The Other Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Today we do not honour the critic of capitalism, or the pacifist who declared all wars evil, or the man of God who argued that a nation that chose guns over butter would starve its people and kill itself. We do not honour the man who linked apartheid in South Africa and Alabama; we honour an antiseptic hero. We have stripped his life of controversy, and celebrate the conventional instead."

 -- Quote ascribed to Julian Bond

I cannot put the matter any better than Julian Bond. The major newspapers and broadcast networks will not go anywhere near Dr. King's perspectives on capitalism, American foreign policy, and domestic power. If they did, they'd no longer have an etherealized figure to venerate; they would have to traduce him as a left-wing crackpot or ignore him altogether. Far better for the occasion and for their sanctimonious carryings-on to think of MLK as a wistful dreamer, not as a revolutionary; to see him as a civil rights leader fighting only for racial equality, not as a human rights leader fighting for a good deal more (the end of violence in Vietnam, for instance, the end of poverty at home).

There's an irony worth mentioning. MLK Day is being celebrated just a few months [NB: now two years] after passage of the U.S. Patriot Act, that nefarious bit of legislation that allows the intelligence agencies more freedom to spy on citizens and, in some cases, to proceed in certain instances without a warrant. Students of the sixties will recall that the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, undertook a program called "Cointelpro" to harass and malign civil rights leaders. The FBI spied on Dr. King, leaked private information about him to the press, threatened him on occasion, and mailed anonymous letters to his wife accusing him of adultery. The FBI worried, according to an April 16, 1976 report in The New York Times, that Dr. King was the "most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country."

Well worth it to reflect upon the burgeoning powers of the intelligence community and to remember that this same community was committed to destroying the reputation of the man we honor every January.

 

 Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions."

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

 

Links:

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

The Martin Luther King You Don't See On TV

"Beyond Vietnam": A Speech

Getting Comfortable With King The Radical

(First published January 20, 2002)

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