Friday, April 04, 2008

MLK Murder

Just a few thoughts on the anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. I don't claim to know much. I would love to see comments from those who do.

Here is a thought-provoking video:

The Real News: MLK: Beyond Vietnam--A Time to Break Silence

King talks about the number of blacks who died in Vietnam. He talks about the burning of Vietnamese babies with napalm. There is truth in King's words. At 15:00 we see a sign from a 1960's anti-war protester: "Children are not born to burn."

But the pro-King forces say little about today's burning of millions of black babies:

When a movement speaks the truth about one thing, and refuses to speak the truth about another, I'm alerted to a political agenda. Why one and not the other?

What about the manner in which truth is spoken? I like the truths that Dr. Laura speaks, but sometimes the manner seems (at least to some) inconsistent with the truth, or ineffective, or counter-productive. Bill Cosby is also less than persuasive and attractive when he speaks the truth. A caricature is then inflated, and fuels even more vicious attacks from the opposite side.

Back to the video above: When I see U.S. Marines destroying villages, I say, "These are not my friends." But the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. When I see thousands of protesters clashing with police, I do not feel I am among friends. When I see a person walking with Fidel Castro, I no longer trust that person. King said many things that were true, but I don't feel like he and I were on the same side.

We live in the richest nation on the planet. We enjoy staggering wealth that previous generations could not have imagined. Yet the polls are dominated with concerns about "the economy," "economic injustice," and other ways of saying "I don't have enough," or "He has too much." Chris Floyd writes:

Forty years ago today, the last public figure to pose a serious, fundamental threat to the power structure that sustains the American elite in unmerited wealth and privilege was shot down in Memphis, Tennessee. Martin Luther King Jr. had gone there to help garbage workers win a living wage. He saw their struggle as part of an emerging campaign to give birth to a new paradigm for American society; in effect, to form a new union, based on economic justice, social equality -- and an adamant repudiation of state violence and empire.

I would like to think that I "pose a serious, fundamental threat to the power structure that sustains the American elite." I take second place to nobody in opposing "state violence and empire." But I don't think that their lear jets and mansions are "unmerited" -- at least if the implication of "unmerited" is that such wealth is merited by "garbage workers" and should be confiscated by the government and redistributed. The struggle of union workers is not against exploitative employers as much as it is other employees who are willing to work for less than union workers are willing to work. As Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement put it, "strikes don't strike me."

Floyd speaks of a "new paradigm." I don't understand what King's "paradigm" was. My "new paradigm" is really the very old paradigm of Micah's "Vine & Fig Tree" society. Despite King's reference to that ideal at 21:50 in the video above, his influence has taken us away from, not brought us closer to, that ideal.

King failed to appreciate what is great about America, and mis-diagnosed her illnesses.

In 1968 there were two billion people on this planet who looked with envy on non-unionized American garbage workers. In America in the 1940's, a black man could live in a neighborhood with no sewage system and no paved streets, the mother of his children could work as a maid and collect food from the church charity, his son could finish college and support the Black Panthers, urging a student walkout to protest investments in South Africa, get married and have a son named Jamal, then become a corporate lawyer in the pesticide and agriculture division of the Monsanto Company, and finally become a high-ranking figure in "the power structure that sustains the American elite." I'm talking, of course, about the life of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

If "freedom" is defined as "opportunities," then Justice Thomas took advantage of his freedom.

Did King encourage his followers to take effective advantages of their freedom? What would "taking effective advantage of opportunity" look like? (I don't think Clarence Thomas is an example. He is not an effective opponent of the burning of babies in Iraq or in America. But his life proves that America is not a place where blacks are kept down because of the color of their skin.)

The three biggest mistakes made by Americas Founding Fathers were
Using muskets and cannons to abolish the government
• Replacing the government they abolished
• Talking about "rights" instead of (or more than) duties.

The emphasis on "rights" has created the culture of entitlements, which has led to massive dependence, not independence, and slavery, not freedom.

When white employers deny jobs to blacks "with their hat on backwards, pants down around the crack, it's called "racism." I have explained why I believe blacks were better off on plantations. So has Bill Cosby. So has Walter E. Williams. When Ron Paul says it, it's called racism; when blacks say it, it's ignored completely. (Of course, Ron Paul's ghost-writer may have attended the Dr. Laura School of Persuasive Arts.)

This seems to be the legacy of Martin Luther King: criticism of under-achieving blacks is not permitted. They are entitled to the achievements of others, and achievers should be punished, and reparations made to those who are politically entitled.

Conspiracy Theories

Those who thought that they could turn off the MLK faucet by murdering him were very stupid -- if that's what they wanted. And the plural is, I believe, appropriate, despite government claims to the contrary. I don't know who "they" were or what they wanted.

Were "they" the architects of the New World Order? For some reason I doubt it. Southern "good ol boys?" Probably closer to the truth.

Despite talk about "OBAMAMANIA," I don't see Obama having the impact that King had, so I don't think assassination is on "their" drawing board. I don't think Obama is a threat to the power of those who wanted King dead. And the higher you place MLK's conspirators, the more likely it's a mistake to think that they thought his life was a threat to their power. Actually, his "martyrdom" may have been seen as the best way to promote King's agenda -- and theirs.

