Monday, January 20, 2014

Dr Martin Luther King and the Origins of His Non-Violence Doctrine: Seeing the Systemic Problem

Today we as a nation honor Dr. King

    He was the most recent modern era's American apostle of non violence

    But we hardly honor him, when we spend billions on a national massive digital age spy system that does away w/ the Fourth Amendment

    and we enter the 14th year in the war in Afghanistan, without any clear basis for having spent 7 trillion dollars at least in these forever wars of this generation.

   with many billions that will have to be spent to support veterans who have been disabled and injured and wounded in these conflicts for years to come, like forty years into the future.

   Dr. King often said, "we have reached the point where there is no rational basis for going to war in the modern era.  We either put an end to wars or war will put an end to us"

   Perhaps, he was thinking of the nuclear arms race then happening between the Soviets and us.  But he opposed bitterly the expensive senseless war in Vietnam by 68.    He had turned on "President Johnson's little War" as many called to it by 66.   This would be tantamount to Dr. King condemning President Obama for Afghanistan the third year into his presidency in effect.    Would he? 

   There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. King would have condemned the war policies of this nation in Afghanistan and Iraq.   There is little doubt he would have pointed to a nation that spends more on its military budget than the next 10 major nations combined, then it does creating jobs and making sure its cities and towns are repaired and livable for humans.  He would have wanted billions poured into human technology, like Health care for all and not at the expense of those who cannot afford it including mainly the strained middle class.

   Perhaps, all the fund poured into social welfare programs hasn't changed the poor in this nation
but it also means in some places federal spending has made a serious dent in the effect that poverty has had on many, including places like the Appalachian regions of our nation as well as some metro inner cities.  

   Dr. King would have seriously opposed as well, as part of a system of indifference the present criminal justice system and its addiction to criminalization of the nation's youth.  There is little doubt, he would have railed against as a minister a system that spends more on keeping young Americans in prison than it does on educating them.

   Finally, Dr. King was a genius, gifted by God one may say, in the manner he could make large macro systems of injustice seem and appear and feel personal.   This was his fight, his gift...

   as much as the individual poverty programs existed in this nation before him, after him, mass systemic systems of injustice were never viewed the quite the same again in this nation.

   He saw injustices on a large scale, not just for the African American race, but for all people in this nation and around the world and he spoke out about it.

   He wasn't silent, unlike so many of our elected and pulpits today.   The ministers of his era were engaged in social justice.  It wasn't just a call to Jesus, but to Jesus's earthly ministry of love and seeking the "beautiful community"

  King was about changing systemic entrenched systems of social injustice which was responsible for damaging human life for generations.

    {Just as I tried for years to take up just one aspect of his work in a small way, in southeastern Ohio, as a solo lawyer doing " ...the Lords' work"   ....righting the wrongs of systemic police abuse and injustice.   I was called names, I was threatened, I and my family suffered wrongs and eventually I was defrocked, and stripped and subjected to repeated arrests for no good reason by this present state of our nation.}

    They say King  was a "radical".   I say he was radically in love with the notion of freedom and justice for all, just like the Founders said we all ought to be and we ought to be willing to give ourselves for, so others may live

    Indeed, we honor the soldiers on a battlefield for fighting we say, "our freedoms".   Perhaps, its time to truly recognize the  true soldiers for peace and justice in this nation as much as we do those on the battlefield.   And at times, we have and do so

    But in the daily existence of this nation, we are still to addicted to the corporate ladder, the next wrung up and the nice gold ring and everyone, but especially the young are being taught, the reason we need a good job is to have material comforts only and to party with ones' friends.

  What we need is the spirit of Dr. King and his followers who decided to put their lives into the mix of promoting the rights and the search for true justice above everything else.

   We pay a price today, similar to the one he died for.   You may even be almost assassinated you may have the KKK show up at your front door.  You may even have your fellow high and powerful peers, label you and call you names and place on manufactured official records, very sad and false official lies about you

 But, this is the price we pay, like King did, in his ultimate way, for trying to bring God's Kingdom down just a little bit, into this ungodly world we live in.

