Cornel West once wrote that humility is the fruit of inner security and wise maturity. I couldn't agree more. Though I do appreciate those circumstances where humility gives way to bravado. One such instance being athletic competition. And when it comes to brash, clever trash-talk, no one personified the craft better than Muhammad Ali.
In an age where the best athletes exercise a nauseating amount of political correctness, where the most gifted people in sports shy away from controversy in favor of their endorsements, where even those who are among the greatest at their position are too damn humble to even say so, the towering persona of history's best boxer is all the more appreciated. When a competitor's skill set is at such a level that their confidence shines through before, during and after the competition, that inspiration is felt by athletes and non-athletes alike. Not to mention the entertainment value. From Deion Sanders to Kevin Garnett to Terrell Owens, I salute everybody who's cut from that cloth. And much respect to The Greatest for establishing such precedent.
It was outside the world of sports, though, where Muhammad Ali made the most impact. When the heavyweight champion of the world refused military conscription, bellowing loud and clear that, "No Viet Cong ever called me nigger", shockwaves were sent across the planet. With that single act of courage, he sent a powerful message about war, about choice, about freedom, about dignity. Not only did he further highlight America's crimes in Southeast Asia, Ali also embodied the solution to war: refusing to fight. As long as working-class people remain ready and willing to slaughter each other when and why the ruling-class tells us to, then war remain a fact of life. But if we adhere to the principled example set forth by The Greatest, then war will come to an end; not soon, but immediately. And I can personally attest to the power in such an example.
Indeed it was Muhammad Ali's spirit that I resonated with when faced with my own crossroad. Even as I donned the empire's uniform voluntarily, whereas they attempted to draft Ali, my desire to avoid armed conflict with my fellow humans was just as strong. How Ali felt about the Viet Cong was exactly my sentiments about the Afghan resistance; they are not my enemy, but rather my class comrades. And for inspiring such awareness and solidarity, I pay homage to my heroines and heroes, not the least of which is Muhammad Ali. Peace be upon him.