The New Edge of Cedar Mesa

Donegal Descendant

Donegal Descendant
December 04
As of December 1, 2012 I will also be posting on Our Salon. Note that I am unable to open any pm's I receive due to software dysfunction here.


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JANUARY 21, 2013 2:47PM

MLK's Continuing Moral Challenge: a Revolution in Values

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[repost from one year ago: little has changed, so no evision needed]

Annual observances of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day tend to focus almost exclusively on the struggle for juridical equality for southern blacks. Since blacks in the south can now vote, serve on juries, use the public libraries, Dr.King's cause is now portrayed as over, as history, safely consigned to the past. They ignore his broader vision, his sweeping vision of the ongoing need for what he called "a radical revolution in values." This year, I thought I would remind everyone of the broad, continuing challenges he issued to America, challenges that still resonate today, that are indictments of the contemporary status quo in America and the world. In 1967 he warned, "When machines or computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme nationalism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered." That is fron his magnificent speech at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assasinated. All the quotations in this piece are from that speech, which John Lewis and others considered his single best, most substantial speech.

"I knew I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today--my own government."

"If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam."

"How can they trust us, when now we charge them [...]with violence, while we pour every new weapon of death into their land?"

"They must see Americans as strange liberators." [Said of the Vietnamese but obviously applicable now to Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans, Somalis, etc.]

[On how war is brutalizing and traumatizing American soldiers]: "we are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know...that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved."

"There is nothing but a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering of our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precdence over the pursuit of war."

"If we do not act now, we shall surely be dragged down that long, dark, and shameful corridor of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight."

"A nation that continues, year after year, to spend more money on military defense that on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Not surprisingly, none of these quotes were chosen for the new MLK monument on the Tidal Basin, across from the Jefferson Memorial. A little too much 'sting' in them, obviously. But read them again. Who can say he was not a prophet? A prophet for 21st century America as well as for the 20th century. He is a man of the present and the future, not of the past.

A sound recording and the printed text of his 1967 Riverside Church speech can be found at


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His comments are all the more poignant when you consider he made them before the US instituted the poverty draft, which means a significant proportion of minorities go to the front line because they can't find other work.
Thanks, Dr. Stuart. I think the "poverty draft" has always existed and I can see it now as kids get out of high school & have no job prospects. The US Army offers by far the best starting salary of any job open to an 18 year old. And "your parents will be proud of you." Glenn Greenwald has a powerful essay on AlterNet today about Dr. King's views on militarism and the economy and sharply contrasts them with Obama's. Definitely worth reading. (by the way this is the first time in months I have been notified when a comment was posted on my Open Salon blog!)
Just judging by the excerpts it was a pretty remarkable speech. Thanks for the repost.
Thanks, Abrawang. The Riverside speech is long and detailed but well worth reading or hearing in its entirety. Dr. King saw it (and we) are all connected so ending racism cannot be separated from an economics that values human beings and an internationalist perspective not based on the current US view that "We Own the World." Like so many people who are turned into icons, the iconic image is simplistic and does not do the person justice. The point is not hero worship but whether to what extent he awakened new dimensions of significance in our own hearts and minds. His value is as a catalyst, not an icon.
[r] Donegal! happy new year, my friend! thanks for this. MLK needs to be celebrated and learned from. An awesome role model for conscience. Obama's tapping into his image infuriates me since Obama represents the opposite of his values in reality. best, libby
Good to see you again, Libby! Check out Glenn Greenwald's article on AlternNet. He highlights the Riverside Church speech then sharply contrasts it with Obama's stance.