Tag Archives: MLK

Let’s Talk About (Peaceful) Protest

Readers, the reason this post is coming to you so late is largely due to the fact that yours truly, in a rare moment of weakness, opted to keep working on his latest installment of “Explaining American Politics To Americans”. The subject was going to be Democrats, and as the post stands currently, it’s just too…

…well, mean.

Even by my standards.

And this is coming from a guy who has likened certain social groups the human equivalent of cancer…

Now that’s left me with the question of what to cover instead, and as I was browsing the internet, I came across these two images:

Old, definitely, but it reminded me of a topic that I’ve touched on a lot without ever actually covering.

Peaceful Protest

…or is that even a fair thing to call it?

I mean, we praise peaceful dissent practically to the exclusion of all other forms of protest. We idolize figures like Martin Luther King Jr. while reviling folks like Malcolm X or Huey P. Newton, largely on the grounds that they advocated self defense.

Continue reading

Why We Need/Don’t Need Black History

I ran a Shame Day post a while back about “Black History” (or the whitewashed version that gets fed to us), and in it, I referenced this clip with Morgan Freeman:

I promised to shortly address Mr. Freeman’s comments-

-and promptly forgot about it for two years.

Well overdue, here’s why we desperately need Black History, and why we simply don’t.

Bear with me here.

Because We Don’t Have Real History

Again, we’re fed an overwhelmingly whitewashed and simplistic version of history. Lincoln benevolently freed the slaves and then, roughly 100 years later, MLK Jr. led a series of peaceful protests which ended segregation, and everybody lived happily ever after.

In reality, folks largely lost faith in peaceful protest as the 60s wore on, turning instead to self-defense, nationalism, revolution, and other techniques.

Continue reading

February 25: What’s Not Being Talked About In The News

Back on October 15th of last year I ran a little piece on what’s not getting covered [enough] in the media. As I struggle in vain to fend off a nasty cold, I’ll be submitting a similar piece today.

Palestinians and Hunger Strikes

Today marked a massive hunger strike protest by Israeli prisoners, with over 3,000 inmates refusing meals in solidarity with another prisoner allegedly tortured to death. These strikes also call attention to the continued hunger strikes by four Palestinian inmates, the longest of whom has been on intermittent protest for 200 days, and is currently in critical condition.

While this is in the news (depending on the site), the importance of this story is that it marks a continued attempt by these prisoners at nonviolent protest- the kind many in the West proclaim would lead to justice for the Palestinian people if only they would attempt to use it. Well, here it is, and despite the attempts by these prisoners to emulate the tactics of Gandhi and MLK, they remain (surprise, surprise) rotting away in Israeli prisoners under “detainment”- that is, they may be indefinitely held without being charged with any crime. One might imagine that the attempts by the Palestinians to meet the demands of many in the west might merit some more attention.

Coca-Cola Vs Australia and the Environment

Recently in Australia legislation was passed to help meet the growing environmental issue of pollution from discarded soft drink bottles. Essentially the bill adds ten cents to the cost of each bottle, which will be refunded upon the bottle being recycled. Over 40 countries currently maintain such programs, and in Australia this legislation has doubled the local recycling rates. Coca-Cola, fearing that this environmental legislation may hurt its sales, has been campaigned viciously against this legislation and is currently suing the Australian government over it.

Let’s keep in mind here that Coke isn’t paying the ten cents- the Australian government is. Coke is simply that concerned that “tax,” for lack of a better term, is going to somehow hurt their profits.

Coke made 2.79 billion this year. I’m going to posit that 10 cents isn’t going to crush ’em.

Fracking Battle in New York

And to continue on with environmental news not in the news, the battle against fracking rages on in rural New York.

Fracking (see graphic above) is the process of extracting natural gas from the ground by piping in an as-of-yet undisclosed compound into the earth to widen natural fissures in the stones trapping the gas. The issue with this is that the process is pretty dang inaccurate, with gas (as well as the undisclosed chemicals) leaking into the local water supply, resulting in, among other issues, water catching on fire from all the methane in it. Now this is a fairly major issue, and one you’re almost certain to not see in the morning paper or the nightly news.

