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Print view: ont-size: 120%;color: #000000; font-weight: bold;">LL YOU NEED IS LOVE! Dr. King wrote an astonishing book. Can ''liberals'' respect that book's author?
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ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE! Dr. King wrote an astonishing book. Can “liberals” respect that book’s author? // link // print // previous // next //

Your culture is simply amazing: Remember—the New York Times is routinely pimped as your nation’s smartest newspaper. Amazingly, this incoherent passage appears at the top of this morning’s front page, offered by reporters Michael Barbaro and Marjorie Connelly:

BARBARO/CONNELLY (9/3/10): Two-thirds of New York City residents want a planned Muslim community center and mosque to be relocated to a less controversial site farther away from ground zero in Lower Manhattan, including many who describe themselves as supporters of the project, according to a New York Times poll.

The poll indicates that support for the 13-story complex, which organizers said would promote moderate Islam and interfaith dialogue, is tepid in its hometown.

Nearly nine years after the Sept. 11 attacks ignited a wave of anxiety about Muslims, many in the country’s biggest and arguably most cosmopolitan city still have an uneasy relationship with Islam. One-fifth of New Yorkers acknowledged animosity toward Muslims. Thirty-three percent said that compared with other American citizens, Muslims were more sympathetic to terrorists. And nearly 60 percent said people they know had negative feelings toward Muslims because of 9/11.

Over all, 50 percent of those surveyed oppose building the project two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, even though a majority believe that the developers have the right to do so. Thirty-five percent favor it.

Opposition is more intense in the boroughs outside Manhattan—for example, 54 percent in the Bronx—but it is even strong in Manhattan, considered a bastion of religious tolerance, where 41 percent are against it.

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, we’re supposed to be shocked when we’re 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?

KRUGMAN (9/3/10): [I]f, as expected, the G.O.P. wins big in November, this will be widely regarded as a vindication of the anti-stimulus position. Mr. Obama, we’ll be told, moved too far to the left, and his Keynesian economic doctrine was proved wrong.

But politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. The economic theory behind the Obama stimulus has passed the test of recent events with flying colors; unfortunately, Mr. Obama, for whatever reason—yes, I’m aware that there were political constraints—initially offered a plan that was much too cautious given the scale of the economy’s problems.

So, as I said, here’s hoping that Mr. Obama goes big next week. If he does, he’ll have the facts on his side.

Kruggers! As we’ve 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 don’t know what you mean!

It isn’t about the facts and the truth. It’s all about the narrative—has been for many long years. With that in mind, the analysts leaped to praise Alex “Kid” Pareene for this feisty piece at Salon.

We’ll tell you one thing: No one’s calling him “young Prince Snarkensnide” around these parts any more!

In his almost entirely spot-on piece (we don’t 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.

We’ll return to “Kid” Pareene’s 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 they’re blindingly obvious?

We’ll 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 wasn’t 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 Beck’s 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 didn’t 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, that’s what the column’s words said. But then, we were told on our liberal station last year that these people are nothing but “redneck racists.” Their limbic brains don’t work right, we were told, in a classic example of the kind of talk used by the most virulent racists—by the ethnic cleansers—down through the annals of time.

No one in the liberal world seemed to see a big problem with that kind of thinking—with 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 Beck’s most famous stupid remarks—a remark to which we liberals lovingly cling, even though it’s 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 didn’t 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, we’ve found it appalling to watch some “liberals” claiming to speak for Dr. King’s 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 wasn’t 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:

BRANCH (page 165): King walked out onto the front porch. Holding up his hand for silence, he tried to still the anger by speaking with an exaggerated peacefulness in his voice. Everything was all right, he said. “Don’t get panicky. Don’t do anything panicky. Don’t get your weapons. If you have weapons, take them home. He who lives by the word will perish by the sword. Remember that is what Jesus said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.”

Dr. King’s 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 Branch’s account of Dr. King’s words on the porch:

BRANCH (continuing directly from above): By then, the crowd of several hundred people had quieted to silence, and feeling welled up in King for an oration. “I did not start this boycott,” he said. “I was asked by you to serve as your spokesman. I want it to be known the length and breadth of the land that if I am stopped, this movement will not stop. If I am stopped, our work will not stop. For what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just. And God is with us.”

King stepped forward to a chorus of “Amens,” but as soon as [Commissioner] Sellers stepped forward to speak, the mood vanished as suddenly as it had arrived. The mob booed him. When policemen tried to shout them down, they booed even louder.

