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Martin Luther King

Two visions: Beyond Vietnam, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Two visions: Beyond Vietnam, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

(source link -- full transcript available here).

It is safe to say that the size, visibility, and intensity of the protest against the Vietnam War -- not only within the US but worldwide -- dwarfs anything that has developed during the fourteen years of US military action in the Middle East and elsewhere since 2001. 

To say this is not to cast aspersions at those who are raising their voices for peace and against war in the present day -- far from it. It is simply stating an objective fact, impossible to deny, to say that the level of widespread turbulence that rolled through nearly every aspect of society during those years, focused primarily although not exclusively on opposition to that war, was on quite another level than anything seen since then, in terms of opposition to a war or military intervention.

For instance, there are a huge number of popular songs from that period which were seen as anti-war anthems. Just about anyone today, off the top of their head, could easily name one or more of the major antiwar songs from that period (especially if the person you ask is over the age of 40).  On the other hand, trying to name an anti-war song with the same widespread impact from the past fourteen years would be much more challenging.

It is also a nearly undeniable fact that the size, breadth, and intensity of the anti-war sentiment during those years was a major factor in finally bringing about the end of the direct US military involvement in Vietnam. 

image: Vietnam War protest, May 1970 (link).

If someone from 1967 who opposed that conflict were to be transported suddenly to today, he or she might be astonished at the lack of widespread voices for peace and against military intervention and war which continues with an intensity and level of destruction of human life that is as horrible as that which took place in that now-bygone decade.

The protests and outrage seem to have drained away between that era and this.

And yet many of the circumstances and US policy actions which led to the widespread moral outrage voiced from so many different outlets and from men and women of so many different walks of life during the 1960s and early 1970s can be applied directly to events taking place at home and abroad today.

In fact, when one reads the statements from some of the leading voices against the war from that time, such those delivered with such power by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in the speech above, from 1967, it feels as though they are talking directly to us today, and describing circumstances and actions and situations all too familiar.

For example, consider the following hard-hitting arguments found in the extended quotation from the speech below. Note first that one need not simply "read" the quotation -- you can actually hear Martin Luther King delivering them himself, in a recording made on the day he gave this speech in New York City, on April 4, 1967 -- exactly one year before the day he was murdered.

Most people have heard at least parts of his famous I Have a Dream speech. However, it is incredibly sad but true that far fewer have heard this speech, entitled Beyond Vietnam, at all -- let alone in its entirety. And yet, as Dr. King himself makes abundantly clear throughout this speech, he saw the issues he was speaking against with regard to the Vietnam War as stretching beyond Vietnam, and as related to all the other issues which he addressed and for which he is so well known.

They go so far beyond Vietnam that they apply very distinctly to this day and age in which we now find ourselves living.

The entire speech deserves to be heard in order to feel the full force of Dr. King's moral clarity, as well as to see the full scope of his carefully-developed argument.

If you have never listened to that speech which Martin Luther King gave on that day, I urge you to listen to it in its entirety. The full text and a link to the audio can be found here

 (and other speeches by Dr. King are available at that same site, in a list found  here).

You can also find it in the form of a file (options here) that could be downloaded to a portable device or onto a CD, in order to listen to it while driving, and by hearing it more than once gain a greater appreciation for the connections he is pointing out.

Lest some mistakenly protest that by speaking against the US war in Vietnam, Dr. King was displaying a lack of concern for the people of Vietnam, who had experienced severe oppression and brutalization under corrupt and criminal leaders, or for the "troops" -- the masses of largely conscripted draftees sent from the US and other countries to fight in Vietnam -- please consider carefully the following extended quotation from Dr. King's speech that day:

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 hopes of men the world over. So 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.
[. . .]
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself fro ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta of Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
They must see Americans as strange liberators. [. . .] Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They known they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs. 
So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. [. . .]
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and killed their men. [. . .]
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.
Surely this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: Thegreat initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:
"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism." Unquote.
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply form our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.
I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.
Five: Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.
Part of our ongoing -- [applause continues] -- part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.  Meanwhile -- [applause] -- meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.
As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is a path now chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing.
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality -- if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation.  They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. So such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
[. . .]
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
[. . .]
We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.
[. . .]
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now, some readers may be wondering what yesterday's post and today's topic, as important as they are, have to do with the subject of ancient wisdom and the analysis of the sacred myths, traditions, and scriptures of humanity.

