviation is a viable path to peace. Would peace have been established if the $8000 spent per Afghan on US military activities in the last 9 years had been spent on a mission of economic stabilization? I go back to where I started: can a country that has been bombed repeatedly over thirty years be bombed into a peaceful state? Or, is a quieter long-term investment in the development of the economic and institutional capacity of the region the good person’s path to peace?

There it is – my mind working away in the plane trying to focus so as to be prepared for the onslaught of issues, views, subjects and situations that I am about to be confronted with.

Thank you very much for your card and wishes – “be safe and be calm” x10. I have placed the image pasted to it in my wallet. Did you know that there were postage stamps with Gandhi’s image in the little envelope and a flower?

I hope you are able to focus on your strengths and accomplishments. We must buoy ourselves with a positive determination and use that to propel us through the challenges. I am counting on you to show me the way as you have for all these years.

P.S. I am very happily listening to Rag Ahir Bhairav – slow gat in pupak tal fast gat in teental, Zakir Hussain & Hariprasad Chaurasia. Its fantastic depth and richness sooths the coldness of the airport world.

Related Posts:

Against the Wall – An Afghan Evacuation Story, Part 2

Against the Wall – An Afghan Evacuation Story, Part 2

It was August 19th 2021, three days after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. I received a startling email from Rahmat, one of our editors:

Dear Michael,

Hope you are doing well. Now I got to Poland. Warsaw airport. This is the contact number of a polish woman who was responsible to assemble us to travel to Poland. Hope you and Basir can find a solution to evacuate all members here.


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