18 January 2004

Co-opting an Icon—

Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech has been quoted, out of context, so often by politicians I cringe when I hear it. Apropos to the invasion of Iraq, it would be a much needed change to hear politicians quote his words from .:Beyond Vietnam:.

In it, MLK says,
. . . It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. . . . Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.
Only visionaries, whom many of us relegate to the 'kook pile', could forsee that our nation would be in the same situation some three decades later.

MLK went on to say,
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition. . . .
Though mainstream media and dishonest politicians would have the public believe otherwise, by discounting or misquoting his prophetic oratory, MLK was anti-war and .:pro-affirmative action:.

There are song lyrics warning of that type of duplicity: Smiling faces . . . tell lies, they don't tell the truth! . . . Beware of the pat on the back. It just might hold you back

Ongoing attempts to co-opt MLK are done to rewrite his legacy into one that coincides with the treacherous and exclusionary agenda of the right wing.

No comments: