Just a few days ago, Jeh C. Johnson, general counsel for the Department of Defense, gave a speech at the Pentagon in recognition of Martin Luther King Day. Toward the end of his talk, Johnson mused about what the non-violent preacher, a man who railed ceaselessly against the Vietnam War, would feel about our ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were he alive today.
It is hard to imagine a more wrong-headed analysis of Rev. King’s philosophy of non-violence. After correctly noting King’s unwavering stand against the Vietnam War, Johnson loses his way. Quoting from the “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech given the day before King was assassinated, Johnson mistakenly likens King’s reference to the compassionate aid of the Good Samaritan to the Shock and Awe of a mighty armed force. He equates giving aid to waging war.
Continue reading “What Would MLK Do?”
James Michener‘s short story collection, Tales of the South Pacific, a bestselling Pulitzer Prize winner in 1948, was eclipsed a year later by South Pacific, the blockbuster Richard Rodgers–Oscar Hammerstein musical that includes some of the most memorable songs written for the stage. One song, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” includes this verse:
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a different shade
You’ve got to be carefully taught
The converse is also true: you have to be carefully taught to be color-blind. Witness this exchange between one of my daughters and her almost-four-year-old son:
Continue reading “Un-Racism: You Have to Be Carefully Taught”
On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a speech in Washington, DC, to an immense crowd that filled the Capitol Mall. Revered and reviled in his time, King stood as the standard bearer in the fight for civil rights.
Clarence Jones, King confidante and one of those who helped draft the scripted part of the speech, recalled on CNN today that halfway through the speech, King turned his prepared speech face down and began to dream aloud and extemporaneously. Jones recalled how the uplifting oratory of that dream prompted one of those near to King to whisper that these people [on the Mall] “are going to go to church now.”
Almost a half-century later, on Martin Luther King Day, one day before Barack Obama will be sworn in as our president, it is time to “go to church” again, to watch and listen to King’s momentous…and now prophetic…speech.
(Link to the full transcript.)