From email@example.com Thu Jan 20 17:10:43 2000
Sadanand, Nanjundiah (Physics) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: The legacy of King that American leaders and media do not publicize!
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 12:06:54 -0500
When and if enough money is raised, a design approved and enough earth bulldozed away, a memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will be dedicated in a few years at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. Early last month, the National Capital Planning Commission approved a four-acre site that rests directly between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.
The King memorial will include chiseled excerpts from his speeches and writings. But which words will be chosen? Which King will the memorial’s visitors encounter?
Since King’s death in 1968, his memory has been monopolized by
those who see him only as a civil rights leader. Every January, around
the time of the King holiday, many of the news media replay the
Have a Dream oration. It is also the time of year when politicians
of all or no stripes portray King as a champion of integration who
organized blacks to knock down Jim Crow. Even those who secretly do
not share Brother King’s dream, and are silent about racial
equality most of the time, suddenly exercise their vocal chords by
We Shall Overcome. Undeniably, King, as Sen. Edward
Kennedy said in a 1983 floor debate on creating a national holiday for
the slain leader,
worked tirelessly to remove the stain of
discrimination from our nation.
But King the integrationist is the tame, safe and sanitized King whom America feels comfortable with, except for fringe white supremacists and Confederate-flag wavers, who overtly favor racism.
Pushed aside—dumped, really—is the troublemaking King whose commitment to nonviolence and pacifism meant that he was much more than a civil rights leader.
King, a fiercely uncompromising critic of American militarism and the
war in Vietnam, said in New York on April 4, 1967—a year before
the greatest purveyor of violence in
the world today [is] my own government.
Has that changed? The evidence says no. The same ethic of violence and the drive for world domination that sent U.S. soldiers to Vietnam also directed U.S. military personnel to kill people in Grenada, Libya, Panama, Somalia, the Sudan and Iraq during the 1980s and 1990s. Each is a nation of poor people, and people of color.
What would King say today about a U.S. foreign policy that is habitually directed at people of dark skin?
Will King’s statement on the violence-purveying U.S. government be carved in stone at the Tidal Basin?
And will the designers be instructed to carve into stone King’s
1967 assessment of the nation’s spending habits?
that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense
than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.
According to the War Resisters League and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, nearly 50 percent of the federal discretionary budget is for military programs. Congress lavishes on the Pentagon an average of $700 million a day, a sum three times more than what the Peace Corps gets in a year and twice the annual AmeriCorps budget.
A government’s values are revealed by where its money goes. If
King’s views on money make it into marble, perhaps they can be
footnoted with his comment in 1968 when the House and Senate were
doing what they are still doing, penny-pinching on social programs and
splurging on the Pentagon’s:
The Congress is sick.
An entire generation of American students has gone through schools whose texts ignore the memorable antiwar thinking of King.
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Book
Got Wrong, James Loewen of the University of Vermont examined the
12 most commonly used high school-level U.S. history textbooks. He
King, the first major leader to come out against the
[Vietnam] war, opposed it in his trademark cadences: ’We have
destroyed [Vietnam’s] two most treasured institutions—the
family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops
. . . We have corrupted their women and children and killed their
men.’ No textbook quotes King.
All the textbooks, for sure, carry excerpts from the
I Have a
Dream speech. After three decades of being sentimentalized into an
historical relic mummified by the formaldehyde of nostalgia, King has
been marginalized in ways that were never possible while he was around
to defend himself. Near the end of his life, he summed up his mission:
Our only hope today lies in our ability to capture the
revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world
declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism.
What hostile world? In the mid-1960s, it included the corporate media
whose reporters and editorial writers dismissed King as being far out
of his depth with his antimilitary views. The New York Times and the
Washington Post instructed King to stick to racial issues and leave
weighty foreign policy matters to sophisticated people -- such as the
pro-Vietnam war editorial writers at the Times and the Post. To King
critics Carl Rowan and J. Edgar Hoover, antiwar equaled
anti-American. Rowan, a courtier to warmonger President Lyndon
Johnson, accused King of being duped by people
more interested in
embarrassing the United States than anything else.
Hoover smeared King as
an instrument in the hands of subversive
forces seeking to undermine our nation. Others piled on, including
blacks who asked why King fragmented himself by mixing peace and civil
rights: Doesn’t he understand that racism is his issue, they
asked, and nothing else?
King was ready for that one:
When I hear such questions, I have
been greatly saddened, for they mean that the inquirers have never
really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, that question
suggests that they do not know the world in which they live.
Then and now, it is a world dominated by governments and economic powers whose reliance on violence to solve conflicts made the 20th century history’s bloodiest. Any memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that doesn’t forcefully remind us of his strong opposition to war ought to be in Disneyland.