Monday, June 6, 2016
“Forget about likes and dislikes. They are of no consequence. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness but it is greatness.” – George Bernard Shaw
I’m old enough to remember when a lot of people (mostly white people) did not think Muhammad Ali was great at all, much less the greatest. My dad loved Cassius Clay the boxer, but Muhammad Ali the draft dodger, not so much. Even though the old man thought the Vietnam War was a big mistake and had an almost Oliver Stone-ish idea that it was all about money and politics, he believed that if you got drafted you served. If not with a gun in your hands then at least in some way. Dodging the draft was not an option.
I disagreed with my dad when it came to Ali. There was a revolution going on in the late 60’s and I was inclined to agree with the revolutionaries. There was a lot wrong about this country back then, just like there is a lot wrong about it now. The civil rights movement was necessary. Protesting the Vietnam War was necessary. And challenging the establishment is always a good thing, especially if you’re still young and hopeful that there must be a better way. Ali symbolized all of that and he was willing to sacrifice his best years as an athlete for what he believed in.
Ali eventually went back into the ring and proved himself to truly be the greatest of all time. He also became a global ambassador for peace and justice. After he was stricken with Parkinson’s he became even more beloved. Had he remained healthy and outspoken, who knows how things might have turned out. Muhammad Ali was special. He was large enough for a unique time in history. A world champion who took a stand on the most important issues of his day and paid the price. RIP Champ.