HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

January 15th marks the birthday of D. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929). The airwaves are filled with timid and at best nostalgic tributes to the great man. Except for WBAI and other non-commercial stations, only Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — and even there but a tiny snippet of it — makes it onto the airwaves.

Martin Luther King, Jr., giving his speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break SilenceNothing about Dr. King’s analysis in which he castigates the United States as being “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

Nothing about Dr. King’s brilliant and courageous insights into the social and economic calamities of capitalism and the congruence of the oppression of people in Vietnam with that of people of color in the United States.

And, nothing about what it really means to be “Non-Violent”. Dr. King castigates those who praised him and the Civil Rights movement for being non-violent in the face of white supremacists in the South but who condemned him for calling on his country to be non-violent in its dealings with the rest of the world.

“In international conflicts the truth is hard to come by  because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for our superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the Truth. Ye shall know the Truth, says Jesus, and the Truth shall set you free.

“Now I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam today because I agree with Dante that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

Ever hear any of that on mainstream corporate radio?

All of that placed — and continue to place — Dr. King at odds with many of his key advisers in the Civil Rights movement, and with the President of the United States — then … and now.

His life — and keep in mind that he was assassinated when he was just 39 years old! — is thus relegated more-or-less “safe,” for those in power.  The hallowed if troubling days happened back then, which (they say) no longer exist. And so, Dr. King’s complex analysis is distorted and rendered almost meaningless today, and offered in a sense as a paean to  “Isn’t America great? Look at how far we have come.” Who now hears the entirety of any of Dr. King’s speeches? What insights could this ancient man actually hold for us today, and for our own movements for freedom?

My answer is, “a great deal”. Yes, it’s about the need to pass once again legislation supporting voting rights and the rights of all people to vote. But much much more is needed, and a deeper understanding of the role of the United States in the world and its relation to both the liberal leadership of the then-civil rights leaders, the Democratic Party, as well as the Republican Party and the Slave-ocracy. Listen here to Dr. King’s entire “Beyond Vietnam” speech.

We remember Dr. King, and his powerful thoughts, words, actions, and leadership.

 

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