Rob Murphy: Remember Dr. King’s message
Why have two-thirds of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message been all but lost over time?
Understandably, attention is annually given to his skills as an orator, and his ability to not only expose, describe and condemn the twisted logic and thoughtless hatred of racism in the United States, but also to inspire action.
King’s full message, however, was not just about racism, but the connection he drew between the “three evils” of racism, war and poverty.
While King received varying levels of support for his efforts to combat racism, condemnation of his anti-Vietnam War stance was near-universal in the mainstream media. The logical and inevitable extension of his philosophy of non-violence to the issue of war was received with everything from condescending disapproval to hostile derision across the supposed “spectrum” of acceptable journalistic discourse, including conservatives and liberals.
King’s third evil, poverty resulting from the negative effects of capitalism, also met with a chilly reception in the mainstream. King, who viewed economic injustice as the “inseparable twin” of racial injustice, compared and contrasted capitalism with communism, criticizing the former for valuing the prosperity of the individual at the expense of others, and the latter for devaluing the individual for the supposed benefit of the collective, and called for a synthesis of the two.
What about today? The more things change, the more they stay the same. From the right, we have Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin’s ridiculous attempts to co-opt aspects of King’s message despite their polar opposition to most of that message’s actual substance. From the centrist establishment that styles itself “left,” we have Obama’s Department of Defense general counsel, Jeh C. Johnson, urging us to believe that King would actually support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While King’s philosophy of non-violence is abused, his criticism of capitalism’s role in the creation and perpetuation of economic injustice, if given any attention at all, is completely glossed over. It’s the piece that the powers-that-be would most like to see simply disappear from the historical record altogether, and mainstream media play their part by consistently ignoring it.
Criticism of King’s stances on war and economic injustice, even more so than his stance on racial inequality, has been replaced by white-washing, spin and censorship in service of whatever nonsense a given talking head is trying to sell you.
Fortunately, alternatives exist, more easily accessible than in the past (given the Internet), for review of the life and work of Dr. King. The best of these are the text and recordings of his original writings and speeches. King’s own words most clearly outline his philosophy, and expose those who manipulate it, regardless of whether they label themselves conservative, liberal, right, left, moderate, centrist, pragmatic, or whatever, as self-serving and dishonest.
For anyone unfamiliar and interested, King’s August 1967 address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference outlines his belief in the inter-relatedness of the three evils of racism, war, and poverty. His thoughts and observations are no less relevant today.
Editor’s note: A good website to read, hear and see video of Dr. King’s speeches and other work can be found at http://www.mlkonline.com.
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