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The Dream is Alive
January 19, 2009 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Happy Birthday Dr. King. Today is Martin Luther King Day. He was born 80 years ago, on January 15th, 1929. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just thirty-nine years old. Tomorrow, more than four decades after Dr. King’s death, Barack Obama will take his oath of office to become the 44th president of the United States and the first African American president in US history. The Reverend Joseph Lowery, a civil rights icon who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr, King, will deliver the benediction at the inauguration ceremony. Obama accepted the Democratic party nomination on the 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, arguably his most famous address. While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor and organized the Poor People"s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. Dr. King was also a fierce critic US foreign policy and the Vietnam War.

Amy Goodman had a fantastic show today commemorating Dr. King. It is perhaps some stuff that we have heard before, but here now, some 40 odd years later when he predicted a black president, and it has come true, it takes on a bit more poignancy.

(I am re-posting this for Huplescat who perhaps did not word the same stuff well.)
posted by caddis (30 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks...
posted by HuronBob at 6:54 PM on January 19, 2009


A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions.



Wow! This is the 60's. Can you say Red? Can you say balls?

It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism. With this powerful commitment, we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

OK, further wow. Yeah, the whole United States is poised against commies in similar fashion the poise against terrorism October 2001 and he says this? He was more than brave, and he moved mountains. It does amplify one's own ordinariness when you see something extraordinary like this.
posted by caddis at 7:01 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is perhaps some stuff that we have heard before...

Perhaps? Perhaps?
posted by Faze at 7:02 PM on January 19, 2009


Nina Simone: Why (The King of Love Is Dead)
posted by caddis at 7:22 PM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks caddis. Martin Luther King’s voice was cut short by a bullet thru his throat in Memphis. I marched with CORE when I was a kid but this is the first time I’ve heard those speeches in their entirety. In any case, they are more profound than I could have understood back then, when I was too young to realistically imagine how far a man could reach.

Some days, when I’m feeling hopelessly optimistic, I hope and imagine that Obama has that same vision tempered with pragmatism.
posted by Huplescat at 7:37 PM on January 19, 2009


I've stood on the exact spot he was killed, and the exact spot he gave the "I Have A Dream" speech. I only want to do one again.
posted by timsteil at 7:46 PM on January 19, 2009


Thanks for the Goodman link. It is hard to overestimate the significance of King's denunciation of our war in Vietnam and his sadly true - and non-racial - statement about the U.S.A. being the primary instigator of violence in the world. How many others have the courage to tell that truth?

Obama, of course, could not say that and be elected. We can only hope (against hope) that he heeds King's words - and , if we can go back fifty years, Eisenhower's warnings against the future depredations of the Military-Industrial Complex - but Barack Hussein Obama does not appear to have King's power. The power of Gandhi. Nonviolence and morality.

Admittedly, King or Gandhi could not have been elected president in our flawed system. Speaking truth to power, to use a phrase as outdated as the singing of Kumbaya, does not make for good electoral politics.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr., and may B. H. Obama further your revolutionary vision.
posted by kozad at 7:54 PM on January 19, 2009


As I've matured, I have come to understand why Dr King was really killed, and it wasn't because of the civil rights issues he started with... It's fun and games until you start talking about true equality for all people.

Thank you for this reminder of what Dr King said, caddis.
posted by droplet at 7:57 PM on January 19, 2009


Last night I had a dream (I am not trying to be clever here, this is true) that I watched Obama play golf on TV.

He had an unorthodox swing (more like a baseball swing than a golf swing, but he did not slice the ball--he was an above-average golfer). The TV commentator explained that he was entirely self-taught.

I enthusiastically voted for and remain hopeful for Obama, but I awoke fairly certain of the dream's symbolism...

it expressed my unspoken fears that Obama--despite the fact that he has broken down barriers, has been admitted to the club, and is inspiring to watch--will turn out not to revolutionize or do away with the game of status quo politics, but will merely play it.

Please understand I am eager to find my dream unnecessarily cynical.
posted by ornate insect at 8:02 PM on January 19, 2009


"As I've matured, I have come to understand why Dr King was really killed, and it wasn't because of the civil rights issues he started with... It's fun and games until you start talking about true equality for all people."

I've always seen his demise as correlated with his transition from activism for racial equality to his crusade for socioeconomic equality. That was what really seemed to scare the right people enough to act...
posted by rollbiz at 8:04 PM on January 19, 2009


I should add that this was not the first political dream I've had. One time I dreamt that I was with George Bush (senior) in his kitchen. He wore an apron and tried to explain to me why his family was not as bad as I thought. There were other dreams like that, too, but I digress...
posted by ornate insect at 8:12 PM on January 19, 2009


it expressed my unspoken fears that Obama--despite the fact that he has broken down barriers, has been admitted to the club, and is inspiring to watch--will turn out not to revolutionize or do away with the game of status quo politics, but will merely play it.

