Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Monday, January 18, 2010


Today we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King.  We owe much to him and his courage in fighting for civil rights for all American citizens.  He gave his life in service to that cause.  We all continue to hope that his dream for universal civil rights will be accorded to our gay and lesbian citizens. And we hope that the unalienable right to universal health care will become settled law, for without access to health care, our citizens cannot pursue Life, Liberty and Happiness.  Until that day comes, Dr. King's dream is unfulfilled.

"[D]espite uncertainty and in the midst of profound changes in the two fields, health and human rights are increasingly understood and felt to be—actually—two entirely complementary ways of speaking about—and working to ameliorate—human suffering in all its forms and whenever it occurs. We share a confidence in the future—and in our ability to contribute—each in our own ways and yet together to the healing of the world. Martin Luther King, perhaps the greatest American of [the 20th] century, said "the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice. ..." This is our modesty, also our boldness, also our aspiration—and together we form a multitude." --Jonathan Mann, MD, MPH

Dr. King's Letter from a Birmingham jail:

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"


Anonymous said...

This blog is a bunch of propaganda

dmarks said...

Propaganda, as usual meaning "facts, discussion, or opinion that I happen to dislike"

Shaw Kenawe said...

I don't know who this "Anonymous" dude or dudess is but he/she keeps coming to my blog, complaining about what he/she voluntarily reads.


Poor soul.

Joe said...

I loved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I marched with him in St. Augustine, Florida.

His emphasis was always civil rights for black Americans, and that's where the emphasis should be. In general, he did not deal with other social ills.

To prostitute his beliefs into some imaginary set of civil rights to any other group is pure heresy.

And by the way, where did you get the idea that we have an unalienable right to universal health care? Did you just make that up, or is there some evidence for it in our heritage? Was there an outcry for it by our founders? By leaders in our first century as a nation? Where?

Is it just some,"It seems to me" kind of thing? Is it self evident?

Shaw Kenawe said...

Without health care reform, millions and millions of Americans cannot pursue Life, Liberty, and Happiness. Here is what the DoI says:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Without the ability to maintain one's health, those unalienable Rights cannot be attained. Not one of them. So I stand by my opinion that access to health care is an unalienable Right.

Joe said:

"His emphasis was always civil rights for black Americans, and that's where the emphasis should be. In general, he did not deal with other social ills.'

That is not accurate.

Before Dr. King's assassination, he had been outspoken about his opposition to the Vietnam war, a very big social issue. At the time of his death he was in Memphis, TN, to support the black sanitary workers' boycott in that city.


Shaw Kenawe said...

And to claim he was about civil rights only for African-Americans is not accurate either:

Harry C. Boyte, a self-proclaimed populist, field secretary of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and white civil rights activist describes an episode in his life that gives insight on some of King's influences:

"My first encounter with deeper meanings of populism came when I was nineteen, working as a field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in St. Augustine, Florida in 1964. One day I was caught by five men and a woman who were members of the Ku Klux Klan. They accused me of being a "communist and a Yankee." I replied, "I'm no Yankee – my family has been in the South since before the Revolution. And I'm not a communist. I'm a populist. I believe that blacks and poor whites should join to do something about the big shots who keep us divided." For a few minutes we talked about what such a movement might look like. Then they let me go.

When he learned of the incident, Martin Luther King, head of SCLC, told me that he identified with the populist tradition and assigned me to organize poor whites."

And this:

Martin Luther King Jr. expressed a view that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs. In an interview conducted for Playboy in 1965, he said that granting black Americans only equality could not realistically close the economic gap between them and whites. King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of US$50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups. He posited that "the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils". He presented this idea as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor but clarified that he felt that the money should not be spent exclusively on blacks. He stated, "It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races".

And this:

In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the "Poor People's Campaign" to address issues of economic justice. The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C. demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States. King traveled the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created a bill of rights for poor Americans.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Joe asked:

"And by the way, where did you get the idea that we have an unalienable right to universal health care? Did you just make that up, or is there some evidence for it in our heritage? Was there an outcry for it by our founders? By leaders in our first century as a nation? Where?

Is it just some,"It seems to me" kind of thing? Is it self evident?"

I do believe our Right to universal health care is self-evident, because none of those unalienable Rights set out in the DoI is attainable if one is ill or forced into bankrupty because of illness.

The Founding Fathers could not foresee all that would be necessary for this nation to grow and prosper, and I believe a healthy population is need for that and for our economy, since health care costs are now a budget breaking expense and will continue to spiral out of control if nothing is done.

