The world has lost a great man, a fighter whose life optimized audacity and courage, not only because he was a brilliant and beautiful athlete, but because he stood up and spoke truth to power.
“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong”
At the height of the civil rights movement in the United States in the mid 1960s, when large swathes of the country were deeply polarized and still largely segregated, Muhammad Ali, a world champion boxer, refused to fight in a war that he believed was profoundly unjust. He said this to the powers that be:
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end.”
For taking this stand, Ali was banned from boxing for three and a half years until he finally won his day in court. When I was growing up and to this day, his presence deeply impacted my life.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.”