Monday, January 15, 2018

Wait, a socialist?

With Yolanda and Martin Luther III on the Magic Skyway ride at the New York World's Fair in 1964. Via ABC News.

So Sarah Palin was astonished to hear CNN spreading rumors that Dr. King was some kind of non-Republican:
CNN however just set a new low bar for things to be said about the influential figure.
In a tweet, the media outlet said, “He’s an environmental hero. He was a socialist before it was cool. He never let a political disagreement turn nasty.”
Wait, a socialist?...
Appears CNN finally figured out that Martin Luther King Jr. was actually a registered Republican so in their desperation to IGNORE that inconvenient tidbit they decided to make him a socialist hero.
I sent her a note, but she hasn't responded.
He wasn't "actually a registered Republican" (or Democrat) either, as you might imagine, and took considerable care, as befits a professional religious leader, to remain detached from partisan politics, though he wasn't quite able to do that in 1964:

On the urgent issue of civil rights, Senator Goldwater represented a philosophy that was morally indefensible and socially suicidal. While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist. His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand. In the light of these facts and because of my love for America, I had no alternative but to urge every Negro and white person of goodwill to vote against Mr. Goldwater and to withdraw support from any Republican candidate that did not publicly disassociate himself from Senator Goldwater and his philosophy.
I don't think I've ever mentioned it here, but I share birthdays with Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jean-Baptiste Poquelin de Molière, and apparently ex-virgin Ben Shapiro, who does not deny King's socialism, but is not impressed by it:
Does anyone celebrate him because he mouthed Marxist nonsense about economics? Of course not. The reason America cherishes King Jr. is because of those supposed “platitudes,” just as we cherish George Washington as the “father of the country,” not because he held slaves.
Ben cherishes King as an inanimate symbol of how great America is; because hehadadreamthatoneday hisfourlittlechildrenwould bejudgedbytheircharacter and notbythecoloroftheirskin, I believe, because apparently nobody else ever thought of such a thing, and not because his deep study, organizing skills, eloquence, and commitment to satyagraha principles made enormous things happen over the course of his tragically short life. Ben doesn't even want to think about what he did, not to mention the possibility that his actions could ever be emulated in later generations. He cherishes King by way of ignoring everything he said beyond that one famous sentence.

The great big essay on King by Brandon Terry in the Boston Review, on the other hand, doesn't let anybody off the hook. Even Ta-Nehisi Coates falls far short of the King ideal, in Terry's view, because of his limited understanding of the sociopolitical dimension of racism:
if we ignore the sociopolitical dimension, we may treat racism as near-immutable and overstate its explanatory effects. In treating anti-blackness, in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s words, as “a force of nature,” one of “our world’s physical laws,” it can become easy to lose track of the historical and present-day contingencies of race and racial hierarchy. The weight of the past, enormous as it is, must be an aid, not an obstacle, to understanding new features of our racial order.
It's making me sadder about myself, King's birthday mate, because of course I fall far shorter still; me and everybody else out in blogland, producing our thousands and thousands of words a week and not doing anything. And not being exactly nonviolent, but snarky and spiteful:
King never denied the existence of righteous anger or the threat of rebellion, but incorporated these passions into his political thinking as challenges to be redirected toward worthier ends.
One concrete implication of this view—beyond curbing the impulse to mock and condemn on social media—is to avoid forms of political resistance that seek to “humiliate the opponent” rather than “win his friendship and understanding.” These vengeful approaches deny others the capacities for moral learning.
I don't know what to do about that, but I might try, in the coming year, to be kind and empathetic once in a while with the enemy, I mean not Dinesh but the rank and file. Not here on the blog! Maybe on Twitter.

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