   But ultimately, Kings' message wasn't negative, even when denouncing the dirty wars of his era and huge military budgets and even the very President whom gave him a pen when the 64 Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Bills, all JFK's initiatives by the way, ...were signed into law by Johnson.

    Yet, even close and special relationships with those in high places, with those favorable or closer to his views and philosophy, did not prevent Dr. King from speaking out for social justice and peaceful means and non-violence as a priority as a nation, over against the policies of militarism, poverty, racism, death and war and violence,

   even when impacted adversely, his otherwise close political allies, like President Johnson. 

   King was a dreamer but he was also a visionary and more importantly, was an active man, a doer and a serious policy visionary who moved this nation forward when it needed such a moral voice and advocate to do so.

     Today, there are very few Christian ministers who are willing to speak out on what truly matters in this nation, as Dr. King did.  

    He gave his life, because he acted on those words and his sermons and speeches.  

    We take for granted that his speeches made a nation think about its moral crises over human equality and its racist legalisms of a passing era.     and we are fond and quick to say also,
"that era is over".  

    That precise era is and history will never be the same because of his efforts in the middle of the 20th century, post world war II

    He was a gift to all men and women and children, not unlike some few other chosen leaders of his day were ...

    But King stands out because he even in the face of mounting threats and internal dissention over his work, he never truly compromised his message of making the Gospel apply to social evils...

    King, in this example, in this manner, was more like a throw back to the old, former 19th Century abolitionists, moral visionaries, who also pushed this nation forward, from the bottom up, even when the masses in the north were at least at first, very reluctant to go where they were directing and leading the moral focus of their calling.   He also borrowed the concept of the Quaker concept of Non violence which was first espoused in America inside the works of pioneering early abolitionists  Lundy and then his protégé, William L. Garrison and others in the movement.

    What is unique in these human rights giants, who espoused human rights and opposing systemic huge evils of government oppression thru non violence, is that Garrison and King were very similar in that they both were gifted for making their unique calls upon the evils of major systems by appealing first to the Christian America, first and foremost.

     They wanted those people who were routinely found inside of churches and those of good will, to see what the precise demands of the Gospel were for such people who called themselves the followers of Christ.   

    Lundy and Garrison, both early doctrinaire non-violent proponents like King a century later, moved their 19th century generation forward and for this work, both were attacked, called radicals and often created a lot of controversy for their era and times.    Lundy the Quaker from southeastern Ohio and Garrison his convert and young ardent Baptist by faith, both espoused the ideals of non violence and maintained this theory in its most broad and radical applications throughout their lifetime advocacy against slavery.   They adhered to it, thoroughly practiced it and spoke and wrote about the overthrow and need for separation of slavery and its abolition but doing so, through non -violence methods.

    Garrison through his widespread "radicalism" also helped sow the seed for the north to grow that era's original Republican Lincoln era party and in doing so, indirectly made it a major political force, even though, he himself wasn't originally nor purely political by any means.

    Both the genius of Lundy, Garrison and King was as they could see in one moral glance, the major political and social compromises with serious human rights violations and polices that created and sustained the national compromise over official oppression and segregation, they never adopted hatred and mere anger as its main method of opposition or overthrow though all of them demonstrated a righteous anger oftentimes against the systems of society's injustice.

    These moral visionaries and non violent proponents could see at a very young age, that such evils were part of a much larger system of political injustice that was being maintained at the very cost of this nation's life and in compromise of its founding narrative and first principles.

     King in his day, like Garrison and oftentimes, Lundy, called first and foremost upon the Christian conscience and witness in America first, both black and white and all men and women, back to their fundamental religious beliefs and moral appeal.

      by relying upon this approach, ironically,  King, in doing so, like Garrison before him by 120 years, was then duly labeled a "very dangerous man", a "radical" and was perceived even by some among his own peers, as a "trouble making person". 

      These were the things said about both, even at times, by their own people or well meaning Christians, in their era, about those who today we realize and recognize as genuine American moral giants of our national heritage.