Let me take a moment to clarify the connection.

First, it is quite evident from Dr. King's speech that he was in large part motivated, moved, and compelled to take the stand that he took from his correct reading of the true message of the ancient wisdom of humanity, preserved in the scriptures of the human race.

I believe that a central message in the ancient myths, scriptures and sacred traditions (which we can refer to as the "ancient wisdom" for the sake of brevity) entrusted to the human race is the message that each individual man, woman and child is not just a physical, material, "animal" being but instead is a spiritual, invisible, immaterial, and in fact divine nature which is "crossed" with a physical and material component during this incarnate life.

That this invisible and spiritual component in each individual man, woman and child is in fact infinite in nature and reflects and resonates with the entire infinite cosmos -- a concept expressed in the principle of "as above, so below" and in many other allegorical ways that the ancient wisdom traditions use to try to convey this truth to us.

As such, each and every individual man, woman and child has inherent and inalienable dignity and inherent and inalienable rights, and that violence against the person or the dignity and rights of any individual man, woman or child is a crime against the entire balance of the universe, and is in fact a crime of infinite proportion (because the invisible and spiritual component in each person is infinite in nature, reflecting the infinite universe around and within him or her).

This message is so clearly present in the ancient myths that it hardly bears debate or discussion -- although it is true that mistaken and especially literalistic misinterpretation of the ancient wisdom of humanity can lead some to obscure, miss, or even totally invert that message (see for example previous discussions here, here, here and here).

I believe it can also be shown that another very central (and closely related) message in the collective body of scriptures, traditions and myths containing this ancient wisdom is the admonition to do what is right, without attachment to the consequences of doing what is right. 

This aspect is of course related to the first aspect, in that doing what is right generally involves upholding and enhancing the dignity of others, working towards the elevation and acknowledgement of the spiritual aspect within ourselves and others and indeed in the rest of creation around us -- and simultaneously working against that which tends to degrade or deny or beat down the spiritual aspect and to "reduce to the physical" or "reduce to the animal" in ourselves and in others and indeed in the rest of creation around us.

This can also be expressed as blessing rather than cursing (a theme which is powerfully evident throughout the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as well as throughout other containers of humanity's ancient wisdom found literally around the world).

The central message of doing what is right, without regard for the outcome can be found at the heart of the Bhagavad Gita, for example, where the Lord Krishna begins an extended teaching to Arjuna in chapter 6 with the words: 

anasritah karma-phalam karyam karma karoti
yah sa sannyasi ca yogi ca na niragnir na cakriyah. 

Which the translation found on this website indicates to mean (I paraphrase):

without expectation of the result of the actions
enacting obligatory prescribed actions
that one is truly a yogi
not one without prescribed duties (i.e. the definition of a yogi is not to be misunderstood to mean "one without prescribed duties")
nor one who merely follows the ascetic path of renunciation.

In other words, the path of ancient wisdom was not meant to be misunderstood as teaching "non-action" or abdication of one's duty and obligation towards the cosmos and other creatures and other human beings -- far from it.

The paradox of "non action" means "acting as if not acting" -- that is, as if completely unattached to the outcome in terms of "fear of consequences" or "hope for reward."

That is: Acting with the calm tranquility of one who is not acting. Not "not acting at all," but rather "acting with the calmness of one who is not even doing it."