Additional References:

James Earl Ray did not Assassinate MLK

Thomas Eddlem says I have an Unfrozen Caveman Ideology. I have admitted that King said some good things. But I will never thaw out.

Peace is Every Step « Vox Nova

Cynthia McKinney - William Pepper/MLK Trial

Letter from a Birmingham Jail
Excerpts and comments:

the city's [Birmingham] white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative [but to engage in demonstrations]

Slavery was not abolished because slaves demonstrated.

We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?"

The goal should be to eliminate racism, not to add brutality to the list of Birmingham's sins. The Bible commands slaves to work for their masters the way they would work for Christ Himself (1 Peter 2:18; Ephesians 6:5-8), not to provoke their masters with "demonstrations" which lead them to inflict even more violent blows.

Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension

"Nonviolent direct action" is a well-developed theory of social change. But where is this strategy in the Bible?

My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

How was it imagined that confrontation and "tension" would lead to "brotherhood?" King has already admitted that he knew this strategy would lead to the infliction of retaliatory physical blows, not "brotherhood."

Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.

The State -- that is, "the government" -- that is, the city government of Birmingham -- passes laws prohibiting white restaurant owners from serving blacks. A non-racist white who would love to accept the money of black patrons does not see this law as a "privilege." Why would blacks see racists as having a "privilege?" What does it mean to take a privilege from someone involuntarily? Where does Christ condone the taking of anything from the "privileged" without their consent?

Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

"You shall not follow a crowd to do evil." (Exodus 23:2) Will an angry intimidating crowd teach this lesson to whites? If a white restaurant owner was willing to serve blacks but unwilling to buck the city establishment, what is the best strategy to convince the reluctant white integrationist to surrender his "privilege" of kowtowing to segregationist rulers?

For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.

Has "nonviolent direct action" proven more effective than waiting? Are blacks better off -- more Christlike -- in 2008 than they were in 1948?

What is the Biblical strategy: waiting or demonstrating?

Psalm 27:14
Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Psalm 33:20
Our soul waits for the LORD;
He is our help and our shield.

Psalm 37:7
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.

Psalm 37:9
For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the LORD,
They shall inherit the earth.

Psalm 37:34
Wait on the LORD,
And keep His way,
And He shall exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.

Psalm 40:1
I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.

Psalm 59:3
For look, they lie in wait for my life;
The mighty gather against me,
Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O LORD.
Psalm 59 (Whole Chapter)

Psalm 130:5
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
Psalm 130:6
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

Proverbs 20:22
Do not say, “I will recompense evil”;
Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

Isaiah 8:17
And I will wait on the LORD,
Who hides His face from the house of Jacob;
And I will hope in Him.

Isaiah 25:9
And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the LORD; We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

Isaiah 26:8
Yes, in the way of Your judgments,
O LORD, we have waited for You;
The desire of our soul is for Your name
And for the remembrance of You.

Isaiah 30:18
Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.

Isaiah 33:2
O LORD, be gracious to us;
We have waited for You.
Be their arm every morning,
Our salvation also in the time of trouble.

Isaiah 40:31
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 49:23
Kings shall be your foster fathers,
And their queens your nursing mothers;
They shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth,
And lick up the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the LORD,
For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.”

As I look at historical footage like the video above, I notice how many of the black protesters in the 1960's wore suits and ties. As the spirit of "waiting on the Lord" is replaced by "nonviolent direct action," that dignity is eclipsed.

when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; ... then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. ... I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

Is impatience the cure for bitterness?
How did Christians explain to their children why they were being thrown to the lions in the Coliseum? Was Rome brought down by "nonviolent direct action?"

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

This is a classic and widespread misunderstanding of Augustine and Christianity. We must distinguish between those who pass unjust laws and those who are burdened by them. Those who pass such laws are commanded to repent of such lawmaking and repeal the laws. Those who are burdened by those laws are commanded to obey them (1 Peter 2; Romans 13) and "wait on the Lord." King's tactics of law-breaking were unChristian.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

The Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution were unChristian. It is not a sin to pay taxes. It is not a sin to not have coffee at a white lunch counter. It would have been a sin for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to worship a false god as commanded, or for the Christians to not preach the gospel as commanded. King's analysis misleads blacks.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Being lukewarm is indeed a sin. It is to white moderates, not to blacks, that King should have preached. Such a message would have been more powerful without the Marxist class warfare. King's tension was between black and white, between rich and less-rich. The conflict should have been: "We are Christians, you are not; you are your own god, making up your own rules." If a black teenager is beaten for being like Christ, respectfully preaching the gospel to whites when ordered not to speak to them, rather than for flirting with a white woman and breaking bounds of "decency," the "hidden tension" that King tried to bring to the surface would be more defining and consequential. Blacks would have had more cause for a "firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence."

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

What percent of blacks in America's public schools understand these references:
"eighth century B.C."
"Macedonian call"

Education is a more important issue than economics, because morality is a more important issue than rights, and service is more important than credentials. "Dr." King missed these truths. American blacks are morally and spiritually worse off today because of his influence.

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