As before, people, it’s high time that we demand that our journalists actually act like journalists. What do you really want- news about major events affecting your life, or coverage of the academy awards?

Barring the people for whom the two are one and the same, but that’s a post for another time.

The Good, The Bad, and The Evil

In an early Shame Day post I called a particularly reprehensible political lobby “what cancer would look like if it were a social movement.” While I continue to stand by that statement (this group was pulling the exact same ploy against Muslims that Middle Ages Christians used against Jews), a commenter did assert that I had gone too far, stating “as wicked or wrong as you think these people are, they remain human beings.”

It’s got me back to thinking on a subject that’s long held my interest- namely the issue of evil. You’d think it’d be pretty straight forward- right is right and wrong is wrong- but let me get right into an example.

Was this guy evil?

No question. Hitler and his followers aren’t simply evil- they’re the go-to example of evil. They’re our baseline for evil. Everything vile and nefarious is measured against either Hitler or the Nazis.

So what about this guy?

Columbus’s long-list of achievements (discovering America not being one of them) read more or less as a chronicle of genocide, slavery, and theft. It’s well known, certainly at this point, that Columbus was a greedy, narcissistic, tyrannical, and corrupt man. Even with streets, cities, a holiday, and even an asteroid commemorating him, surely we can all agree that this guy was evil. Not on the level of Nazi Germany, but still indisputably evil.

But what about him?

Yep, that’s Thomas Jefferson. President.  Founding Father. Author of the Declaration of Independence.

Slave owner.

Not just a slave owner, but an abusive one- carrying on an affair with one of his slaves (that slave also being his wife’s half-sister), getting her pregnant multiple times, and then promptly allowing his own children to spend the rest of their lives as slaves.

Pretty depraved, eh? If I did any one of these things, I’d be called out as a first-rate ******* (and rightly so). I’d be called evil, and that would be telling it like it is.

But let’s move on.

Is this guy evil?

That’s J. Edgar Hoover, founder of the FBI, which he oversaw with about the same leadership you’d expect from some Stone Age self-proclaimed god-king. Hoover was an egoistical, jealous, paranoid man who used the FBI to advance his own political agenda. In addition to all of this, Hoover was a rabid racist, and struggled long and hard against the Civil Rights movement, targeting MLK Jr. in particular, as well as spearheading a campaign to undermine the Black Power movement of the 1960s. Would you call this guy evil?

Ok, what about them?

Yes, the average American family (not pictured above), or heck, even just the average American? Our money goes to supporting companies that use sweatshop labor. Our money goes to supporting companies that recklessly destroy the environment. Our money goes to supporting corporations that push objectifying ads (especially, but not exclusively, in regards to women).

Our taxes go to supporting dictatorial regimes (such as former Egyptian president Mubarak), racist and apartheid states (such as Israel), and even states that utilize child soldiers.

Where does that put us?

Now all of that is simply to illustrate the apparent complexity of the issue. Evil is evil, yes, but pinning down exactly who is and isn’t evil becomes a little more complex once we look at someone other than the Nazis. Jefferson was instrumental not only to the founding of this nation, but to the establishment and perpetuation of the core concepts of democracy and human rights- even to the point where Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose ancestors Jefferson owned– wound up quoting him in his iconic I Have a Dream speech.

Likewise, there’s the issue with the average American. Almost none of us would actually be able to manage a sweatshop, or put an assault rifle in a twelve-year old’s hands, at least, not in person. Despite this, our economy is built on the backs of Bangladeshi kids working for twenty-five cents an our. Our security (we are told) is predicated on us coordinated with nations whose human rights records are drenched in blood (*Cough*China*Cough*Saudi Arabia*Cough*Columbia*Cough*). The vast majority of us either don’t know or don’t care; not enough to raise a voice in protest, anyhow. Again, what does that make us? We might not be ourselves actively implementing imperialism and violence and despotism, but we still do rake in the rewards and howl for more.

