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It seems that this year, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday has been somewhat folded into the general festivities surrounding Obama's inauguration. By itself, that really isn't a travesty, as the Reverend would certainly have hailed the occasion as an historic step forward. However, as I've mentioned before, Dr. King's vision has been thoroughly sanitized and defanged over the years. Matt Yglesias wrote this morning,

We’ve by no means conquered bias and prejudice or overcome the lingering scars of the major injustices of the past, but on the level of message nowadays you don’t see anyone within a thousand miles of mainstream politics denying the desirability of racial equality.

On violence, we’re in another world entirely. By the standards of today’s discourse, King would be considered deeply unserious. Serious people understand that if you think something is important, the serious way to go about expressing that is by voicing support for having other people go kill other people. Doubts about the ethics of such action are loathesome moral equivalence and doubts about their wisdom demonstrate naïveté.

Indeed, this much more than the fight for racial equality is what made him problematic in the eyes of the established order. Via Phoenix Woman at FDL, not two months before he was killed King said this:

They have twenty-megaton bombs in Russia right now that can destroy a city as big as New York in three seconds, with everybody wiped away, and every building. And we can do the same thing to Russia and China.

But this is why we are drifting. And we are drifting there because nations are caught up with the drum major instinct. “I must be first.? “I must be supreme.? “Our nation must rule the world.? (Preach it) And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.

God didn’t call America to do what she’s doing in the world now. (Preach it, preach it) God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.

But nobody hears those speeches very often. Today a CNN poll reported that 69% of African Americans feel that Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream has been fulfilled. That's not quite right, I think. King would be celebrating tomorrow, no question about it. But that mountaintop he saw? I think it was more than a little bit higher.

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The same could easily be said for Moses or Ghandi. But you are also right that isn't to say that they wouldn't be a bit satisfied that they had ridden the wave as far as it got. It takes another leader like them to keep the wave going.

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on January 19, 2009 7:33 PM.

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