Wednesday, August 28, 2013


So, today is the anniversary of the I have a dream speech. It is a wonderful speech and deserves to be remembered.

But, I have a big, big problem with all the polite, national commemorations. Look at our national mythology It’s as if MLK gave that speech and then dropped off the face of earth until April 1968 when he was gunned down outside that motel room in Memphis. If you rely on the national mythology you’d never know that Rev. King was increasingly radicalized, especially in his opposition to the war in Viet Nam. Instead he has become an icon in the national pantheon. Safely dead to the "to the accompaniment of military bands, with the U S Marine Corps chorus singing 'we shall overcome' and the cadenced marching of military color guards." From an essay by Vincent Harding. A collection essays I just ordered used from Amazon. I suspect that it’ll get bounced off the wall a few times. 

“King found that his search for a way to challenge the government and the nation to justice was constantly blocked by the reality of Viet Nam. The poor young men of America were being swept up to become victims and executioners in ever increasing numbers. The poor of Viet Nam were being destroyed physically and culturally. Moreover King knew that all the cruel devastation of an unjust war was draining billions of dollars and lifetimes of energy and creativity out of nation’s potential for dealing with the needs of its own people.”

In the film Cry Freedom black activist Steven Biko echoed King in his refusal to be integrated into what he saw as an unjust, repressive system. That he and the non whites of South Africa would sit at the national table in their own right and not on the sufferance of an unjust government. Biko was murdered by the Afrikaaner government in 1977 BTW. Being a prophet is a dangerous profession. Just ask Jeremiah. In the essay Harding quotes King “we are not interested in being integrated into THIS value system structure.” That structure being a society based on racism, extreme materialism and militarism. And goes on

“the storm is rising against the privileged minority of the earth, from which there is no shelter in isolation of armament. The storm will not abate until a just distribution of the fruits of the earth enables men everywhere to live in dignity and human decency.”

 That was pre 1968. The civil war in Guatemala was just heating up. The early seventies saw the coup in Chili fully supported by our government. The US supported the rise of dictatorships in Argentina, among other Latin American countries. The late seventies and most the decade of the eighties added the horrors of civil war in El Salvador and Nicaragua with the full aid and support of the Reagan and Bush governments.

The CIA playbook perfected in Viet Nam sanctioned the murder of just about anyone considered subversive. And their friends. And their families. The final death toll included religious leaders, teachers, lay religious workers, union organizers, supporters of farm cooperatives. In fact anyone who worked for that just distribution of the fruits of the earth and the chance to live life as a human being instead of a subhuman drudge.  Every effort was made to discredit any teaching resembling liberation theology and those who taught it.

I’m not usually a believer in conspiracy theories. However, I do believe that if Martin Luther King had been transformed into a Latino he is exactly the kind of leader who was targeted by the CIA backed Latin American military and death squads.

Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it? 

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