Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day in the US; the TV and other media were full of stories about King and his times, and what it all means today. He has been compared to Gandhi and Mandela, become an icon for American "progressives," and, of course, a historical symbol of the nonviolent civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, almost every major American city has a thoroughfare named for him, and, as noted, we have a national holiday in his honor--making him and Columbus the only ones to have such holidays. Gunned down in 1968, at the age of thirty-nine, he left the civil rights movement to less capable and less visionary successors who undermined his legacy and his goal of a color-blind nation.
Was he a great man? He showed great courage, commitment to his cause, insistence on nonviolence, strong political and leadership skills, patriotism, and became a highly eloquent spokesman for civil rights. "I Have a Dream" is one of the great speeches in the English language. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" more than equals any Thoreau or Gandhi writings, and is not something that today's civil rights leaders, such as they are, could match, nor could the typical graduate of almost any university in the world today. (The letter's pacing, erudition, and, above all, the surgical preciseness with which it takes down opposing arguments bring to mind General Sherman's letter to the Mayor of Atlanta.) King's life made a difference to millions of people. The answer, therefore, to this paragraph's question is yes, he was a great man.
That said, serious problems exist with some of the narrative spun about King, in particular, and the civil rights struggle, in general. Part of the problem, of course, is that King died young, enabling others, as with the two Kennedy brothers, to fill in the rest of the story and use it to further certain political agendas. King died short of his fortieth birthday; had he lived longer, presumably he would have evolved and, possibly, become a very different man than he was when he died--we will never know. What we do know is that the Democratic Party and their "progressive" media and education machines have rewritten the history of the civil rights struggle. This was driven home to me some years ago while visiting a college campus. The students assumed King was a Democrat, and the segregationists confronting the peaceful marchers, and using fire hoses, snarling police dogs, and truncheons, and wearing white hoods were Republicans. They assume a Republican killed King--today's college kids probably believe the Tea Party had him killed. That the exact opposite is true, shocks many. King came from a staunchly Republican family--his father, a prominent leader in his own right--openly endorsed Richard Nixon against JFK in the 1960 presidential election. The Democrats had a one-party lock on the South. The party of slave owners and secessionists, had become the party of Jim Crow, school segregation, anti-miscegenation laws, poll taxes, and on and on.
Many Americans, not to mention foreigners, do not realize not only that the Republican party was formed in opposition to slavery and that Lincoln was a Republican, but that the famous Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, whose rulings dismantled the legal basis for segregation and put serious limitations on the power of police, was a former Republican Governor of California. It was, furthermore, war hero and Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who sent troops to Arkansas to enforce court-ordered desegregation at Little Rock Central High School. Congressional Republicans were the main supporters of civil rights legislation; their votes ensured passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, over the opposition of a significant bloc of Democrats--let us also not forget that Congressional Democrats for years blocked Republican efforts to pass federal anti-lynching legislation. All this, of course, is history, but an important chunk of American history that is being lost, distorted, or otherwise flushed down the memory sewer--along with the fact that anti-leftist J. Edgar Hoover proved the most formidable foe of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), an organization founded and staffed by Democrats, such as long-time Democratic Senator Robert Byrd.
Before I get back to King, let me address another issue that has been badly distorted and become something of a meme among the quasi-literate left. I refer to the idea that the parties have "switched places." This is something I have heard from some lefties who, knowing the true history of the Democratic and Republican Parties when it comes to race and civil rights, try to argue that that was then, and this is now. Since FDR or so, they argue the Democratic and the Republican Parties "switched" places on the race issue, with Republicans taking the role of protecting white privilege and keeping minorities, especially blacks, down. The truth is quite different. What happened was that the old party of slavers, segregationists, lynch mobs, and secessionists figured out that government programs and intervention were the means to deprive Republicans of a significant voter bloc. The aim was to keep black Americans dependent on the largesse of government and Democrat-run urban political machines. Anyone who doubts that should read the crude comment in which President Johnson revealed the real purpose underlying his massive social program expansion, i.e., to keep black Americans voting Democratic. The Democrats have succeeded admirably at this objective.