King raised his hand again. “Remember what I just said,” he cried. “Hear the Commissioner.”

Below, we’ll note Dr. King’s own account of what he said that night on the porch. That account appears in his 1958 book, Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King’s 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 development—the process by which he came to see the world in the way he brought to life on that porch. That said, Dr. King’s account of that first bombing is one of the book’s 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 member’s 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 read—except perhaps for words we first read at the Lincoln Memorial, in Lincoln’s second address:

KING (page 138): I could not go to sleep. While I lay in that quiet front bedroom, with a distant street lamp throwing a reassuring glow through the curtained window, I began to think of the viciousness of people who would bomb my home. I could feel the anger rising when I realized that my wife and baby could have been killed. I thought about the city commissioners and all the statements that they had made about me and the Negro generally. I was once more on the verge of corroding anger. And once more I caught myself and said: “You must not allow yourself to become bitter.”

I tried to put myself in the place of the police commissioners. I said to myself these are not bad men. They are misguided. They have fine reputations in the community. In their dealings with white people they are respectful and gentlemanly. They probably think they are right in their methods of dealing with Negroes. They say the things they say about us and treat us as they do because they have been taught these things. From the cradle to the grave, it is instilled in them that the Negro is inferior. Their parents probably taught them that; the schools they attended taught them that; the books they read, even their churches and ministers, often taught them that; and above all the very concept of segregation teaches them that. The whole cultural traditional under which they have grown—a tradition blighted with more than 250 years of slavery and more than 90 years of segregation—teaches them that Negroes do not deserve certain things. So these men are merely the children of their culture. When they seek to preserve segregation they are seeking to preserve only what their local folkways have taught them was right.

As someone who read those astonishing words long ago, we’ve been stunned by the conduct of some of the people who have loudly claimed to speak for Dr. King’s legacy in the past week or so.

On this evening, Dr. King wasn’t 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, we’ll show you Dr. King’s 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. Let’s 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:

KING (page 96): During this period I had about despaired of the power of love in solving social problems. Perhaps my faith in love was temporarily shaken by the philosophy of Nietzsche...Nietzsche’s glorification of power—in his theory all life expressed the will to power—was an outgrowth of his contempt for ordinary morals. He attacked the whole of the Hebraic-Christian morality—with its virtues of piety and humility, its other-worldliness and its attitude toward suffering—as the glorification of weakness, as making virtues out of necessity and impotence. He looked to the development of a superman who would surpass man as man surpassed the ape.

Then one day I traveled to Philadelphia to hear a sermon by Dr. Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University. He was there to preach for the Fellowship House of Philadelphia. Dr. Johnson had just returned from a trip to India, and to my great interest he spoke of the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. His message was so profound and electrifying that I left the meeting and bought a half-dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works.

Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of non-violent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the sea and by his numerous fasts. The whole concept of “Satyagraha” was profoundly significant to me. (Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force. “Satyagraha,” therefore, means truth-force or love force.) As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform. Prior to reading Gandhi, I had about concluded that the ethics of Jesus were only effective in individual relationship. The “turn the other cheek” philosophy and the “love your enemies” philosophy were only valid, I felt, when individuals were in conflict with other individuals; when racial groups and nations were in conflict a more realistic approach seemed necessary. But after reading Gandhi, I saw how utterly mistaken I was.

Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. Love for Gandhi was a potent instrument for social and collective transformation. It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and non-violence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking…I came to feel that this was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.

Those are astonishing, monumental words. In this passage, Dr. King is describing an electrifying moment—a 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 life—but when he married this love ethic to Gandhi’s 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:

KING (page 137): In this atmosphere I walked out to the porch and asked the crowd to come to order. In less than a moment there was complete silence. Quietly I told them that I was all right and that my wife and baby were all right. “Now let’s not become panicky,” I continued. “If you have weapons, take them home. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence. Remember the words of Jesus: ‘He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.’ ” I then urged them to leave peacefully. “We must love our white brothers,” I said, “no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo through the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’ This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love. Remember,” I ended, “if I am stopped, this movement will not stop, because God is with the movement. Go home with this glowing faith and this radiant assurance.”

Here at THE HOWLER, we’re 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-view—from 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.” It’s 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 weekend—who 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. King’s 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 couldn’t pull angry words of outrage and offense from Dr. King’s son, Martin Luther King III (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/27/10). No one is required to share Dr. King’s 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 insult—and 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, mightn’t 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. Today’s 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 people—people 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 they’re old and white and don’t 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 book’s author?