IN OTHER WORDS: King’s message

Martin Luther King Day can be an uncomfortable holiday. How would King have applied the principle of nonviolence after the terrorist attacks of 9/11? What would he say about the war in Iraq and homeland security? The principles that King believed in leave a moral standard that is still relevant. In his book “Why We Can’t Wait,” King writes of recruiting volunteers for the “nonviolent army.”

He asked people to give up the weapons they carried to defend themselves. King wrote that the nonviolent army had no supplies except sincerity, no uniform but determination, and no arsenal except faith. He requested people to master the disciplines of nonviolence and sacrifice. Today the country is crowded with hedgers, simplifiers, and obfuscators. It is lacking leaders who are great educators. King not only shared his moral convictions, he shared the evolution of his thinking, weaving together racial equality and economic justice, national stability and how it was threatened by the war in Vietnam.

Speaking in New York City in 1967, he called for a “revolution of values,” saying “our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional.” 40 years later the facts of American life are different. But the need for setting a global course is strikingly similar. The message of this holiday: We cannot be comfortable, given the work that must still be done. — The Boston globe