The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

On the anniversary of the assassination of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the anniversary of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and to a lesser extent on his birthday, the commercial American news media usually covers some of the more well known aspects of his career and legacy.

The media’s homage is good, as far as it goes, but Americans should understand that such mainstream media coverage is usually only with respect to Dr. King’s advocacy of civil rights, his repudiation of racism and apartheid, and his sharing of the dream that one day everyone will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

However, the record and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is far greater than that, and cross burning white racists were not the only ones who hated him for it. Many of those in power hated King, because in his last few years before he was killed, Rev. King, being a true Christian, spoke out
increasingly against militarism, against the Vietnam War, and against economic injustice as well as social injustice.

In fact, Dr. King was one of the first critics against what we now call the “free market corporate globalism” movement, because he recognized it for what it what it was, and what it would become.

He recognized that American corporate economic imperialism and exploitation of the poorest of the poor in America and in foreign countries is actually detrimental to the interests of the American people and the American economy. (And in fact, King has been proven absolutely correct, because it has been and is extremely detrimental to all but the wealthiest few.)

Furthermore, it is not surprising who hated King as much as the open racists did. As David Corn wrote in a Mother Jones article, The FBI's War on Martin Luther King, the great and famous “I Have a Dream” speech King delivered in 1963 “triggered an ugly and brutal reaction within one of the most powerful offices of the land. In response to King's address, J. Edgar Hoover, the omnipotent FBI director, intensified the bureau's clandestine war against the heroic civil rights leader.

FBI Director Hoover, a right-wing ideologue steeped in McCarthyism and “red scare” tactics, suspected Dr. King of being part of a “communist conspiracy” and a “profound threat to national security.”

Why? Because Hoover was of the same mind and mentality of Senator Joseph McCarthy and Senator Richard Nixon, who headed "investigations" into "Un-American activities" in the 1950s. They were aided by other like minded ideologues like then-SAG President Ronald Reagan. And their agenda was much like the agenda of right-wing ideologues has always been (and still is), to denigrate and slander liberal progressives, and label them as "communists" or "socialists" simply because they, like Jesus, spoke out against greed and advocated for the poor and the working poor.

As soon as King had become well known, Hoover had been sending President John Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Bobby Kennedy and leading members of Congress with “intelligence” reports about King designed to discredit and demean King. And six weeks after the “I Have a Dream” speech, Hoover was able to start full electronic surveillance of King, ordering FBI agents to place bugs in King's hotel rooms; tap his phones; and bug his private apartment in Atlanta.

America and the world need to understand that King was assassinated in part to stop him from criticizing the U.S. Vietnam War, which was also one of the reasons John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But part of the specific reasons King was assassinated was because he dared to speak out against the U.S. Government's enabling the banks and U.S. Military Contractors to participate in starting and perpetuating the investment of Trillions of dollars for such wars (a practice that escalated under the Reagan and Bush administrations, and has continued).

That practice, and the practice of "privatizing" the war machine for the benefit of private corporate contractors, will continue as long war is so extremely profitable, and as long as the world public is uniformed and disinterested in making them unprofitable for private, profit-making corporations.

A book by Dr. King, The complete text of Beyond Vietnam a Time to Break Silence can be read, and Dr. King's voice can also be heard, at that link.  Also relevant is Dr. King's speech, "Beyond Vietnam American Rhetoric," and you can hear it at that link.

And after listening to or reading King's words on these subject, which the mainstream commercial media does not mention. Beyond Vietnam, you might examine how relevant they still are today, since many of the wars the U.S. fights in the world are in part driven to benefit and profit the U.S. Religious Military Industrial Complex (which President Eisenhower warned against but was ignored by everyone except people like John and Robert Kennedy, who were both assassinated). And you might also read what Ramsey Clark has published at the educational website Prosecute US Crimes Against Humanity Now Campaign containing the pertinent laws and a country by country history of us crimes in 19 nations.
The point, however, is that Dr. King paid with his life for telling the truth. Fortunately, his legacy is great because he was such an eloquent voice for the civil rights movement, which brought much progress. But, sadly, in the 1970s The Southern Pride Movement, The New Dixie Movement and The Neo-Confederacy began to grow, and they changed tactics. Consequently forty years after the Rev. King was assassinated, most of the things he spoke out against are worse, not only with regard to the economy, social injustice and American global hegemony, but also with regard to civil rights.

