Lessons From Martin Luther King That People Still Refuse To Listen And Learn From
Non-Violence? We are involved in multiple wars not only against foreign enemies, declared and undeclared. But also against our people at home. And the institutions created to serve them. Instead of serving the poor, our government is not providing food, health care, housing and the needs to provide for those who are on the verge of being homeless, and the homeless themselves. Instead they are writing laws to oppress them. Instead of providing a safe home, a bed and a meal to keep them from suffering in hunger, they are aggressively arming their men, and offering their men to foreclose on their property, and escort them and their property out on the lawn, so that it can be lost, stolen or sold instead to provide for those who no longer have provisions.
There is no autonomy anymore. You can’t own your home, or your property that it’s placed on, if you can’t pay your taxes, even if you have the deed. You can’t educate your children, as you wish, and where you wish. They must be sent to other neighborhoods, to be preyed upon by those who see them not as neighbors to be welcomed, but as “assets/resources” to be exploited. Our educational system instead of enlightening future generations to be thoughtful, productive members of society who contribute the best of themselves to create value, intrinsic and otherwise, to their community and to their neighbors, has reduced our children and young adults to those who seek validation of closed minds and blanket conformity. Seeing interpersonal relations as not a mutually beneficial exchange, but an opportunity for those with a monopoly of force, to assert their will onto others. Is it any wonder our children do not respect anyone, least of all themselves? Where would they learn such a thing?
Do we respect one’s religion? No. Just look at the government forcing individuals and churches to fund abortions, first by taxing people under the health care bill to pay for them, and then by threatening the churches, with taxes, if they speak out, campaign and advocate for those who would oppose indiscriminate, state sanctioned murder. Can you pray in public? No. Can you even assemble to show your religious freedom? Not without a permit from the government. Can you fund those to speak out for you, on your behalf? No, thanks to campaign finance laws, that crack down on you, and allow corporations to funnel billions into their corporate candidates! Can parents object to their children being taught about masturbation, premarital sex, and abortion? No. In fact our children are asked by their own school nurses, what their parents think, if they drink, if they eat unhealthy, if they even raise their voice, or god forbid, physically discipline their children. Is that a respecter of one’s faith, or one who is actively determined to undermine and destroy it, and sever bonds and ties, from the previous generation to the next? They are told to always question their parents and their family, and to instead trust those in position of authority, and those of their peers, who know no better than they do. And then fall prey to the same manipulators who would exploit them.
Politics: In King’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” (http://abacus.bates.edu/admin/offices/dos/mlk/letter.html) he answers those who call him “an outsider and troublemaker,” and that if he attempted to answer all of his critics, then he wouldn’t have time for anything else. He sees his duty and God‘s, to answer the call of all men. Wherever they are oppressed. He details how they attempted to redress grievances within the community, and were obfuscated, lied to, and ignored. They weighed the magnitude of what they were undertaking, leaving no illusions to the abuse and hardships that they would take, and decided that whatever injustice would come their way is more preferable, in its temporary manner, than the permanent injustice, they could bring themselves to tolerate… no more. They chose to make their oppressors suffer the only just way they knew how. To boycott en mass, and starve the beast of the funds that were used to oppress them. Forcing them to choose between their bigotry, and the highest, most selfish interest of all men… their pocketbook.
He saw that this “tension” as others called it, was a necessary force for change, and that without it, too many would be either too comfortable living off of it, if they were the privileged class, or too comfortable accepting it, and having it act as an all-consuming cancer on there dignity, that King later tried to repair with his “I AM A MAN!” calling.The objective was not to be cruel and punish those who eliminated their natural rights, but seen as a means to negotiate to restore them unequivocally.
King would go on to say:
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well-timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. 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 must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long-delayed is justice denied.”"
He shares his overwhelming agitation for those who would ask him to “wait,” not take action, and allow others on his behalf to fight to restore and preserve his rights. Breaking down “just and unjust law,” and arguing for the right to take action to correct that which is unjust and replace it with that which is just. He indicts the ruling order with the fact that “everything Hitler did in Germany was legal,” and that by only confronting the cancer of intolerance, can we achieve our stated goal to preserve, protect, and defend equal protection for all, with biased impartial laws of man eliminated, in favor of the universal law and natural rights for all men. And that time only matters in the context of how it is used. Constructively it can be an aide to man, while Self Destructively, it can end him.
He speaks of those who call him an extremist for acting on his conscience, and publicly demonstrating he has one at all… and calling out others, who do not have one, or even more tragic, do have one, and choose not to act upon it. He calls on us to celebrate the extremist who did so out of love for man (Jesus Christ), and not celebrate the extremist within us, who would have us love man itself, and not love for one another. He celebrates the brave who joined the righteous cause of freedom, even those who transcended their own class of the oppressors, and joined and fought alongside the class of the oppressed. Celebrating the best of humanity, and what we all have within us, if we only had the strength and courage to free ourselves from being told what we are, and who we are, and instead seeing all of us as brothers of creation, and devoted to each other, as we are to ourselves.
He calls on the church leaders who opposed him, to appeal to their higher calling. And put that calling ahead of themselves. Loving the sinner while still admonishing the sin.
“If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.”
Compensation: King “proposed a government compensatory program of $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups. He posited that “the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils, “It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races “”"
This same argument can be heard in Thomas Paine’s Agrarian Justice, where he argues for a plan to tax all common property of the state. So that the fruits of the people’s land is not concentrated on those just with the means to own property, but extended to include compensation for all people as the land is seen as their natural inheritance. Both rich and poor alike were to be compensated, this is no impartial tax, and no confiscation of property and wealth, it is a compensation for the right for an individual to access and use that property to the wealth and benefit of all who share common ownership and claim to that property. Specifically providing for the very young, who often start with nothing, and the very old, who are often left with nothing. This idea is often cited as the inspiration behind our Social Security system, that turned the intentions and motives of Paine’s plan, upside down, to make the people a servant to their government masters, instead of the masters, the American people, ensuring that the servant class, their representatives, in fact served THEM!
