Sunday, June 05, 2016

If Then Were Now (or Vice Versa?)

Muhammad Ali's death on Friday started me thinking and reminiscing. I remember the highlights and controversies of his career and life in the 60s. Starting out as Cassius Clay he became more radicalized as those 60s became more contentious. He became part of the Nation of Islam, changed his name, refused to be drafted, and had his championship revoked.

He was not as widely loved as it would seem from the eulogies these past couple of days. In fact, he was downright reviled in many quarters. His patriotism and commitment to the country were questioned. The sports biography/documentary, The Trials of Muhammad Ali, covered the legal battle to overturn his conviction for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War.

Watching the new reports and honors placed on him since he died made me think about how time changes things.

"A powerful, dangerous political force" the (LA Times) said in an editorial.

Yes. He challenged a racially-based political system. He turned away from the fame to stand for a point of justice. "Boxing is nothing," he said, "just satisfying to some bloodthirsty people. I’m no longer a Cassius Clay, a Negro from Kentucky. I belong to the world, the black world. This is more than money.”

A dangerous challenge, but done with a sense of peace about himself and about what he was working for. A boxer, known for fighting with his hands, calling for peace between people. A remarkable stand.

I haven't (yet) seen any posting or note denigrating Ali since he died. Oh, I am sure it's out there somewhere. Someone has or will write about his un-American stands, his turning to Islam, or whatever that will want to knock him out of the heights he rose to. If the events of his life from the 60s were happening today he would probably be more hated than he was then. Just being a Muslim would be enough to set outside the centers of American culture.

I hope there is a lesson in this for those who would point fingers, racially or religiously profile individuals, or strike out with prejudice toward those who may stand differently. Muhammad Ali was a political pioneer. He stood up and did what he felt he had to do. Don't let the fine eulogies hide his positively dangerous and revolutionary witness and life.

Thanks for your willingness and stand.

Rest in peace!

No comments: