Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

The Mason Missile, January 31, 2012

01.31.12

Greetings, freedom fighters! I have joined my congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir, to celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King-the REAL Dr. King, the man who challenged the status quo, not the sanitized peacenik that is put out by commercial media. Towards the latter part of his life, King opposed the Viet Nam war, and not only challenged racial hierarchies but the economic inequalities that are both cause and effect of racism.
On January 10, 1967, at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, King preached, “I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.”
King, knowing he would be branded a traitor or unpatriotic for speaking out against the Viet Nam war, added, “Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.”
Then, at Riverside Church in New York in April of that year-one year to the day he was murdered- King added, “Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.” The government and other opinion-makers tried thus to confine King to Civil Rights, as if that can be separated from the Viet Nam issue. To King, Viet Nam was a further sign of a sick nation governed by sick people, willfully ignorant of the needs of the Vietnamese people.
Also, King and his group, the Southern Christian leadership Conference (SCLC) in November 1967 started organizing the Poor People’s Campaign, dedicated to addressing issues of poverty, employment, and housing for people of all races, going beyond the issues of African-Americans. The Viet Nam war siphoned off money that could have been used for rebuilding cities, schools, transit systems, etc. - to pay for a war against a people that really wanted to engage us, and to prop up a gang of kleptomaniacs passing themselves off as a “government.”
King saw that it’s not either/or, either issues of class or race or war to work on. The upper classes traditionally tended to dominate the state, and still do to an extent; and they have twisted the work and emphasis of the state apparatus to its advantage, by repressing unions and other forms of lower-class organizing, and adjusting the tax code to favor the wealthy at the expense of the lower and working classes. The personnel to lead the state apparatus-cabinet ministers, military officers, etc. - has also traditionally come from the upper economic and social echelons-people who, in spite of their wealth and connections, are no more advanced that we working folks are.
Of course, the upper classes have been wise enough to create a hierarchy amongst the lower classes, due to race-to have the lower-class whites look down on the descendents of slaves stolen from Africa, sold as cattle, treated as livestock, as inferior to themselves, thus giving lower-class whites a false sense of superiority. Racism and plutocracy both have to be fought at the same time, it’s not either-or. The Labor movement, that cause to which I have worked for, is eminently suited to deal with racism among white workers, which I have heard plenty; working-class whites must know their fellow workers, no matter their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, and their allies, not their enemies.
I take this time to point out the work of A. Philip Randolph, the great African-American trade unionist and democratic socialist. Randolph, like King recognized the intersection of race and class in this country, and believed in the trade union movement as a means of advancement for African-Americans. The A. Philip Randolph Institute carries on his work, encouraging Black participation in unions and encouraging electoral activity. You can find out more about it at apri.org.
2012 marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Other America, the classic study of poverty in this the richest nation on the planet, by the great American Socialist and patriot Michael Harrington. Alas, poverty is still very much with us, even more so, the gap between rich and poor widening, the “middle class” whittling away. I urge everyone within the sound of this newsletter to look up the Democratic socialist of America, the group Harrington founded, at www.dsausa.org.
SOME hope for sanity in our spending priorities: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced cuts in military spending, reducing ground forces, Army and Marine Corps, and focusing on Special Ops forces, focusing on quick deployment in case of emergency. Of course the Republicans act like tremendous military spending leads to greater military strength, and defense industries locate their plants in a variety of congressional districts, to make their constituents dependent on the plants for jobs; with cuts in military spending, the thinking goes, people in the plants lose their jobs, and the congress-members lose theirs as will, so the congress-members keep voting for MORE weapons systems that do NO good.
It’s clear that the US of A is getting out of the empire business, since the VAST network of bases all around the world is economically unfeasible; we simply CAN’T afford world domination through military means. Consciousness of this fact is seeping through to the public. Let the critique continue-THAT, mutually respectful discussion and debate, is the real patriotism. Bye!

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