    Its interesting, when great men and women rise up in this nation, it is fascinating to see how they face criticism and growing discontent with their message especially from among the ranks of those in power and in places of high offices at times, in their locales.

The Regionalism and the Human Touch of these Great American Moral "Suaders"

    Garrison remained in Boston, and despite major opposition in the north and south at times, continued his fight well into the era of the Lincoln rise to prominence and into the Civil War.   

    He would survive those early opposing forces and even overcame both death threats and personal assaults, by those who were rallied against him early on in his advocacy and abolitionist work and call for non violent overthrow of slavery by his publishing his abolitionist newspaper, the Liberator.

    But Garrison remained a man in the publishing and activity of organizing his anti slavery societies, and newspaper business mainly.  [He however, did get out often in Boston and personally helped to desegregate Boston's ferry boats and steam lines early in the 19th Century.    He also often was found among the Black churches of Boston and New England region as well as helped to bring others into the movement including the gifted young freedman, Frederick Douglass.  He also led on the women's issues, by granting them a key role in his societies which again caused great consternation and moral outrage against him by those very status quo Christians of New England}

     Like Garrison, King loved the pulpit and black church and grew out of it, but he also was more not simply ready to confine his work to the church pews.  He was a man of the outside world, visceral and "hands on" and wanted to get out into the public forums, into the street and neighborhoods, literally.

    Like Robert Kennedy would later in his own career, these kinds of leading men seemed to need even seek, the "open air", not the pulpit or editor's position, or private study, only.  They sought human contact and the very public pulpit, and the people responded, by the millions.

    King, like Robert Kennedy was not only a man of ideas, writings and philosophical statements about mankind, but these were men among men who became active, got into the face of segregationist and unjust politicians and demonstrated a passion for life, for changing the status quo for confronting the system personally up close and personal in non- violent but confrontational ways.

    They were not content or happy with playing it safe, nor remaining silent in the face of significant threats to society by either local or state or other officials or retarded policies that catered to the powers of their life and times.

   {and again, they loved to touch and to be touched it seemed, people, in many ways, just to interact with people}

    These men were NOT academic only kinds of people, or merely like so many professors are today, mere 'policy wonks' or politicians, looking to stay safe, always playing the "inside game" and remain aloof and hidden behind masks, like many of today's bloggers.

    They got their hands "dirty" so to speak and waded deeply into life and were often involved directly leading their "campaigns" for social justice, creating a movement by their very walks across a bridge or into region that wasn't so easy to live in or by confronting major local and regional, if not national powers.

    Such men were found talking to the poor workers found inside a Latino neighborhood or visiting
the poorest of the poor areas of the nation frequently, bringing their moral claim to the attention of millions.

    It's critical to note, that helping the poor was ultimately their end, but they didn't just do it, for the sake of making a little difference or a nice statement about the poor only or simply improving their lot alone.   They were conducting a significant first person assault against the way this society was
organized and they wanted to see it change and made better for humans.   It wasn't just about more jobs, though it was important and It wasn't about just being able to sit at the same lunch counter, though this was critical to overcome and it wasn't just about talking to Latino workings in South LA during one's last brilliant presidential bid.   It was sending a message to the powers, that the people of America ought to have and deserved a better nation and a more fair society than what was being allowed then.  These men knew what they were about and knew what they wanted to accomplish
and yet, so many found them 'disturbing'.

    These men were NOT satisfied with the status quo, inside a nation of this magnitude with its great resources and balance sheets and a national budget of a trillion dollars or more, to be content with a nation that is more than 20% poor and hungry children equally the amount of some nations entire populations.

   They wanted to see this end in America.  they thought of a better country than this.

    Its odd, both the abolitionists and King's dreams came true in some ways.  Slavery was ended, and legal apartheid and segregated hotels and voting booths, in America were outlawed.

    But the efforts to change the hearts and minds of the American people continue on and its simply not the case that Kings nor Kennedys' hopes and best efforts have yet to be placed into the priority that they were even in the 60's by that era's liberal presidents and policy makers.

    We have NOT challenged yet, fully the systemic problems of injustice and criminal justice issues and civil rights violations in this era in this nation in a comprehensive manner, as King or Kennedy, or as Garrison conceived of doing in his era, against Slavery. 

