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Hajo | The Afghan Waltz / Slate.com

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Duty to Warn: Another MLK Day is Safely Past

"Now that he is safely dead let us praise him,
build monuments to his glory,
sing hosannas to his name.

"Dead men make such convenient heroes.
They cannot rise to challenge the images
we would fashion from their lives.

"And besides,
it is easier to build monuments
than to make a better world." --Carl Wendell Hines

Gary Kohls, Evergreene Digest

Tom Toles

“Now That He Is Safely Dead” is the poignant poem that was written by black poet/musician Carl Wendell Hines soon after Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965. The poem has been appropriately associated with the death of Martin Luther King and his legacy of nonviolent struggle for black liberation, freedom, equality, economic justice and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Ignoring Dr. King’s first principle of confronting injustice with nonviolent struggle, America has posthumously awarded him the monument of a national holiday with frequent references to the moving “I Have A Dream” speech. Officialdom tolerates the retelling of the Dream, hoping that the yearly event honoring this more “benign” and less militant King suffices to quell the real demands for real freedom and equality.

And so another MLK Day has safely passed into memory.

Most peace and justice-seekers who have read the above poem, feel that Hines’ masterpiece applies equally to the legacy of other assassinated liberal whistle-blowers and champions of the down-trodden, including Jesus of Nazareth, Mohandas Gandhi, Malcolm X,  John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Paul Wellstone.

Jesus, of course, was another one of those whistle-blowing tellers of the truth who advocated and/or practiced active resistance to evil in the nonviolent struggle for the relief of human suffering. His radical teachings of unconditional love thrived for only two or three centuries after his death, and today, barely survives in a few remnants of the original form of Christianity.

Dr. King was one of those remnants that recognized the original voice of Jesus and had the courage to preach those radical and dangerous truths. Dr. King knew all about the power and practicality of the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule and the love of enemies. And he knew about the rapid reversal of those highly ethical teachings and the takeover of the church by the state starting about 300 CE.

Purging the prophets

But the voices of the prophets always get silenced in violent societies and it isn’t by accidents.

Both ancient and modern powers-that-be recognize dangerous whistle-blowers when they see them, and they usually don’t waste much time planning the “silencing”. Usually the prophets are initially ignored, then, if that doesn’t succeed, they are violently opposed, and then, (rarely, it seems to me), the truth may be ultimately accepted as self-evident (idea stolen from German philosopher Schopenhaurer).

In our more complicated era Schopenhauer’s dictim still holds, but now there are more sophisticated ways to discredit (by rumors, infiltration of the prophet’s movement by agents provocateur, death threats to the victim or family, right-wing think tanks to spread disinformation to the media, harassment and even arranging murders that look like accidents or suicides or by some “deranged” or planted patsy).

And so it goes. Being a prophet is hazardous duty (“a vocation of agony” as King described it).

Whistle-blowers such as Dr. King know very well that they are going to pay a heavy price for their refusal to bow down to authority. They know that they will have to endure character or physical assassinations if they don’t shut up.

”I Have a Dream” vs ”Beyond Vietnam”: A world of difference

Dr. King is mostly known for his “I Have a Dream” speech and his courageous civil rights activism on behalf of poor and oppressed African-Americans. The powers-that-be seem to be OK with the sentiments in that speech, as long as the granting of full freedom and opportunity for blacks and minorities continues to be slow AND the truth about King’s commitment to Christian nonviolence remains unacknowledged and unheard.

It is important to realize that Dr. King’s commitment to his struggle for human rights for all came out of his understanding of the life, mission and gospel ethics of his mentor, Jesus of Nazareth. Dr. King’s belief in nonviolent societal transformation mirrored the politics and theology of Jesus (as well as Gandhi, who was inspired by the Sermon on the Mount), and it was because of the teachings of those two heroes of his that the civil rights movement – and his antiwar activism - was shaped. The success of King’s nonviolent  tactics is proven by the fact that his enemies had to resort to killing him in order to stop the movement.

And it was Dr. King’s willingness to come out against the dirty war in Vietnam in his powerful “Beyond Vietnam” speech that unleashed the final assassination plot in an effort to permanently silence him (or so they thought) with a single bullet to the head exactly one year later, April 4, 1968.

"The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government"

Dr. King had struggled for months with what he felt was his calling to speak out against the war, and eventually he realized that he had no choice but to do so. 

He said: “As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But, they asked, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that 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.”

King saw the connections between the financial, spiritual and psychological costs of participation in the human slaughter of the innocents in Vietnam and the racial and economic violence that was preventing poor blacks from attaining justice in America. King knew a nation couldn’t simultaneously fund both “guns and butter” (the notion that a nation can pay for war and simultaneously provide for its people’s basic human needs). American politicians had already made the choice. The funding was going to go to the guns and not the butter. Pouring scarce resources into war-making automatically sabotages  socially programs that benefit the poor.