Political Action: Boycott
King saw the injustice that his people faced, and he himself experienced, as in that jail cell in Birmingham. He knew that a government determined to undermine, enslave and oppress his people was NOT a fair arbiter to appeal to, to seek justice. He did not run for office and work with the politicians who would have nothing to do with him in the first place. King instead opted for direct action.
The first thing he knew was that he had to find a way for his people to get their power back, if not find their power in the 1st place. He did this by non violent choosing to have himself and his people boycott the institutions that oppressed him and them. This came after Rosa Parks conspired to refused to leave her seat and violate the law. This aggressive, impatient act, led to the end of the injustice of this particular Jim Crow law.
King stood up to the Attorney General Robert Kennedy when he insisted on public marches in the name of the right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and natural civil rights. Again seeking patience and conciliation, Kennedy pushed and tried to persuade King to be more moderate. This only served to show King that those interests RFK represented in the name of government may in fact, well be, an immoral, and totally unnecessary evil. As free men have no need of masters, once they are free to be their own.
King stood up to his own people, admonishing those who advocated returning violence with violence, such as advocated with the Black Panther Party. Having the wisdom to know that those who choose to fight violence by engaging in violence themselves, always lose to the state, who has a monopoly on force, and unlimited means to carry out such actions, and the media to tell others why what they did was justified and justifiable. King knew better than that.
King in fact, did not rest into his role as “a civil rights advocate for Negroes,” he broadened his mission to include the poor of all races. And called for a “Poor People’s Campaign,” to combat inequality that was and still is systematic in our social, moral and political system. He contrasted the immense wealth being sent into destroying tons of useful land, and the people’s who called that land their home, indiscriminately, and then were forced to live as a refugee in their own country, or avenge their material and human loss, by taking matters into their own hands, and die resisting their oppressors, rather than being a slave to them and their aims. No King would rather rebuild America, and restore her economy for the benefit of all man, than to send unlimited means to destroy that of another nation, a million miles away, just so they could turn it from a cultivated, self sustainable society, into a wasteland of needless death and destruction.
The Lesson of the March on Washington and the Civil Rights Victory was that King learned that having rights and privileges granted by any government, can be taken away with the next one. He knew he needed to broaden his mission and goal to reach all Americans. Just like Paine attempted with the system he advocated. And that if some were still receiving privileges at the expense of others, the cancer of our times, inequality, would still remain. King saw the very same individuals who championed his previous causes, abandon him. Some even within his own ranks. Because he chose to transcend his race, and see justice and equality of opportunity, (and not of graft, nor of result) as his higher calling from the man he answered to, that was and shall remain immortal.
Men are mortal, but ideas are bulletproof. Sadly King lost his greatest opportunity to transcend his race, and be a man who liberated a nation’s people’s. He was cut down in the summer before the 1968 election. While his fellow advocate in the cause of Civil Rights, Robert Kennedy, was cut down, just as he threatened the ruling order, when he won the California Primary, and seemed a more likely Presidential Candidate, than his likely opponent, Republican, Richard Nixon.
You do not see this legacy honored in today’s media, today’s textbooks, or in the popular discourse. They would have you celebrate the suffering, and the martyrdom, and have you leave with the thought that those who aspire to achieve great things, can and will pay the ultimate price. So we are allowed to celebrate King’s memory, as long as we see it as a cautionary tale, both good and bad. And that we should just be satisfied with what we have. And focus on preserving that, and not push forward any further. They would have us stay oriented in the past, ignore our present, and be oblivious and indifferent towards our future so that we never take it to them, and towards the next level.
That level that truly transcends race, to see all people as equal and worthy of their natural rights. And that no other man or collection of men has a claim or duty to oppose them, restrict them or eliminate them. Whether they are a thug on the street, a man of privilege, a person of bias, or an agent of the state or of the clergy who sees themselves as the final arbiter and not the man of which all men are created to serve and do so humbly, along with serving each other, since we all are an extension of that great man.
I would hope that you would choose to celebrate and preserve the whole legacy of Dr. King. The lessons he tried to teach us still are as needed today as they were in his time. And they still have the power to change society for the better for all men. We only have to be willing to learn from his whole example, read his words, hear his speeches, and watch how he freed one people, and attempted to free the rest.
Once one comes into knowledge of this man’s accomplishments, after all of the injustice he faced and sacrifices he endured, how can ANY of us settle for anything less, for ourselves, if not for each other? Think about that this day, and on the tragic anniversary of his death, and ask yourself if you and those around you are conscious of what King truly meant, and the impact his legacy has had not only on our daily lives, but also the promise of a better life for all, tomorrow…
If you and we are not, then this day is not just mournful for his enormous loss, but for the great shame that such a rich legacy and testament to the power of one man, demanding his birthright, can have to transform us from celebrating the worst of society, to the best of society, and contrast that with the fact of what we have indeed become and degraded to, since we have chosen to have forgotten his greatest lesson and his testament, and have allowed that to be reduced into passivity, indifference to injustice, tolerance of abuse, and celebration of abusers, and aspiration to be in a position to abuse others for our own self interests, serving that of ours or another. That is no legacy worthy of the good Dr. King. And that is no legacy that can or would be acceptable to anyone else, who like him, in fact, have a conscience…