    Our modern politicians are actually walking NOT in the same direction as King and Kennedy much less the abolitionists of old, but away from their ideals, and their mannerisms.   When is the last time you saw a political leader or major moral leader in this nation, take to the streets and demand justice like these men did, in their very prime of their careers and lives?   what congressmen would confront a corrupt human violator today, as they did in the era just when segregation was about to end?   it took literal personal courage to go into a poor neighborhood as a major figure in this nation in that era and shed light onto the plight of the poor and the oppressed.    Today, most nearly every small and great political figure in the U.S. is sold out completely or living in fear of the corporate takeover of American politicking in the manner that brings to mind, the early 1900's Robber Barron era, ....not King or Kennedy's 60's, era...

     Progressive politics today is a nice academic latte bar and grill thought.   Back then it was a fight for the nation's soul inside of the mean streets of poverty stricken rural regions, southern racists cities and major northern industrial metro cities ghettos of America.

    And there is no doubt, somewhere in heaven, among those who gave their lives for this nation's people to be free, more equal, and just, alarm bells are going off, now, when we see the rise of the massive corporate-government enterprise recently revealed as the universal digital surveillance state brought to us, not by the American ghetto poverty wars, or the war on drugs, or even those brutal prison guards found across the nation,

    but by the systemic growing police state that only the national government and their defense contractors and major donor sponsors are bringing us not so kicking and screaming into a brave new world.

    This is the commitment and the obligation and duty of those who lived under the dreamers spell, to continue this fight; King's mid 20th century American fight for basic fundamental human rights, equal justice and a better more peace oriented America.   While it has many adherents and moral believers, it has few genuine proponents in high places or policy makers today.   The militarism, the injustice in our society and the threat to civil liberties and the huge inequity in our system between the struggling poor and stressed lower middle and those at the top of society's ladder, is wider now than at any time in our last century.

    King's legacy that of the 1967/68 Robert Kennedy's and even his older assassinated brother's vision....were for a different kind of America, a more peaceful, progressive and non-violent and purer America as it were.   Its still a dream and its still not realized in this nation by many.  It still has its status quo enemies as well and they are extremely well funded and entrenched.

    We have as a national government and policy, largely failed to follow them into this path as a nation despite the national holiday, the national monument and our many local recognitions and many things said and done in his name.

    Today, in America, its like Dr. King would say, "the night is falling and time is short, we need to act......with the fierce urgency of now!"   That is, if we truly want our children to be able to live in a nation and more peaceful world, that is not only dedicated to the proposition that "all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" as Jefferson wrote in our founding document....but also, if we are to live in mere unfettered freedom, not being treated as subjects of a oppressive police state, but rather, citizens who wish to live in peace, as well as a genuine community of love, as a reality...

   Can it be said, today, that those in power truly accept this concept as a mean of organizing society?   the question begs the most serious response in all of us and its not a foregone conclusion
when we see the trillion dollar military budgets given to forever wars and 800 military bases
arranged by our nation alone around the world and when back home, we see the massive surveillance and the increasing local police militarization eroding the rights and privacy of our citizens' private lives.   Fight these powers today with weapons of intelligence, lessons of history, advocacy and law and well honed reasonable moral and legal arguments and still see whether or not, they will label those who do this kind of work today any less viciously or with any less demeaning intent, than those whom we celebrate as our national moral visionaries and human rights pioneers on this holiday.

   Indeed, the question exists and so does, the very hard work of advocacy for a more just society, and individual human rights and society's fairness continues and with the witness of all these, the pioneering Lundy, the 'radical' Garrison and the 'troublemaking' King and the "rude" Robert Kennedy, as so many other lessors in this amazing human rights struggle for a more peaceful just society, have been labeled, ....we today, need to discover the path to the means like they did, of a non-violent major re-ordering today, of our society, in no less "radical" and moral visionary manner, claiming our own era's own moral narrative, which as they did, so to find the voice and passion for a new era's vision for a better future for our children's children.