Back to King and the civil rights movement. By the time of his death, King was losing control over the movement. It was fragmenting. King's vision of a nonviolent effort was under assault by increasingly violent and radical elements. The message of non-violence and concentration on individual liberty was losing attraction. The thirty-nine-year-old King seemed old, thundering out a message from another time. A new generation of black activists, inspired by the increasingly confrontational and violent atmosphere in the country were challenging King for the spotlight. They found allies in violence in the largely white anti-Vietnam War movement. The civil rights struggle was becoming increasingly part of the noise of the very bad closing years of the 1960s, which saw violent race riots shake nearly every American city, and numerous incidents of domestic terrorism. In addition, what had been a largely grass-roots, private sector movement was being sabotaged by growing government involvement. Many black leaders were being syphoned off by government programs to "fight poverty." Black activists increasingly focused on getting handouts to their followers rather than, as noted above, on King's more lofty, ancient-sounding focus on liberty, and the goal of having people judged not by their color but by the "content of their character." This new generation of government-oriented and dependent leaders did not fit in with King's conservative Southern and church-based movement. They needed racial turmoil, not racial harmony. We need also remember that Attorney General Robert Kennedy had put King under FBI surveillance, including the making of compromising tapes of King having liaisons with women not his wife, providing the government excellent blackmail material against him.
All these factors, in my view, had begun to take a toll on King; he aged dramatically in appearance, and had begun talking about issues not directly related to the civil rights struggle, e.g., the Middle East, Vietnam. Had he lived longer, I suspect we would have seen King becoming increasingly radicalized, pushed leftward as he sought to retain control of his movement--but, as noted before, we will never know.
In sum, he was a great man with a great vision. His successors, many of them frauds of the first rank, largely have not been faithful to that vision of liberty and color-blindness, and we all have suffered for it.
I agree that King was a great man but he had his faults and to some that devalues his achievements. I don't see it that way, King had his faults but then don't we all? To err is human and all that. It is what he accomplished despite his faults that lifts him above the herd.ReplyDelete
I don't know that I would call those who came after his successors, rather I would say they usurped his legacy for their own less than exemplary purposes.
You're a discerning fellow Dip, I never figured you a feller who'd know anything, in particular, about Arkansas. Or care.ReplyDelete
Nobody Diplomad (except you Thank you very much) notes anything except '57 - not having a clue ...
There's other stuff.
Thank you Sir.
I wish I could be as brave as yourself and reveal ... well.
Where I live (where the Unionist Peace Society was strongest) a great many folk claim Confederate Generals as ancestors - so many in fact, the reason the South lost the war was 'cause after Pickett, Rob E. Lee didn't have any Privates to do what "Generallys" seek.
Superb post Diplomad.
Hoxie Arkansas for any who may not know:Delete
"The civil rights movement he created passed to, frankly, less capable and less visionary successors, who undermined his legacy."ReplyDelete
Race-hustlers. Anti-white bigots. Poverty pimps. Separatists. Everything he would have abhorred.
O, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't!
Well thought out, unlike our state..our govt.ReplyDelete
Absolute truth, but what to do…ReplyDelete
They take your message, stick you with theirs, and then pick your pocket to proffer the promise of a meager, yet idle life, in exchange for a vote.
" The Democrats had a one-party lock on the South."ReplyDelete
The Solid South.
" A new generation of black activists, inspired by the increasingly confrontational and violent atmosphere in the country"
H. Rap Brown, Black Panthers
"They found allies in violence in the largely white anti-Vietnam War movement."
Ayers, Dorn, Weather Underground
" that the segregationists confronting the peaceful marchers and using fire hoses, unleashing snarling police dogs,"
Bull Connors et al
One day some of the lessor known "non violence" views of Ghandi should be addressed.
