ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE! Dr. King wrote an astonishing book. Can liberals respect that books author? // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2010
Your culture is simply amazing: Rememberthe New York Times is routinely pimped as your nations smartest newspaper. Amazingly, this incoherent passage appears at the top of this mornings front page, offered by reporters Michael Barbaro and Marjorie Connelly:
The sub-headline in our hard-copy Times tracks that opening paragraph. (Two-Thirds Say Project Should Be Moved.) And yet, by paragraph 4, the writers are saying that 50 percent of those surveyed oppose building the project two blocks north of the World Trade Center site. By paragraph 5, were supposed to be shocked when were told that 54 percent feel that way in the Bronx!
In fairness, the writers are mixing and mingling data from two different survey questions. But at no point in this long article do the writers betray any sense that those highlighted claims seem inconsistent. For ourselves, we could advance a guess about why two basically similar questions produced substantially different responses. But in our smartest of all American newspapers, Barbarao and Connelly never noticed any contradiction at all.
But then, your culture is quite amazing. Kruggers! Why even bother with old-world nonsense like this?
Kruggers! As weve long noted, the very concepts of fact and truth no longer play serious roles in our culture. You might as well write your piece in Olde Swedish! Your colleagues dont know what you mean!
It isnt about the facts and the truth. Its all about the narrativehas been for many long years. With that in mind, the analysts leaped to praise Alex Kid Pareene for this feisty piece at Salon.
Well tell you one thing: No ones calling him young Prince Snarkensnide around these parts any more!
In his almost entirely spot-on piece (we dont like his use of the year 2000), The Kid notes two blindingly obvious facts. Blindingly obvious though they may be, these are facts which career professional writers and pundits have all agreed they must never state, over the past ten years.
Your culture would be much saner today if writers and pundits had told the blindingly obvious truth about these two obvious facts.
Well return to Kid Pareenes piece next week. But can you spot those two facts? Can you see that those facts are blindingly obvious? Do you understand why so few career journalists have mentioned these facts in the past ten years, despite the fact that theyre blindingly obvious?
Well return to this topic next week. But Alex! Kid! Kid Pareene! Watch your back, the analysts cried, as they caught him telling the truth about two obvious facts.
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE (permalink): Dr. King wasnt a hater.
By way of contrast, many liberals swung into action in the past week, raining insults, often racialized insults, on the heads of the many thousands of people who dared attend Glenn Becks event at the Lincoln Memorial. You know us! We liberals could spot the demons haunting these people, after watching two minutes of tape.
We were told that we would enjoy the tape in which these people were frisked for their demons.
When Bob Herbert complained about the vicious effort by the Tea Party and other elements of the right wing to portray Mr. Obama as somehow alien, a strange figure who is separate and apart from ordinary American life, he didnt make any attempt to qualify what he said. Had everybody in the Tea Party engaged in this vicious effort? So it seemed, or at the very least, thats what the columns words said. But then, we were told on our liberal station last year that these people are nothing but redneck racists. Their limbic brains dont work right, we were told, in a classic example of the kind of talk used by the most virulent racistsby the ethnic cleansersdown through the annals of time.
No one in the liberal world seemed to see a big problem with that kind of thinkingwith that remarkable talk.
Similarly, insults rained down this week on the head of Glenn Beck, a person who has said and done quite a few deeply ludicrous things, including quite a few which are rather ugly. In most cases, the people who rain these insults on Beck show few signs of having watched his program, which presents such a bewildering array of moods and approaches that we have often wondered if he suffers from some sort of multiple personality disorder. (No other major broadcaster has ever shape-shifted in anything like the way Beck does. This past week, Good Beck appeared on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, Bad Beck came on.)
Last Saturday, Charles Blow and Bob Herbert wrote his-and-his columns, raining insults on Bad Beck and citing his most ludicrous comments. Each mentioned one of Bad Becks most famous stupid remarksa remark to which we liberals lovingly cling, even though its fourteen months old.
But then, we liberals love to hate. Was Dr. King anything like that? After all, vicious people tried to murder Dr. King all through his public career; in 1968, one of these people succeeded. Dr. King didnt have to pretend to see demons. The demons were all around.
How did Dr. King react to these deeply fallen people? What did he say and think about them? What can we learn from the things he said? For ourselves, weve found it appalling to watch some liberals claiming to speak for Dr. Kings legacy, when so many of their reactions stray so far from his real example.
As an example, consider what Dr. King said, thought and did when his home was bombed, for the first time, in January 1956. This happened in Montgomery, Alabama, during the famous and pivotal Montgomery bus boycott. His wife and his two-month-old daughter were inside their home at the time. This occurred in the month when Dr. King turned 27.
Dr. King was pursued by people who were literally vicious. What did he say, think and do about this unavoidable fact?
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning history, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, Taylor Branch describes what happened on the night of this first bombing. Dr. King was informed of the bombing while he was at a public meeting; it still wasnt known if his wife and daughter were safe. By the time he reached his home, the mayor and the police commissioner were present. So was an angry crowd, some of whom carried weapons. After ascertaining that his wife and daughter were safe, King walked onto the porch:
Dr. Kings words on the porch have been recorded in slightly different ways. In his earlier Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King. Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, David Garrow quotes Dr. King saying this, adding one fascinating piece of advice from Dr. King: We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. Love them and let them know you love them. This minor discrepancy noted, we return to Branchs account of Dr. Kings words on the porch:
Below, well note Dr. Kings own account of what he said that night on the porch. That account appears in his 1958 book, Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. Kings astounding account of the Montgomery boycott.