Krishna spends much time elucidating this concept of "acting without acting" in the Gita, and the Tao Te Ching dwells upon the same message as well, using closely-related language and closely-related imagery, as explored by Professor Victor Mair in the afterword to his translation of the Tao Te Ching (an afterword which all by itself is worth more than the price of the book, even without counting the tremendous value of Professor Mair's translation of the Tao Te Ching, which of course is priceless).

Which brings us to the conclusion that the ancient wisdom imparted to humanity teaches us that we have a duty to do what is right, and teaches us to do that "without expectation of the result," or "without attachment to the result."

In that famous speech delivered in Riverside Church in New York City, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated a powerful message against the US war in Vietnam, and expanded that message to extend "beyond Vietnam" -- to encompass a duty to stand against brutalization and violence in other spheres of life including at home.

During that speech, he expressed the fact that he felt a duty to speak out about what he was seeing -- even while acknowledging that the issues were perplexing in their complexity, and that "the ambiguity of the total situation" and our own "limited vision" as human beings often brings us to "the verge of being mesmerized with uncertainty." He admits how difficult it is to move "against all the apathy of conformist thought within in one's own bosom and in the surrounding world" (and note that the Bhagavad Gita also portrays Arjuna as filled with doubt, mesmerized with uncertainty, acknowledging the doubts within his own bosom -- and it is here that Krishna meets him and explains to him about doing what is right regardless of and without attachment to the result).

And in that speech Martin Luther King also states quite explicitly what moves him to speak and act against the institutionalized violence and oppression he saw taking place, even in spite of all the internal resistance of doubt within his own bosom and in spite of all the external doubts expressed by others around him -- and he states quite clearly that it was the message he received from the ancient scriptures contained in the Bible, and the change that message had awakened in him, and the relationship he had with those teachings and with the personal divine force he encountered through them, that caused him to speak and to act, even in spite of all the misgivings from within and without him, as best as he could see  to do from one day to the next.

And, to conclude (although much more could be said), Dr. King explicitly articulated the theme of the "Two Visions" which has been the subject of many previous posts. That is to say, the two different views of the world which come from the realization that we already have an internal connection to divinity, and thus everything that we truly need -- and the vision that comes from the loss of that knowledge, characterized by a chasing after of external substitutes, none of which can ever satisfy.

In the same speech cited above, Dr. King says:

We must rapidly begin, we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

This important speech, and Dr. King's genius in writing it and his courage in saying it, remain as relevant today as when it was first delivered -- or more relevant.

It is up to us to consider his words and the path we want to pursue.

image: Wikipedia (link).

Linked here are instructions on registering for the draft in the US, with conscientious objector status.

How long? Not long! Because no lie can live forever

How long? Not long! Because no lie can live forever

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

March 25, 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the culmination of the Selma civil rights marches, which finally arrived at the capitol of Alabama on March 25, 1965. 

Approximately twenty-five thousand marchers converged on the capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama and stayed there until they delivered their petition to the governor's representative.

There, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous speech referred to today by its rousing series of rhetorical questions during the finale: "How long? Not long!"

A written transcript of that speech can be read in its entirety here, and a portion of the actual speech given by Dr. King on that day fifty years ago can be heard and seen here.

And, on that same day fifty years ago, between 8:30 and 8:55 pm, Viola Liuzzo was murdered when the car in which she and Leroy Moton were traveling on highway 80 was fired upon by another vehicle.

Those not familiar with this terrible crime can (and should) seek to learn more -- a good start might be reading (or re-reading) the excellent examination of the sickening events of the murder and the events which led up to it and which followed afterwards, written by Mary Stanton, first published in 1998, entitled From Selma to Sorrow: The Life and Death of Viola Liuzzo.

Many questions remain regarding that tragic incident, around which many deliberate lies were fabricated for various reasons, all of them sinister.

It is clear that violence and deliberate deception are often used together in order to oppress people and to keep others from seeing the injustice that is being perpetrated.