Discerning post, as always. In particular, it reveals how important the context is. The context of time, place, person. Appreciate your insight and perspectiveReplyDelete
Dip, this was one of the most discerning and intelligent comments on Dr. King's life and work that I have ever heard or read.ReplyDelete
A minor point of contention. You state the following: "They found allies in violence in the largely white anti-Vietnam War movement." I would not call that particular "movement" as being "anti-Vietnam War". Rather, it was more appropriately labeled an anti-draft movement. Once the draft was repealed, the majority of the "anti-war" protests dried up.ReplyDelete
As I said, a minor point. It did not take away from your overall theme which, was spot on! :-)Delete
Brilliant post. I really appreciate how succinctly you described how I too feel about King and his legacy. I've been wanting to explain it to my grade school aged sons (who are getting a bunch of MLK stuff at school this month, of course) and this really helps. Thanks.ReplyDelete
Dear Diplomaster, Have you ever thought about submitting your posts for publication to other sites such as American Thinker? Your writing is superior and your knowledge of facts and truth is remarkable. I appreciate reading your blog more than I can say!!ReplyDelete
Very polished suck up. I hope you gain the approval you seek. Regards.Delete
Well said, Dip. I arrived in Africa in 1970 and found a lot of our public diplomacy programming taken over by civil rights themes. This played well in socialist Tanzania, whose president (Nyerere) had welcomed several fugitives from American justice, but I had personal reservations about how meaningful our message was to our long-term bilateral relations and ultimately decided it felt like pandering. That, of course, didn't stop us from doing it and the momentum only built, eventually culminating in the nomination of America's first Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian (Pat Derian) by Jimmah Carter. While I recognize the value to our nation of the civil rights movement, I remain convinced it is not the most meaningful message America has for Africa. It still feels like pandering.ReplyDelete
Frankly, there's something in the liberal psyche that seems to think that all blacks, regardless of which sides of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans they live on, are fundamentally the same. "Diversity" for the Left seems to go no more than skin [color] deep, unless it's about how you use or abuse your genitalia.Delete
Excellent post, as usual. I remember being very unhappy that King veered into the Vietnam War issue and felt it was due to some of his associates who, shall we say, did not have America's best interests at heart. He was certainly a better man than Mandela and probably Gandhi who let his wife die of appendicitis rather than accept hated western medicine but who left skid marks in his hurry to have his own illness treated by English doctors.ReplyDelete
oh dear. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-gandhi-nobody-knows/Delete
Thanks for the correction on the details. I had heard the story many years ago, perhaps at the same time as the Commentary piece.Delete
Interestingly enough, Churchill's life was probably saved by one of the very early sulfa drugs.
Brilliant post. Your work is normally of a very high standard but you have excelled yourself on this one.ReplyDelete
Although I rarely comment I am an avid reader of you blog and compare you posts and most responses to "health food for the brain". This is stark comparison to intellectual junk food that we receive from our MSM.
Excellent post, sir!ReplyDelete
I have a very difficult time lionizing a womanizer.ReplyDelete
Any other faults of his don't even approach the great message he was delivering, but I feel he missed an even bigger opportunity than civil rights by not openly and plainly dealing with what's truly the biggest fault of our era. He preached love, but love without faithfulness is empty. He couldn't expect his followers to be honestly faithful to their shared vision when *they* were all hiding secrets for him. That undermines any message he might have hoped would have survived him.
Maybe it was too much? Maybe we can't expect an icon out of nowhere to not only show us a message about color, but to also set and example on dealing with sexual failures? Was it his job to posthumously show Clinton, thirty years later, what he is *supposed* to do when he fails?
It's probably too much to ask.
I'm absolutely not criticizing the guy, I just wish he could have used the microphone he built for more than he did.
- reader #1482Delete
I know..let's do a globull warmth thingy..oh..climate change..something something..Delete
let's do it in the summer..and find you have been stuck in the ice...
Invite AlGore to some place in equatorial Africa for one of his global warming galas and it will snow there too.Delete
"Invite AlGore to some place in equatorial Africa for one of his global warming galas and it will snow there too." Then he would finally be recognized as the National Resource he's always aspired to be!