There are no dull pages in Stride Toward Freedom. In this, his first book, Dr. King explained his own intellectual and moral developmentthe process by which he came to see the world in the way he brought to life on that porch. That said, Dr. Kings account of that first bombing is one of the books most astonishing episodes. How did Dr. King see the world at the age of 27? What sorts of things did he think and believe? In two astounding paragraphs, Dr. King recalled what happened later that night, after his wife had gone to bed, as he sat up late and thought about what had occurred.
The Kings were now at a church members home, where they had gone for safety. In this passage, Dr. King described his thoughts about the truly vicious people who had just bombed his home, and about the city leaders who had helped enable their conduct. For our money, the second paragraph of this passage may be the most remarkable we have ever readexcept perhaps for words we first read at the Lincoln Memorial, in Lincolns second address:
As someone who read those astonishing words long ago, weve been stunned by the conduct of some of the people who have loudly claimed to speak for Dr. Kings legacy in the past week or so.
On this evening, Dr. King wasnt tickling his anger by repeating, again and again, a spectacularly unintelligent thing someone had said fourteen months earlier. He was pondering the viciousness of people who had just bombed his home, subjecting his family to mortal peril. He was also thinking about the city commissioners and all the statements that they had made about me and the Negro generally.
His reaction? I tried to put myself in the place of the police commissioners, he recalled two years later. The chapter in which he discusses the bombing bears this title: The Violence of Desperate Men.
Below, well show you Dr. Kings own account of what he said on the porch. But elsewhere in Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King discusses the moral, religious, intellectual journey which led him to think that he must avoid that corroding anger, even when his own home has been bombed. Lets set a time frame on it:
Dr. King graduated from Morehouse College at age 19. He then entered Crozer Theological Seminary; almost apologetically, he writes that it was only then that he beg[a]n a serious intellectual quest for a method to eliminate social evil. In his chapter, Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, he describes his search for the method which could defeat the varieties of injustice he had observed since he was a child. In the following passage, he describes the electrifying moment when he saw the way he could apply the power of Christian love to defeat that social oppression:
Those are astonishing, monumental words. In this passage, Dr. King is describing an electrifying momenta moment which occurred when he was still in his early twenties.
Dr. King was a man of the Christian church. He believed in the love ethic of Jesus. He believed in this love ethic as a prescription for the way to live an individual lifebut when he married this love ethic to Gandhis non-violent resistance, he felt he had found the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. It must be stated again: It is clear in Stride Toward Freedom that Dr. King saw that Christian love ethic as something more than a method for social change; he also saw it as the correct prescription for the individual life. But then, Dr. King was all about God and Jesus. This is his own account of what he said on the porch the night his own home had been bombed:
Here at THE HOWLER, were not religious people ourselves. But it seems to us that Dr. King is sometimes de-Jesused by the historians. In his actual life, he carried a glowing faith and radiant assurance which derived from his deeply religious world-viewfrom his belief that the universe was tilting toward justice due to divine providence. This too is described in some detail in the remarkable Stride Toward Freedom.
Dr. King refused to name-call the people who had just bombed his home. We must make them know that we love them, he remembered himself saying. Jesus still cries out in words that echo through the centuries. Its very hard to relate this person to the crabbed name-callers and pseudo-psychiatrists who set about insulting the people who appeared on the mall last weekendwho set about imagining they could spot those citizens demons.
We think of Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall. You know nothing of my work, he complains to an avid follower.
Two brief points:
First, Stride Toward Freedom is an astonishing book. We strongly recommend it.
Second, a discourse on method:
Reading Dr. Kings actual words provides a ride back in time. He was so in love with the power of love that it sometimes sounds like he was writing the Beatles lyrics a decade before the lads appeared. Dr. King would not have insulted the thousands of people who appeared on the mall last week; this helps explain why Ed Schultz couldnt pull angry words of outrage and offense from Dr. Kings son, Martin Luther King III (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/27/10). No one is required to share Dr. Kings approach, outlook, beliefs or views. But would we modern liberals even respect Dr. King if he appeared in the world today? Our culture is built around loud tribal insultand we especially love mocking religious believers. One thinks of the return of Jesus in The Brothers Karamavoz. Why not quote a leading expert? From Wikipedia: The Grand Inquisitor visits him in his cell to tell him that the Church no longer needs him. The main portion of the text is the Inquisitor explaining to Jesus why his return would interfere with the mission of the church.
Returning to that discourse of method: However much we modern liberals might reject the core of Dr. King, mightnt we want to consider a rather important point? Dr. King was right about method! In fact, his love ethic did turn out to be a practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.
Using this method, Dr. King produced the greatest progressive advance of the last century. But do we modern progressives want to win? Or do we just love to hate?
Dr. King faced a vast, overwhelming racial oppression. Todays progressives face a vast and growing oppression driven by the social stranglehold of Big Oligarchic Wealth and Power. That growing Oligarchic Power will never be defeated as long as society is split into two warring tribes, with our tribe calling their tribe bigots and their tribe calling us godless elitists.
Giant Oligarchic Power thrives on that growing division.
I tried to put myself in their place! I tried to put myself in the place of those who enabled the bombing of my home! So wrote Dr. King, describing a remarkable night when he had just turned 27. Dr. King was speaking about specific peoplepeople who had done specific wrongs. By way of contrast, Ed Schultz is making himself rich and famous by teaching you to hate tens of thousands of anonymous people just because theyre old and white and dont vote the same way you do.
Oligarchic Power will never lose as long as those warring tribes stand around insulting each other. (In recent weeks, our tribe has delivered the bulk of the insults.) Those insults are good for business at various liberal venues. But Ed Schultz is making himself rich and famous by teaching us all how to lose.
Go ahead, treat yourself: Read that book! Could Big Ed respect that books author?