Granted, there has admittedly been improvement in the ability of very talented and skilled black people to establish successful careers, but there are many indicators that racism is still very much with us, and it has increasingly been showing its ugly head since the 1970s and 1980s, and especially since 2009 when President Obama took office.

Economic inequity, income disparity and war, which Reverend King spoke out against, also grew much worse, especially under Reaganism, Bushism, and even currently. And the comparison of the Vietnam War and the war Bush started in Iraq became increasingly appropriate as it dragged on and became more and more counterproductive.

King was vehemently against the Vietnam War, and he was against U.S. militarism in general. And he spoke about it in ways that are appropriate today with regard to the militarism of many countries, particularly Israel and the United States.

The best example of that is where King said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness, in a descending spiral of destruction.”

He was absolutely right about that, and he was absolutely right in his condemnation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In a 1967 speeches on foreign policy King said: “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 was a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but most Americans today either forget or are not aware that, because when his moral voice moved beyond racial discrimination to international issues, the most Americans tended to either ignore him, or label him as a “communist pawn” because he had become so influential in the world as a peace and anti-war advocate.

For example, Life Magazine accused King of advocating “abject surrender in Vietnam.” The New York Times attacked his efforts to link the civil rights and antiwar movements. And The Washington Post claimed that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people." Why did they say that? Because King’s sermons on Vietnam grew highly critical of the U.S. Government. He declared that  “God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war.”

But King went even further than that. In 1967, King also criticized U.S. economic foreign policy, pointing out the greed of  “capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries."

In 1967 King also denounced a Democratic-controlled Congress for increasing the Pentagon budget while cutting anti-poverty programs. He declared that: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on its military than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

If King had not been assassinated for speaking out like that, and if were still alive today, he would be shocked at how much worse things have become since then, particularly under the Reagan and Bush regimes, and even continuing under President Obama partly because of Republican obstructionist tactics and partly because of a lack of will and courage.

If King were alive he would surely be highly critical of most U.S. policies, especially the domestic and foreign economic policies. He would probably condemn tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, globalism, privatization, and all the other things that have decreased the effectiveness of government and empowered and enabled the wealthiest few and their mega-corporations and big businesses. He would certainly condemn the policies regarding Bush’s War in Iraq, Bush’s “war on terror,” and the so-called “Patriot Act.”

Furthermore, because King would have been a savvy analyst and righteous critic who would shame greedy hypocrites and arrogantly proud and militant warmongers, he would surely have been berated and condemned on all the right-wing conservative media, especially the highly biased, right-wing Fox News network, as well as right-wing conservative talk radio shows and other right-wing conservative news outlets. He would be falsely accused of fomenting “class warfare,” and the right-wing “hawks” of today would vilify and treat King unfairly, just as they have treated all those who protest the abuse of power and demand truth, fairness, peace, and justice.

Martin Luther King Jr. was correct in just about everything he said. He was a very brave and courageous champion of the poor, the disadvantaged, and the oppressed, just as all true servants of God have been. And he was quite correct that the U.S. has been approaching spiritual death headlong, for quite some time.

In fact, the U.S. has even further approached spiritual death under Reaganism, which was continued and expanded under the reign of George W. Bush, who ironically claimed to be “doing God’s will” even though he actually served Mammon, not God.  And that is a terrible shame, as has become increasingly evident even as President Obama continues many Bush policies and is also very chummy with Wall Street and banks even though he levels token admonitions at their greed (see The American Economy).

We can, however, turn things around and progress forward, instead of continue to be pushed further backward by the wealthy forces of greed and self-interest.

Electing a Democrat as president was only a start, and just a first step to really improving our world. We must go further, because Democrats are merely the “lesser of two evils” that divide us as they serve the rich.

Please read the articles titled A New Declaration of Independence, and Real Democracy Is Coming to the U.S.A.