Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Thoughts for the Day

When I was young, Martin Luther King meant a lot to me. I understood that the world was changing, because oppressed people had risen up and refused to accept oppression any longer, and he embodied the movement. But he did more than that. He accepted the responsibilities and burdens of leadership, and of the symbolism that surrounded his identity. He knew that he would pay with his life for his choice to take up those burdens, but such was his courage that he scarcely acknowledged his doom until the night before he was murdered. He became great in a cause which threatened only a decadent and fading order in the most backward part of the country, but he carried his hard-won moral capital into a direct confrontation with the world's most powerful elites, as an opponent of imperialism and militarism, and a champion not only of an oppressed caste, but of all poor people.

It so happens that this most valiant and benevolent of people had private flaws. The Director of the FBI, a vicious bigot who hated him, tried to blackmail him into committing suicide by threatening to reveal his adultery.* How would today's "Christian" political movement view a new MLK? You know the answer -- they are the same people who hated him when he was alive, the same people who found justification for slavery and racism in the Bible, and today find justification for other hatreds, for imperial conquest, and the privileges of wealth. King's sexual transgressions would be just one more weapon with which to discredit his passion for justice.

There is a great deal that I have found deeply disturbing about the past decade or so in this country, but one item at the top of my list is the craven silence of Christian leaders who still claim to believe in a Jesus who championed justice, peace and compassion in the face of the hijacking of their faith by hate filled, greedy and violently reactionary extremists. Who has stood up publicly, in the name of Christianity, to condemn these hypocrites, these deniers of Jesus, these howling demagogues who champion oppression, ignorance, vengeance and sanctimonious self-righteousness in the name of God and Jesus? No-one of any consequence. There is no-one with the courage to restore the good name of Christianity.

*Quite likely, in my view, Hoover arranged King's murder, but I don't want to dilute the main point of this post with speculation. The attempted murder by blackmail, however, is undisputed historical fact.

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