It is clear that Martin Luther King was well aware of the central role which lies always play in the perpetration of such injustice and oppression -- and that he was aware that for those lies to lose their power, the truth must be made known.

In his speech How long? Not long! delivered on that day, fifty long years ago and yet not so long ago, he proclaims:

How long will it take? Somebody's asking: "How long will prejudice blind the visions of men?"
I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment -- however frustrating the hour: 
It will not be long.  Because truth crushed to earth will rise again.
How long? Not long!
Because no lie can live forever.
How long? Not long!
Because ye shall reap what ye sow.
How long? Not long! 

Selma: Natural Universal Law vs. Artificial Legalities

Selma: Natural Universal Law vs. Artificial Legalities

Fifty years ago, on the 7th of March, 1965, the first attempted march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama along US 80 to protest unjust, illegal, unconstitutional, racially-motivated restrictions on voting -- as well as recent deadly police violence -- was broken up by "law officers" and "deputies" using clubs, whips, cattle prods, tear gas, and physical barehanded violence.

The violence of that day was captured on film and video and shown around the country and around the world, and that first march became known as "Bloody Sunday." It was a tremendous turning point in public opinion, and the disgust that it generated, among those who saw the images of violence against unarmed, non-violent men and women and even children, finally accomplished changes which decades of litigation in the court system could not achieve in the unjust courts which were dominated in many cases by those who also supported racial oppression.

It is quite possible to make the argument that the nonviolent marches beginning in Selma were deliberately designed to bring into the light of day -- to reveal and make obvious -- the officially-condoned, soul-crushing reign of violence and racial oppression that had been going on for decades in the United States but which had been largely ignored, excused, and overlooked by those not directly threatened by it. 

This is the argument proposed by David J. Garrow in Protest at Selma: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, published in 1978, a book which began from a thesis he began in 1973 while a student at Wesleyan College and which as a book won the 1979 Chastain Award of the Southern Political Science Association for "best book on politics, government, or public administration in the US South."

In that book, he presents evidence that:

The first federal attempts to protect southern blacks' right to vote [. . .], based upon the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, employed a litigative strategy of enforcement which placed much faith in the federal courts' ability to rectify racial discrimination in the electoral process. As we shall see, this faith was badly misplaced. Recalcitrant, obstructionist judges in most southern jurisdictions all but stifled the Justice Department's attacks on voting-related racial discrimination and harassment. Only minute gains in black registration and voting resulted from the Justice Department's long and costly attempts to eliminate racial discrimination in the electoral processes of several dozen southern counties. Recently one scholar has asserted that the courts eventually would have proven successful in effectively enforcing southern blacks' right to vote. Consideration and analysis of this claim shows how erroneous it is. 5.

It was not until the events of "Bloody Sunday" that people around the country finally became sickened by the spectacle of seeing on a large scale and in undeniable images and film footage the kind of violence and ugliness which had been operating in the shadows and on a more individual-scale for decades but which -- for whatever reason -- they had not previously considered and had therefore tolerated, ignored, or "excused away."

This view of the events of Selma in March of 1965 is incredibly important, I believe, for a number of reasons, because it shows that:

  • "Artificial legalities" were being used to thwart natural universal law. Natural universal law says that no one has a right to use force to stop another person from doing something lawful (nonviolent) such as voting, assembling peaceably, riding in a car with another person regardless of the color of their skin, or protecting their mother from assault -- and certainly no one has the right to use deadly force and thereby kill someone for any of the above actions. Artificial "laws" (which really are illegal and hence no laws at all, which is why they will be referred to here as "legalities" instead) are often written which supposedly bestow upon some men or women a free pass to violate the rights of other men and women, or even to use physical force against them to oppress them and deny them of their human rights and dignity.
  • These artificial legalities ("artificial legalities" in this case being used as a term to describe those laws on the books which are deliberately designed to subvert or "get around" the requirements of natural law, and in doing so to do violence to the natural law rights of some group of men and women) are often supported by a variety of mental "smokescreens" or "illusions" (or "paradigms," or "narratives") which prevent their careful examination by those not directly violated by them. We could use a shorter, blunter word and call them "lies." These lies or illusions, when widespread among the general populace, act to prevent outrage which could in fact bring about the rejection of those artificial legalities. Because of this fact, in these types of extreme cases, attempts to address obvious natural-law violations through the courts can be thwarted by what Garrow calls "recalcitrant, obstructionist judges" -- that is, judges who do not care about natural universal law but actually wanted to continue a system built upon the violation of natural universal law, which they assisted by their reliance upon artificial legalities.
  • In reality, the judges and their artificial legalities are only a small piece of the puzzle: the bigger piece is the perception of the public at large. There were some men and women who actually used physical violence against blacks, in a way that was almost "casual" in its brutality (Garrow, 228).  These acts of outright violence were enabled by the courts and the system of artificial legality described above -- but they were also enabled by the many more people, not just in the south but around the country, who were neither judges nor active perpetrators of violence themselves, but who supported, overlooked, condoned, or otherwise excused the racism and thus the violence and the violations of the rights and dignity of other men and women.
  • As long as that larger body of men and women -- the ones who generate that nebulous thing known as "public opinion" -- did not examine their support of the violations of natural law that were taking place, the courts could continue to use artificial legalities to paper over clear violations of natural law, and those who were accustomed to actually inflicting almost "casual" forms of physical violence against other men and women based on the color of their skin could get away with it, often with complete impunity. 
  • In other words: there were enough judges (and juries) in the courts who were devoted to a system that clearly violated natural universal law, and which condoned systemic, brutal, often murderous violence against some men and women in the society. As long as enough people in the "society at large" either consciously supported that same unjust system, or simply failed to examine it and thus failed to become outraged by it, these courts could use their artificial legalities to thwart natural universal law, and those criminals who actually perpetrated violence against African-American men and women and children could do so with impunity.
  • That is why a strategy of simply trying to go through the courts would not work and did not work from 1957 to 1965 (or in decades before 1957, as there actually were voting rights acts on the books going back to the 1800s).
  • The events at Selma in 1965 represented a completely different approach, a new strategy: the attempt to appeal to the inherent sense of natural law and human dignity in the public-at-large. While there will always be some upon whom such an appeal will not work, if the majority of people become outraged at clear violations of natural universal law, the artificial legalities can be swept aside by the tide of public opinion. The key is to wake people up to the point that they examine the assumptions and illusions -- in fact, the lies -- which they had been listening to or subscribing to without questioning or examining up to that point.
  • David Garrow's 1978 book presents specific evidence that the marches originating in Selma, Alabama were deliberately designed to bring about a situation in which the injustice of the system that controlled the courts and the agents of "law enforcement" in Alabama would be on full display to the world.

Note that the assertion that the Selma marches were part of a deliberate strategy of nonviolence as a means of waking people up to injustice does not in any way suggest that they were somehow less-than-authentic, or that the very real injuries and violence and abuse (and even loss of life) that participants suffered as a result of their decision to march (or their decision to shuttle marchers back in their cars afterwards) are in any way less valid.

On the contrary, as the evidence shows, other methods of ending the institutionalized discrimination and oppression and violence were not working. A strategy of peaceful protest in a city and county where the police and sheriffs and deputies would be likely to exhibit on a large scale the almost "casual" violence that individual black men and women were at risk of encountering on an individual scale at just about any moment in their daily lives if they violated the unwritten norms and mores of that society was both courageous and intelligent -- and it turned out to be extremely effective, at least in terms of securing the ability to register to vote. 

It was also an extremely moral strategy -- it appealed to natural universal law, and it appealed to the higher aspect of human nature, the spiritual aspect of human nature.

Racism, violence, and other violations of natural law are by their very nature degrading, brutalizing, de-spiritualizing. If every human being has a physical component and a spiritual component, racism and violence emphasize the physical component and attempt to deny the spiritual component. 

They emphasize the visible and deny the invisible. 

They emphasize our animal nature and deny the inner, hidden, but undeniable divine spark present in each and every human being.

Thus violence and racism and the lies that support and enable them act to pervert and reverse the teachings of the collective ancient sacred teachings of humanity, which (I believe) can be shown to be designed to help us recognize and emphasize and "coax out" the invisible, spiritual, hidden-and-almost-forgotten divine spark inside ourselves and others and the world around us. 

We can say this succinctly by saying that violence and racism, by their very nature, curse and do not bless.

The violence displayed against the marchers at Selma in March of 1965 place this brutalizing aspect of racism on full display: white "law officers" and "deputies" (many of these deputies being private citizens, "deputized" and given clubs to use against the marchers) used whips, cattle prods, and horses against the marchers in Selma, as well as clouds of tear gas which is composed of pulverized glass and attacks the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth, causing the eyes to burn and begin to flow with tears and the nose and lungs to burn and begin to flow with mucous -- thus emphasizing the body and bodily functions and pulling the consciousness down from any sort of higher considerations to the problem of wiping off the snot that is hanging down like long icicles from one's own nostrils, and figuring out how to get fresh breaths of air into one's lungs without choking or gasping or vomiting.

In previous civil rights marches (notably in Birmingham), police also let big German shepherd police dogs brutalize marchers, leaping at them and biting them and ripping their clothes off. They also turned powerful firehoses on men and women, which is also extremely brutalizing. (Photo gallery).

Garrow recounts some of the injuries after the march at Selma:

The parsonage next door to Brown's Chapel became one treatment center, as the New York doctors and nurses treated the less seriously injured, most of whom were suffering from the effects of the tear gas. At Good Samaritan Hospital several blocks away, fifty to sixty marchers were treated, and seventeen were admitted. Injuries included fractured ribs and wrists, severe head gashes, broken teeth, and what was thought to be a fractured skull sustained by SNCC's John Lewis. More than half a dozen others  were treated at the Burwell Infirmary. Estimates of the total of injured ran as high as ninety to one hundred. 76.

Even after the marchers had retreated to the churches, "tear gas was fired into the First Baptist Church, and lawmen threw a black teenager through a window" (76).

Some human beings are so gripped by a consuming mental lie that they will not recoil at such an exhibition of violating the rights of other men and women for the non-crime of peaceably assembling to protest a culture of institutionalized racist violence and severe voter registration discrimination by walking across a bridge and down a highway,* but most know that such brutality is profoundly wrong. Garrow cites first-hand accounts by people around the country after watching the news that night of Bloody Sunday, and being shocked and outraged.

I believe this analysis of the Selma marches is extremely important in any struggle against the systematic, institutionalized violation of natural universal law and human rights. 

The peaceful marchers at Selma did not have "superior physical force" to match what the law enforcement personnel (and the private citizen "deputies") brought to bear against them. In fact, the peaceful marchers did not have weapons at all, while those who opposed them had weapons, tear gas, helmets, and in some cases even horses.

What they did have, however, was truth on their side. Systems which say that it is excusable to violate the natural human rights of another man or woman, and even to use physical violence against them for virtually any arbitrary reason whatsoever, can only be supported by lies. 

We are all, sadly, capable of accepting stunning lies and of overlooking grievous violence -- even of condoning it or promoting and praising it. The illusions or paradigms or smokescreens or narratives that we accept and buy into, and which can blind us or numb us to the criminality of what is taking place literally all around us -- and which we are in fact enabling and supporting through our failure to examine the assumptions underlying those narratives or paradigms. 

Until something blows that fog of illusion away, rolls back the smokescreen, we probably will not exhibit any outrage, because we remain willfully blind to the outrages that are taking place.

