Like many of you, I was very surprised to hear about the sudden death of Rodney King yesterday. While it is obvious King will be most remembered for his 1991 candid camera videotaped beating by Los Angeles police officers, I wonder if we can think back about something else he left us with- The Question.
“Can we all get along?” He asked, after several days of rioting when the police officers were acquitted of use of excessive force. In light of the division stirred up by the current Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, as well as the upcoming division that will be created in the 2012 presidential election, I have to wonder if King was a wiser man than we might give him credit for. At least he had the courage to ask.
Rodney King was a man with many problems. He continued to have run-ins with police after the infamous beating he recieved after being pulled over for driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Rodney King, as Charles Barkley might have said, was not a role model. Reportedly, he was in the process of turning his life around. But sadly, he could not outrun tragic fate.
But asking us if we can all get along was, perhaps, Rodney’s greatest moment. It’s another time we saw the message far exceed the messenger. We like to think that ordinary people do extrordinary things- like the citizen soldiers who won World Wars I and II; or the young kids who stood up to injustice in the Civil Rights Movement. But we don’t like to think of those people as complex, troubled contradictory and (gasp) criminal. Rodney King was not much different.
Can we all get along? Rodney King, done with this life, doesn’t have to ponder that question anymore.
But the rest of us do.