America lost President Johnson’s “war on poverty” was because it fought Johnson’s and Nixon’s wars in Vietnam. Understanding the connections between those realities is important and Dr. King understood them. He knew that the war in Vietnam meant that freedom for the oppressed at home was going to be delayed - perhaps forever, if the proponents of white racism had anything to say about it. And, as Dr. King often said: “justice delayed is justice denied.”

Many historians believe that Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech was equivalent to the signing of his own death warrant. The war profiteers, pro-war politicians and assorted militarists in positions of power at the time absolutely could not tolerate his antiwar activism. King was working for justice for all, which necessarily meant the defenseless Vietnamese women and children who were being indiscriminately targeted, starved, maimed, murdered, bombed and napalmed; and the soil, water and unborn children of Vietnam were being poisoned, for generations to come, by Agent Orange and other military toxins. King had no choice but to object on the basis of his conscience.

King endured daily, anonymous death threats

King received, on a daily basis, during the years leading up to that fateful day in Memphis, dozens of cowardly death threats from the racist right wing reactionaries that were afraid of black equality.

Oppressors naturally fear whatever long-overdue reprisals (or indictments and prison terms) will occur when their oppressed victims gain their freedom, but they don’t seem to fear for their souls or the souls of the nation they were trying to dominate. In this regard, Dr. King had a warning for them.

In the Riverside Church speech he said: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

King not only pointed out the “guns and butter” fallacy, but, in addition, he is accusing those who waste precious resources on state-sponsored crimes against humanity with risking their moral collapse.

Even Harry Truman understood that reality, when he said, "All through history it has been the nations that have given the most to generals and the least to the people that have been the first to fall."

The elephant in the room that the power elite hope we don’t see (just like their emperor’s clothes) is the state-sponsored violence that Dr. King spoke out against continuously. It is the military spending that keeps justice from being delivered. Reversing poverty and racism will be impossible as long as America continues to spend an unaffordable $2,000,000,000 ($2 billion) every day on militarism. Every program of social uplift is made unaffordable when military spending is the nation’s top priority.

The spirits of Martin Luther King and Jesus are not dead, if only we will listen and take them seriously. Each one has been futilely trying to tell us: “Put away the sword, for those who live by the sword will perish by the sword.” America is doomed if it doesn’t stop wasting so much money on guns. Without serious attention to the willingness to kill there will be no hope of achieving the economic relief, sustainable jobs and an end to racism.

We can’t afford to put King’s message on hold for yet another year.

Related:

Duty to Warn:  Approaching Spiritual Death, Gary Kohls, Evergreene Digest
Is it Too Late to Mend America’s Dying Soul?

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Series | Rebooting the American Dream, Part 1

11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country: Back to the Future
Part 1: Introduction

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power. - Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Charles Jarvis, September 28, 1820

Thom Hartmann, truth-out

Truthout is proud to bring you an exclusive series from America's No. 1 progressive radio host, Thom Hartmann. Starting today, we'll be publishing weekly installments of Hartmann's acclaimed new book, "Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country." We invite Truthout readers to join us over the next 12 weeks as, chapter by chapter, we explore these groundbreaking ideas for national transformation. We begin today with the book's introduction.

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On April 14, 1789, George Washington was out walking through the fields at Mount Vernon, his home in Virginia, when Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress, showed up on horseback. Thomson had a letter for Washington from the president pro tempore of the new, constitutionally created United States Senate, telling Washington that he’d just been elected president and the inauguration was set for April 30 in the nation’s capital, New York City (1).

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This created two problems for Washington.

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The Media in America: Selling Views, Calling it News

America's journalists are not "newshounds." They are nothing more than salesclerks, hocking the products their employers want to sell. The pretty faces that now function as most television news anchors are no different than the pretty models used to sell other products. The American "free" press is comprised of nothing more than a number of retail outlets which sell stories slanted to please their target audiences. As such, they exist merely to sell snake oil.

John Kozy, Centre for Research on Globalization

Sometime in the 1960s, I took part in a university symposium along with three other faculty members—a political scientist, a historian, and a journalism professor. The topic was Freedom of the Press—Good or Bad.

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During the sixties, the Cold War was being fought mightily. The Soviet Union's news agencies, TASS and Pravda, were continually attacked by the American "free press" as untrustworthy. A common claim was that a controlled press could never be trusted while a free press could, and my three colleagues on the panel supported that view. I did too, but only partially.

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A controlled press, I argued, most certainly could not be trusted when reporting on governmental actions or policies, but I pointed out that much news is not affected by government, and I saw no reason to be suspicious of a controlled press' reporting on such matters. But I also argued that there was good reason to distrust the so called free press no matter what was being reported.

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Ground to a Halt

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  • Paul Clemens' deeply reported book is both disheartening and eye-opening as it examines the quickening demise of U.S. industry through the dismantling of one Detroit auto plant, which is then packed up and shipped to Mexico.
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  • The dismantling of a Detroit plant - and the repercussions of its demise.
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Stephen J. Lyons, Special to the Minneapolis Star Tribune | MN

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Punching Out by Paul Clemens

One of the more telling facts that author Paul Clemens unearths in the absorbing "Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant" is that a worker taking apart a shuttered automobile plant can now earn more than a newly hired worker on the Jeep Cherokee assembly line. That detail sets the stage for a greater truth about our wounded economy: The halcyon days of manufacturing are giving way to service workers and information merchants.

