The way MLK spent the last years of his life are either glossed over or ignored by the annual parade of safely packaged old newsreel footage that gets dusted off and presented to us by the mainstream media in between commercials for Doritos, beer, and erectile dysfunction remedies.
Martin Luther King, Jr did not get killed for daring to dream of a day when a man would be judged by the color of his skin but the content of his character, he was assassinated for saying things like the “United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."
"True compassion," King declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."
King did not see U.S. foreign policy as something disconnected from the edifice that needed restructuring; just the opposite.
When King was killed, he was traveling the country to rally support for the Poor People’s Campaign. He envisioned "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington — engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be — until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. In King’s words, Congress had displayed "hostility to the poor" by appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity," but providing "poverty funds with miserliness."
When King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church exactly one year before his death he said: “Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path…”
In defending accusations from within his own ranks that peace and civil rights don’t mix, King said:
“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”
This prompted Life magazine to write that Kings words were "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi" and lead Reader’s Digest to warn of a coming “insurrection.”
While we can debate how close our nation has come to realizing the dream of King’s – that his children would live in a world that did not judge a man by the color of his skin but by the content of his character - we have progressed far enough towards that day to have elected to the office of President a man whose skin color would have had him drinking out of a separate water fountain just a few generations ago.
Let us then judge Obama by the content of his character.
As commander in chief of a country that is still very much the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, what would King say to him were he here?
This year, the observation of Martin Luther King, Jr. day enjoys the ironic calendar pairing of being the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s farewell address, when he warned of the growing Military Industrial Complex.
I imagine that if King were alive today, he would be underscoring Eisenhower’s warning and be a champion championing Bradley Manning much more so than Barack Obama.
And Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked documents to WikiLeaks that lay bare the machinations behind a government that is still hostile to the poor and produce perpetual war, could use more people like King who saw silence as a betrayal.
-Dennis Trainor, Jr.
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”
One should wonder how much that quote, attributed to Thomas Jefferson (one of the most influential of the founding fathers held in such fetishized esteem high on an untouchable pedestal by the Tea Party Patriots) factored into the motivations of Jared Lee Loughner when he shot with the intention of killing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Gifford’s office had dealt with threats of violence before, over the issue that gets the Randian Regressive Tea Party’s Colonial breeches in a bunch more than any other: health care reform.
Defenders of the Tea Party have distanced themselves from the Loughner shooting in an argument that can best be summed up with the four word sentence:
Loughner was crazy.
Anyone who has visited Loughner’s YouTube page and tried to parse his senseless syllogisms will come to the same conclusion. However, watching the Tea Party faithful circle the wagons to distance the hateful rhetoric they have been spewing with increasing volume these past several years from the act of a gunman who sought out an elected official that Sarah Palin had placed her crosshairs on is an exercise that brings to mind the proverbial phrase, popularized by William Shakespeare in Hamlet, Hoist with their own Petard.
Or is it?
Shakespeare’s meaning embodies an ironic justice wherein the creator of a weapon is then defeated by said weapon.
The question that should be part of the ongoing debate about the vitriol now endemic of right wing punditry and politics is this: does the right wing benefit politically from an environment where hate, fear, and violent rhetoric occasionally spills over into actual violence?
The clear answer is yes.
I am not suggesting any actual link between a right wing political organization and Jared Lee Loughner. No evidence at this stage in the game has surfaced to suggest anything of the sort.
However, when Jesse Kelly, the Tea Partier who ran against Giffords in 2010, held a gun-themed fundraiser and advertised it with an ad that said read "Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office, shoot a fully automatic M-16 with Jesse Kelly" do you think that high level Right wing political strategists were wincing or cheering behind closed doors as they analyzed the political expediency of a candidate for Congress in a State with some of the most lax gun laws in the world whipping up his followers by placing the words “remove Giffords from office” and “shoot a fully automatic M-16” in the same sentence?
When grown men stating showing up at town hall meetings attended by the President of the Unites States with signs that read, “We came Unarmed, this time!” Was that a plus or a minus in the political momentum that lead to the Republicans taking back seats in the midterm election?
Or how about when someone actually did show up to a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that the President of the United States was speaking at with a handgun strapped to his leg to leg while carrying a sign referencing the Thomas Jefferson quote I spoke of earlier. That man with the gun held a sign that read, “It is time to water the tree of liberty.”
Finally, with this as a backdrop, and responding to the justified criticism of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin upped the ante with her famous call to arms: “Commonsense Conservatives and lovers of America: Don't retreat, Instead -- RELOAD!"
Again, do you think Republican strategists – in their private thoughts and meetings, thought all of this a poor strategy?
The answer clearly, is no.
Add all of these things up, and it leads to an environment that benefits the political aspirations of the far right wing lunatic fringe in this country. Evidence of this can be seen in the 2010 election, and further evidence will be found as the right wing pundits and behind the scenes strategists dance the delicate dance of fanning the flames of fear and hatred behind the scenes, while distancing themselves from real life political assassinations in public.