We could try arguing innocence by virtue of not being the ones pulling the trigger on any of this, but the truth that history has taught us over and over is that simple knowledge of an injustice creates moral culpability. To ignore injustice equates with committing injustice. We simply can’t escape it.

Not without risk of being hunted down by zealously religious Irishmen…

And maybe that’s the answer. Maybe we can’t be so picky about where we draw the line between right and wrong. Maybe the answer is sweeping judgment. That’s not meant to be some fire and brimstone-esque statement, that’s simply a fact of the matter. You’re not good and evil only when you embark on a mission of genocide- you’re a participant in a viciously evil system until such a time as you act otherwise. You’re part of the problem until you’re part of the solution.

That’s not to say that you have to be flawless. You’re not going to be able to do that (neither am I, for that matter)- in part because we’re human, and in part because the world we live in simply isn’t going to cooperate. But people, we can at least try. I don’t think making an effort to not totally **** up the planet and all that’s in it is really all that much to ask, do you?

Shame Day: “Black History”

adfhadfgdsfaAllow me to set one thing straight before we begin.

This isn’t some “let’s not talk about black history, let’s talk about human history” spiel, similar to sentiment put forward by Morgan Freeman a while ago.


I completely disagree with Mr. Freeman, but my reasons for that can be answered better in a different post.

This is a Shame Day post directed against “black history,” or rather, the reprehensible white-washed version we, the people, are spoon fed each February.

Now you all know who this is:

And you could probably tell me who this is:

We’re getting a little more obscure, but the literary-minded among you might even recognize who this is:

Continue reading

Will The Real Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Please Stand Up?

If you’ve read even a couple of my posts, you’ll probably be able to guess that yours truly is more than a little bit political.

The problem with having political views pretty divergent from the rest of the country is that I often get stuck between two (supposedly) diametrically opposed worldviews who flood my inbox with conflicting petitions. The group whose legalize gay marriage petition I signed fully expects that I’ll jump at a chance to demand a ban on assault rifles, and vice versa.

Today being both inauguration day and Martin Luther King day, the liberal and progressive groups I’ve signed with have naturally been rejoicing like kids on Christmas morning.

Me?

Not so much.

What ticks me off isn’t that Obama is going to be president for another four years (okay, that does tick me off, but no more than any other proposed candidate), it’s all these people attempting to draw lines between what happened earlier today on the steps of the capitol and what happened half a century ago only a short distance away.

Now this certainly isn’t the first time Obama and MLK have been thrown together, and as simple examples of key figures in African American history, there’s really nothing wrong with that. What gets me- what really gets me- is how the two men are imagined as being part of the same great lineage, and nothing could be further from the truth.

What is so often forgotten is that MLK wasn’t simply an advocate of non-violence for the purpose of advancing the cause of civil rights- he was an advocate of non-violence for the purpose of stopping violence. MLK despised conflict, and was one of the staunchest voices of opposition to the Vietnam war. But hey, don’t take my word for it, hear it from the man himself:

Strong words, eh?

Those sentiments of King don’t exactly overlap with those of Obama on the subject of drone strikes and decade-long military occupations. Heck, at 3:40, King straight up declares his views to be biblical- something that the neo-cons and religious right in this country would definitely take issue with. Can you imagine MLK living today?

Well you don’t have to- Aaron McGruder, creator of The Boondocks, already has.

Again- regardless of feelings about either MLK or Obama, you can’t deny that the two of them were/are integral figures in American history, but it’s there that the similarities need to stop. Guantanamo Bay was not King’s dream for the country. Same goes for drone strikes, indefinite detention, record deportation rates, and the White House’s inaction on the wrongful execution of Troy Davis.

I’m just speculating, but I imagine King’s reaction would look a bit more like this.

And not so much like this:

It’s just something to think about…