I'm almost sure he will (and he'll do it more compassionately and better than others, but still). If you expect any different, I'd say that you're pretty naive. Plenty of African-American mayors and governors (Coleman Young, Sheila Dixon, Harold Washington) broke barriers but ultimately weren't at all different from the machine politicians that preceded them. I like Obama, too, but if you're expecting politics and human nature to change, then I don't know what to tell you.
posted by jonmc at 8:15 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


jonmc--I was describing and attempting to analyze a simple dream I had. It was not a projection of my naivete, but rather of my fears. At least that's how I interpreted it. Politics is half myth anyway.
posted by ornate insect at 8:21 PM on January 19, 2009


Politics is half myth anyway.

The other half is sex and money.
posted by jonmc at 8:23 PM on January 19, 2009


it expressed my unspoken fears that Obama--despite the fact that he has broken down barriers, has been admitted to the club, and is inspiring to watch--will turn out not to revolutionize or do away with the game of status quo politics, but will merely play it.

To think otherwise at this point would be more than a little bit naive.

The man plays the game well. Like a natural who has been practicing most of his life. I don't even mean it negatively. It's like watching a craftsman or grandmaster in action. His biggest test will be letting down gently those who honestly think he is some sort of messiah.

The kind of people who are making pilgrimages. The kind of people who are worried about openly sobbing at the joyous moment. The kind of people that wanted holidays declared and schools renamed all before the great man was even inaugurated.

That'll be the really interesting show.
posted by codswallop at 8:26 PM on January 19, 2009


Boy, I really oughta preview other peoples' comments AND the responses they generate. :)
posted by codswallop at 8:27 PM on January 19, 2009


I should add that I'm glad that Obama is going to play the game rather than go off on some quixotic crusade, because it means he might actually get things done. Why else do you think he picked a long-time knows-where-the-bodies-are-buried insider like Joe Biden as a right hand man?
posted by jonmc at 8:29 PM on January 19, 2009


His biggest test will be letting down gently those who honestly think he is some sort of messiah.

Is the only choice at work between that of master political craftsman or political messiah/Oz?

Note that in my dream he was no Tiger Woods: he was just a president playing golf for the cameras, and he had a really weird swing. What was captivating was his story: that he learned to drive the ball in such an unorthodox manner. The lesson of the dream might not be, or might not just be, "we are naive to think he is anything other than another golfer"--it might also be "we will learn the hard way what politics is about, and why we need to change the game in such-and-such a way."

The rhetoric of politics trades on idealism and utopia. But it is not enough to say "I am above the fray; I don't fall for political messiahs or false hopes; I have seen too much." It makes more sense to say: "I admit I need some portion of these myths just like everyone else."
posted by ornate insect at 8:40 PM on January 19, 2009


Direct link to the entire speech given exactly one year to the day prior to his death, denouncing Americas war machine. Myself, I'm certain that his assassination occurring on the anniversary of this landmark speech was entirely coincidental.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:02 PM on January 19, 2009


Questions MLK would probably have for Barack Obama:

1) Why on Earth are you talking about getting more of our young men and women killed in Afghanistan? What can you possibly be hoping to accomplish?

2) Why are you a hypocrite on gay rights?

3) Why did you say the words "middle class" thousands of times during your campaign but never once even pay lip service to the idea of helping the poor?

4) What are you going to do about our absurdly swollen (disproportionately minority) prison population?
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:38 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm 54, a slow learner, not a fast study, and not a historian. It took years of acknowledging King on a superficial level before I began to dig into the history of this man, the positions he took on vital issues. I now hold him as the greatest American, ever.

Lincoln? Yeah, the man for the time, brilliant and courageous and unbelievably strong, more than a little nuts -- I love him, I venerate him. (I'm not exactly certain how one venerates a person, but I like the word, and I love Lincoln, what I know of him.) I was born and raised in Illinois, so I'm sortof steeped in Lincoln, but I've gone back as an adult and his greatness has held to my eye.

Washington? Franklin? Jefferson? Great men, all of them, spectacular human beings.

I have a particular love for Sam Houston, another great man, not in these others league probably but great in the Texan way, which he did perfectly, better than any other that I am aware of.

But King. He had to know he was stepping into the line of fire, yet again, and even deeper, ever deeper. But he followed his conscience, he was true to his heart and true to us, a spectacular leader, a brilliant man, every day of his life a marked man.