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This dismal conclusion is hardly breaking news, but until "Punching Out" we have never read about the men who pick apart the industrial carcasses, package up the greasy leftovers and ship them off to emerging economies.

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Detroit East Side native Clemens ("Made in Detroit") has the street cred and old-school journalism chops to deliver a first-rate piece of deep reportage. He spent the better part of a year observing the piece-by-piece disassembly of the 1919 Budd Co. stamping plant, also on Detroit's East Side. The plant shut its doors in 2006 and was one of 44 manufacturing plants that ceased production that same week nationwide.

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The editor of "Plant Closing News" (yes, we have a publication that chronicles the death of U.S. manufacturing) said to Clemens, "People pick that stuff up and take it halfway around the world and reinstall it and put their people to work." The massive Budd press lines were cut apart and shipped to Aguascalientes, Mexico, where they were put to work in a plant that makes the Dodge Journey.

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Martin Luther King, Jr.: "I have a dream...to go to war?!"

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  • A Pentagon official actually claimed that if King were alive today, he might support the war.
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  • The Misuse of Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Robert Greenwald, Brave New Films

Low Income Readers:  If you are on a tight budget, don't send cash! Just forward articles to your friends - and non-Progressives too ;) - and we need help building our Evergreene Digest community, you can invite your Facebook friends, that's a big help too. We are proud to have you with us.

The Pentagon sank to a new low this week(Jan 12-18) in their attempt to sell the Afghanistan War to the American people. At their Martin Luther King, Jr., Day observance, a Pentagon official actually claimed that if King were alive today, he might support the war.

This is simply not true. As shown in our new video, Dr. King could not have been more clear in his 1967 speech denouncing the Vietnam War:

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"A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just. …A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

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More than 10,000 people died in the Afghanistan War last year alone. This year, the government plans to spend $107 billion on the war. We believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would repeat his admonition to U.S. policymakers on their responsibility:

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“I speak as one who loves America...The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.”

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Martin Luther King, Jr., was a national hero who called on us to have the moral courage to stop another war that wasn’t making us safer and that wasn’t worth the cost. Help us fight the Pentagon lies. Spread the truth by sharing this video with your family and friends.

Sincerely,

Related:

The Misuse of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mark Engler, Dissent Magazine

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  • First Glenn Beck tries to claim MLK; now the Pentagon?! This has gone too far.
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  • Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
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  • Approaching Spiritual Death
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The Misuse of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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  • First Glenn Beck tries to claim MLK; now the Pentagon?! This has gone too far.
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  • Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
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  • Approaching Spiritual Death
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Mark Engler, Dissent Magazine

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You might remember Martin Luther King, Jr. as someone who railed against the triple evils of “racism, materialism, and militarism.” But according to Obama’s Department of Defense, “today’s wars are not out of line with the iconic Nobel Peace Prize winner’s teachings.”

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This contention is advanced in an article by the American Forces Press Service, which the Pentagon is distributing for republication. CommonDreams did republish it—as an example of government shamelessness, correctly noting that you “can’t make this stuff up.”

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Related:

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, Rev. Martin Luther King

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Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City

Duty to Warn:  Approaching Spiritual Death, Gary Kohls, Evergreene Digest
Is it Too Late to Mend America’s Dying Soul?
http://evergreenedigest.org/content/duty-warn-approaching-spiritual-death

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William Rivers Pitt | The Wrath of Fools: An Open Letter to the Far Right

This is not the end of the story, but is just the beginning. The good people of the United States of America, the true patriots, have finally seen you with your media-painted masks ripped off. They have seen what comes to pass when hate, venom, ignorance and violence goes unchecked and unanswered. You have been exposed, and the fact that it took such an unimaginably horrific act for that exposure to take place only increases the fierceness with which you will be answered. You will be repudiated, not with violence, but with the scorn and rejection you so richly deserve. Spin it as you will, scramble all you like. You are found out, and you have nowhere to hide.

William Rivers Pitt, Truthout

To: Palin-lovers, Fox "News," the "mainstream" media, and the Far Right, et al.
From: William Rivers Pitt
Date: Monday 10 January 2011
Re: The blood on your hands

Dear “Patriots,”

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Rep. Gabrielle Giffords isn't much older than I am. She served in the Arizona State House of Representatives, and the Arizona State Senate, before being elected to three successive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. She once described herself as a "former Republican," and is today considered a "Blue Dog" Democrat, meaning she holds a number of conservative political positions. This is not terribly surprising, given the generally conservative political bent of the state she has served for the last ten years. She was married four years ago to a space shuttle commander who had served as a Naval aviator, and who flew 39 combat missions in Desert Storm, before volunteering for astronaut training.

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