rn: more on MLK


Jan Slakov

Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 14:55:04 -0500
To: •••@••.•••
From: Marty Jezer <•••@••.•••>
Subject: King's Dream

by Marty Jezer

     What I like about Martin Luther King Day is that you get to
hear Dr. King's great "I have a dream" speech over and over. 
Like the great honking tenor saxophonists -- Coltrane, Rollins,
Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young -- Dr. King delved deep into the
American soul. Majestic jazzmen push and pull at the rhythmic
beat.  Martin King prodded at the rhythm of history. We live in a
better world for his words and his life.

     {ITALS}]I have a dream that one day this nation will
     rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: `We
     hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
     created equal.'

     I have a dream today.{ENDITALS}

     Too bad we only hear snippets of that great historic speech
-- and just the visionary parts at that. Before King told us his
dream, he spoke of an America in which racism reigned and
segregation ruled.  

     {ITALS}....The Negro is still languishing in the
     corners of American society and finds himself an exile
     in his own land. {ENDITALS}

     How do we measure progress since that cruel and immoral
time? What would King now say as we tick off the days to the
century's end? 

     The tragedy of some political assassinations, at least for
the public, is the hope that is dashed. Would Jack Kennedy have
gotten us out of Vietnam? (I think not but don't know). Would
brother Bobby have ended the war, or been a force for racial
healing?  (Tantalizing possibilities but we'll never know). Would
Martin Luther King have become a world leader, perhaps our
President? (That's dreaming bigtime but, again, we cannot know.)

     What we do know was that in life King was our most humane
and farsighted visionary and our sharpest and most penetrating
social critic. What is often forgotten is that he was also a
brilliant and pragmatic political strategist who understood which
levers to pull to make change happen.

     Dr. King and the many Americans who protested, marched, and
went to jail with him ended legal segregation in America. No
small accomplishment given the way ancient racial, religious, and
ethnic hatreds still cause bloody mayhem all over the world. King
and his allies extended democracy, not with guns but with a
shrewd and principled creative in-your-face nonviolence. The
movement he led never backed-down from injustice -- and never
answered bigotry with hate. Dr. King believed that people, even
racists, could change, that healing was possible. 

     The civil and voting rights movement was first and foremost
about race. But King also knew it was more than about race.  The
August 1963 March on Washington where he gave his "I have a
dream" speech was about jobs and freedom, peace and justice,
economic reform, social investment, equality of opportunity, and
finding a way for people from different backgrounds to come
together on common ground.
     {ITALS}I have a dream that my four children will one
     day live in a nation where they will not be judged by
     the color of their skin but by the content of their
     I have a dream today.{ENDITALS}

     As time passes and King becomes deified, we need to remember
the powerful forces aligned against him and everything he stood
for. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover illegally tapped his phones and
tried to get the media to publish dirt. Powerful Southern
Democrats (now Republicans) tried to destroy him.  When he spoke
out boldly and prophetically against the War in Vietnam, liberal
warhawks turned against him. When he tried to bring the movement
for racial justice into segregated northern cities, powerful
Democratic party bosses, like Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley,
threw up obstacles. 

     Young folks like myself who were active in the civil rights
movement (I say this with shame) often thought Dr. King too
moderate. We were more taken by the dazzling rhetoric and
theatrical militance of the black power advocates. Though their
anger was justified, what was needed was coolheaded compassion
and an understanding of what makes society tick and people

     {ITALS}Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for
     freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and
     hatred....Again and again we must rise to the majestic
     heights of meeting physical force with soul force....We
     cannot walk alone.{ENDITALS}

     The lesson of the twentieth century is how embedded are
racism, tribalism, and ethnic and religious hatreds in the human
psyche.  Against a century of bigotry and bloodshed stands the
life and the legacy of Martin Luther King. 

     Martin Luther King, Jr., will be high on the list of great
leaders of the twentieth century -- not just for what he did last
century, but for the wisdom and inspiration he provides for
this. This country cannot achieve greatness as long as it
tolerates intolerance and poverty. But people can change and so
can society. Freedom for the oppressed means liberation for the
oppressor. We cannot be free until all people are free. 


Marty Jezer was active in the Congress on Racial Equality during
the civil rights movement. He was a co-founder and editor of the
magazine WIN Peace and Freedom Through Nonviolent Action, and is
the author of ABBIE HOFFMAN: AMERICAN REBEL and other books. He
lives in Brattleboro, VT. 

Marty Jezer * 22 Prospect St. *  Brattleboro, VT 05301 * p/f  802 257-5644 

Stuttering: A Life Bound Up in Words (Basic Books)
Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel (Rutgers University Press)
The Dark Ages: Life in the USA, 1945-1960 (South End Press)
Rachel Carson [American Women of Achievement Series] (Chelsea House)
Check out my web page (under construction) at http://www.sover.net/~mjez

From: "Viviane Lerner" <•••@••.•••>
To: "Mai-not" <•••@••.•••>
Cc: "[David McReynolds]" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: A memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 22:29:12 -1000

>From: StevenJSchmidt <•••@••.•••>
>Subject: a memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
>Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 14:54:10 -0700
>Star Tribune (MN)
>Commentary: Which King do we memorialize?
>-- Colman McCarthy
>Monday, January 17, 2000
>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
>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 "I 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 singing "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 his
>assassination -- that "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? "A nation 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.
>In "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 reports that
>"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"
>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
>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.
>-- Colman McCarthy directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington
>and teaches courses on nonviolence at several Washington-area schools.
>© Copyright 1999 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.