I have helped people, I have done a few good things on this ride, I'd like to say I've done all I could but I know that's not true, but it'd also be a lie to say I haven't given to life, some. But King gave us everything, everything he had to give, and that was so, so much, the soul of a giant. I love him.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:39 PM on January 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is the only choice at work between that of master political craftsman or political messiah/Oz?

It sometimes seems that way.

"Man, I'm so psyched for the inauguration! Isn't it awesome? So glad that guy won."

"You know he's only a human being right? He's not going to perform miracles! You really need a reality check."

"... Alright."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:45 PM on January 19, 2009


Is the only choice at work between that of master political craftsman or political messiah/Oz?

it's interesting to think about what those two divergent points of view have in common: they both absolve the opinion holder of any responsibility. Either Obama is the messiah, and all we have to do is sit back and let him take us to the promised land, or he's "just another politician" and nothing will change no matter what.

We the people have a huge part to play in determining what happens next. Politicians always follow the people, not the other way around. We can either make change happen, or we can go to sleep until 2012.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:47 PM on January 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Plenty of African-American mayors and governors (Coleman Young, Sheila Dixon, Harold Washington) broke barriers but ultimately weren't at all different from the machine politicians that preceded them.

I don't know anything about the others, but I think that's an unjust characterization of Harold Washington. (Certainly the machine, as manifested in Vrdolyak et al., didn't find him at all similar to Daley, Bilandic, and Byrne.) I was reading Fire on the Prairie earlier this evening and was astonished at how much of his intended program dovetails with what I always wish Daley the second would do (but which he never does). Of course, he wasn't able to accomplish most of what he wanted to do (and died shortly after he finally got the friendly majority on the city council that might have allowed him to get things done), but it's not accurate to think of him as a standard-issue Chicago machine mayor. I was struck by this passage:
Urban development means more than shiny new buildings downtown, Washington said on the stump; it also means the mundane task of maintaining industrial jobs in the neighborhoods and drawing new businesses to depressed business strips around town.

The city would continue to encourage downtown development, of course; the difference was that it would not be the city's top priority. The department would focus instead on the more difficult task of luring manufacturing jobs and the like to the city rather than what [economic development director Rob] Mier called the "low-wage McJobs" like busboy and chambermaid created by a new hotel downtown.
Not so radical, perhaps, until you try to imagine Daley ever saying such a thing. And there's this:
The changes were greater than the race or sex of his appointees. Washington hired people who were never before welcome on the premises, let alone offered positions at City Hall. These were people excluded from power not only in Chicago but in just about any government in the country. The corporation counsel was a civil rights lawyer renowned for his role as the lead trial attorney in the $1.9 million judgment against the city and county for the raid that left Fred Hampton and Mark Clark dead. A legal aid attorney headed the corporation counsel's housing prosecution division; another top lawyer was active in the National Lawyers Guild. This lawyer's most celebrated case was a suit against the police department's so-called "red squad," which monitored community groups that the machine identified as "subversive." Now, among his other duties, he would defend the police department he had previouly sued. In an interview, Washington's choice for the president of the Board of Health referred to a favorite political cartoon from the Daily Worker to make a point.
posted by enn at 9:53 PM on January 19, 2009


it's interesting to think about what those two divergent points of view have in common: they both absolve the opinion holder of any responsibility. Either Obama is the messiah, and all we have to do is sit back and let him take us to the promised land, or he's "just another politician" and nothing will change no matter what.

We the people have a huge part to play in determining what happens next. Politicians always follow the people, not the other way around. We can either make change happen, or we can go to sleep until 2012.


This.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:10 PM on January 19, 2009


(World's biggest dot.)

I have been telling people for awhile now that it's not the first inauguration that I look forward to, from a historical perspective.

It's President Obama, during his second term, giving a speech on Wednesday, August 28, 2013... the 50th anniversary of this.

I'm so there. Let's hope he will be too.
posted by markkraft at 11:11 PM on January 19, 2009


The BBC has uncovered video of a 1964 interview with MLK in which he predicts there will be an African-American President in 40 years, maybe less.
posted by Poolio at 11:13 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interesting. Robert Kennedy said the same thing in 1963, though it was viewed as a kind of apologist's stance back then by leaders in the black community.

It was a different era, really, and people were quite optimistic about the potential for change. I think King was right... if things had played out correctly, we could've had a black president around '89. Unfortunately, a generation worth of leadership died by assassination, and Americans were distracted from their better selves.
posted by markkraft at 12:08 AM on January 20, 2009


Sing it, Martin...
posted by markkraft at 3:42 AM on January 20, 2009


but he did not slice the ball

Don't you see, this is great news. It means he won't swing to the right.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:28 AM on January 20, 2009


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