Remember, there was no “outcry” for ending slavery at the birth of this nation. The Founding Fathers actually made a pact with the “Devil” by agreeing not to visit that issue for 20 years in order to get the southern states to ratify the Constitution. And the “Devil” most certainly got his due in the form of 600,000 American lives because of that compromise.

Andrew L. said...


you should have pput this quote by MLK in your answer to the "Joe" guy about health care reform:

"Of all the forms of inequality," he said, "injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."

Looks to me like MLK would have been in favor of Obama's health care fight--a "social" issue.

And he said this too, about social programs:

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom."

Those are MLK's words.

dmarks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dmarks said...

""A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom."

So let's see: In 2008, the Federal government spent $1203 billion on just SS, Medicare and Medicaid alone. That's not counting HUD, HHS, federal education spending, and other welfare programs (or the many billions that states spend on welfare, without spending a dime on national defense).

This dwarfs the $661 billion spent on the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and the war on terror. That's the entire military budget. So we weren't doing what Dr. King feared last year (and before), and I doubt we are doing that now.

The statement "Looks to me like MLK would have been in favor of Obama's health care fight--a "social" issue.", is probably a safe guess. But I wonder if Dr. King, if he were alive today, would be making speeches against how the current healthcare plan forces families to divert money from food and shelter into insurance plans they may not need, and how it includes welfare for the rich and provisions designed to drive up the cost of healthcare..... and how the current focus is on increasing the number of people with insurance plans, as opposed to increasing quality healthcare.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andrew L. said...


Looks to me like MLK would have been in favor of Obama's health care fight--a "SOCIALIST" issue.

Martin Luther King might appreciate the fact that these wars were not of Obama's making, and that he did not vote in support of the wars in the first place. On the other hand, MLK would SURELY balk at the audacity of Obama to accept the Nobel Peace Prize while justifying increased military presence in Afghanistan.

By the way, I voted for Gore and not Nader as I was going to. I'm done with that. I won't do it again. I'll have to see some REAL change that I believe in for Obama to get MY vote in 2012. Not the Socialist path that he following now.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Andrew L.,

People who are quick to label anything that Mr. Obama proposes as "socialism" are somewhat naive IMHO.

Americans have been living under different forms of socialism for decades. Farm subsidies. Ever hear of those? Do you contribute via your taxes to your police and fire departments? Local schools?Medicare?

Following this line of thought, any aspect of society involving government intervention, regulation or management can be described as “socialistic”. So one could attach that adjective to everything from public health care and education to highways and the armed forces. Stretched to this point, the concept of socialism loses all meaning – it is used to describe too much and ends up elucidating nothing.

The word "socialism" does not scare me. But it seems to leave certain groups of people livid with rage or cowering in a corner.

Some of the most stable societies in the world are socialist in nature (see Scandinavia, Europe, Japan) and their people the most content.

In many aspects, we Americans are already socialists.

Boo! Did I scare you?

We are not a purely capitalist society, and socialist societies have a mix of capitalism in them as well.

I'm not an expert in this, but I do try to go beyond words that are tossed about with the intent of confusing and scaring people.

If my 8-armed friend, (O)CT(O)PUS stops by, I'm sure he will contribute more expert input than I have.

Andrew L. THE FIRST ONE! said...


The "Andrew L" @January 19, 2010 7:30 am is NOT me, the first one when I commented on January 18, 2010 4:37 PM.

The second "Andrew L" is NOT me. Whoever it is didn't have the brains to make up another name or it is just trying to ppull a fast one. Troll alert!

Arthurstone said...

The US defense budget accounts for roughly one half of discretionary government spending.

Given that we have two lengthy undefended borders with peaceful neighbors on either side and given we have an ocean off either coast providing considerable natural protection for the nation it's a bit surprising we account for roughly 42% of global 'defense' spending. That is, we spend roughly as much as the rest of the world COMBINED.

Imagine how much it would cost if we had an actual opponent.

dmarks said...

Discretionary spending is but part of the entire budget. All of which is discretionary, in a way, since Congress can pass laws to change what is done with the supposedly hands-off mandatory part. The mandatory spending is not that mandatory at all, since the statutes that keep it in place are put there and can be removed through the legislative process.

So, when talking of spending, it is the least misleading to speak of the entire actual budget. In the figures I looked at, I ignored both the trick of, in 2008, not counting the Iraq War as part of the budget, and not counting "mandatory" spending as part of the budget. Just real figures.

WB Arthur!!!