'You said I didn't stand a chance. You said I didn't have a prayer. But all I needed was a prayer.'
I was a kid in the 60s and 70s. And Muhammad Ali was one of my heroes, right up there with Batman, Butch Cassidy and the Omega Man - except Ali was real and lived in a world where they sicked the dogs on you and the bitter fruit too often hung from trees. There was so much racism when I was a kid (there still is), and being an uppity negro would get you killed, but Ali had no fear. He had conviction. While others were using their white privilege to evade the draft and service in Vietnam (Clinton/Cheney/Limbaugh/Trump... the list is a long one), Ali stood on conviction, not excuses.
He said the war was immoral and he wasn't going to fight. He wasn't going halfway around the world to kill people that never did him any harm. His fight was to help free his people inside America, not to fight a Rich Man's war in Southeast Asia.
He didn't run.
He didn't slip away to Canada or Switzerland.
He didn't take deferment after deferment to avoid service.
He didn't join the National Guard to stay out of the fighting.
He stood up, spoke up, and faced the consequences of his actions.
They said, "You have to fight."
He said, "I won't. Just take me to jail."
They stripped him of his title and his ability to earn a living as a boxer. They sentenced him to five years in prison, but truth won out and his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court with no dissenting votes. He was no saint, but he was a man who stood up for justice and equality.
I'm amazed that he survived those times, but then, he was a fighter. The Greatest.
Rest in Power, Champ.