The god of "untimely and unexpected water" trickling down on everyone. Al may yet become a deity.Delete
Speaking of...the Pope recently said the internet was a "gift from God". Algore hardest hit.
With living legends like Mandela, Gandhi and MLK, it is important to know the entire man so in the end you can bury the entire man, eulogize the entire man and learn from the complete memory of the entire man.ReplyDelete
Yeah ... you wouldn't want to leave a member uneulogized. Or unburied.Delete
Dateline: Middle EastReplyDelete
Agreements and reality are still proving elusive to Secretary of State Kerry. Vladamir Putin though has offered to enter Kerry in the Diplomacy 101 competition at Sochi which will be offered this year as a demonstration sport. In the Far East Japan and China have reaffirmed that they don't like each other, but China believes that it's not that important since they don't like anybody. South Korea is worried about North Korea though they are preoccupied with family problems.
In domestic news, the shadowy person known as The Diplomad has not been seen or heard from recently. Las Vegas is on high alert. It is reported the TSA considers the Diplomad a person of interest for allegedly driving his corvette like well, a corvette! With rumors that the Diplomad favors "blackjack" MSNBC has launched an investigation of racism. Local jumping jack organizations are calling for an immediate apology. Crackerjacks were not available for comment.
And that's the way it should have been.
Ugh! Sorry. I am alive, but barely. In a drug-induced haze. Will be going in for surgery in February. I am trying to write something brilliant but it is coming out like the rest of my stuff. Hope to have it up in the next day or so.Delete
James, that was good!Delete
Diplomad, we trust surgery is routine and all will be well.
Thanks, but it does write itself.Delete
Now this mysterious physical affliction of the Diplomad is worrying. No Soviet style heart attacks!
I am going to offer a disagreement concerning aspects of this:ReplyDelete
1. However matters seemed in 1966, the challenge to King, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, et al from militant organizations was of truly of scant consequence. The militants in question were blowhards with no consequential skills. James Foreman, Stokely Carmichael, Rap Brown, and Floyd McKissick had all faded from public view by about 1971. Brown will likely die in prison and the other three died having accomplished little of note. The Black Panthers had evaporated by around 1975 (and were at their terminal phase just a racket, reduced to putting cement shoes on their bookkeeper because she would not co-operate in concealing their misappropriation of grant money). LeRoi Jones spent his life in a debased sort of minstrelsy, producing godawful 'poetry' on the patronage of academic institutions, foundations, and public agencies whose superintendents revealed to anyone watching what happens when fools get hold of other people's money.
2. King's skill set and appeal were appropriate to a moment where disciplined public protest was a remedy to a particular social defect. It had really ceased to be after about 1966. The NAACP and the Legal Defense Fund derived from it faced a more attenuated version of the problem faced by King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference: what they were good at was (after a certain point in time) a sideshow which did not address the most problematic aspects of the life of black Americans. Roy Wilkins and Jack Greenberg (and Thurgood Marshall) were almost as irrelevant at this point as King.
3. King kept meticulous household books, but knew little of business or economics. He knew little of the technics of public order maintenance (and the decision-making class was in the process of losing whatever it did know about that). The challenge presented by the breakdown of public order and the damage to the social economy of black America after 1965 was not one he knew how to address from his own knowledge base.
4. One indicator of the politico-economic pathology of the time was the embrace of state-induced patronage for blacks by the Democratic Party, Resistance to this among the black political class after 1966 was close to nil. There is no reason to believe that King's thinking was so eccentric in relation to his fellows that he would have steered a different course. The one notable in that nexus who was dismissive of racial preference schemes was Bayard Rustin. After 1964, Rustin was employed running a small research center subsidiary to the AFL-CIO and had scant influence over parliamentary or extra-parliamentary black politics. Coretta Scott King remained a public figure after 1968 (to what end, who knows) as did Ralph David Abernathy (for about a decade). Neither were notable as critics of the decay of a lofty ideal into a racket.