In such an environment, criminals can perpetrate acts of almost "casual" violence with impunity. In extreme situations, the courts will look the other way, fail to convict those criminals of their crimes, and actively seek to subvert natural law through twisted structures composed of artificial legalities.

The leaders of the Civil Rights movement eventually realized that their plan of going through the courts first was being thwarted, obstructed, and subverted by some of those who were running the courts themselves. They hit upon the strategy of appealing directly to the general public at large -- behind whose apathy those criminal violations were being allowed to continue with impunity.

The events of Bloody Sunday were an absolutely historic turning point which led to a widespread re-examination of previously unquestioned assumptions, paradigms, and lies -- and which led many to reject those previously unexamined paradigms. It had dramatic results. Of course, there has been more progress in some areas of ending racially-based violations of rights than in others, and so the process of calling for the examination of assumptions, paradigms and narratives must go on.

There is much, much more that could be said about the details of the events leading up to the Selma marches, and about the importance of what took place in Selma and other cities in the South fifty years ago. Far too little of the truly ugly and disturbing details of some of the violence that took place before and after the actual marches is ever studied or discussed or examined in classrooms or in "the news," with the result being that far too little of it is examined and considered for its applicability to our individual lives and to the situations we find ourselves facing today.

We owe it to ourselves to seek out and study this information and this history on our own. And, we owe it to those who at great personal risk to their own physical security participated in those marches so many years ago: we should learn as much as we can about what they were really facing in their lives, and to learn the lesson that they taught us about the importance of natural universal law, about the ability of peaceful protest to blow away the fog of lies, about the courage to stand up to violence and injustice, about human dignity, and ultimately about the elevation of the human spirit -- about blessing -- and about refusing to be dragged down by people or forces or systems that want to degrade and brutalize us.


and, by the way, the artificial excuse that Sheriff Clark had put US Highway 80 "off limits" due to possible public safety concerns and that the assembly was thus "unlawful" is a canard, as Clark had in previous months authorized his lawmen to use billy clubs -- and used his own billy club -- to prevent blacks from entering by the front door of the courthouse, and to force them into a side alley where they and their protest against voter registration discrimination would be more out of sight, and as no one can argue that preventing them from going in the front door was a "public safety concern," neither can we believe that Sheriff Clark was really issuing his injunction against the marchers because he had "public safety concerns" about their crossing the bridge or walking down the side of the highway in this peaceful protest.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (01/15/1929 - 04/04/1968): "But if not" and the moral law of the universe

Martin Luther King, Jr. (01/15/1929 - 04/04/1968): "But if not" and the moral law of the universe

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born this day -- January 15 -- in 1929.

Above is an audio track of the sermon entitled "But if not," delivered by Dr. King on November 05, 1967 -- only five months before his earthly life was violently ended by a cowardly criminal act of assassination.

Dr. King was a powerful and eloquent orator, and his words speak for themselves. If you have never listened to his sermons before -- and even if you have -- his birthday is an appropriate day to listen to them again, and this sermon is rightfully famous.

While Dr. King's message needs no elaboration or additional explanation, a few particular points impressed me as being especially worthy of brief comment (below -- you may prefer to listen to Dr. King's sermon first).

Here are a few brief comments for those interested -- but of course the entire sermon is deeply moving and worthy of careful consideration from start to finish. Longer direct quotations from the sermon are printed in a blue font in order to make it easier to distinguish those quotations:

  • The title of the sermon is taken from the scriptural passage in the Book of Daniel, chapter 3 and verse 18. There, the three Hebrew youths who have in their captivity been given the Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, famously declare that they will not bow down to the king's idols, and specifically they will not bow before and worship the golden image he has raised in the plain of Dura, and that they will trust their God for deliverance, knowing that he can save them -- "But if not," they concede (that is, even if he does not deliver them), they will still do what is right and obey the law of God over the arbitrary and tyrannical proclamation of the king. 
  • In this sermon, Dr. King points to this story as an example of civil disobedience. Beginning at 03:30 in the track above, he defines civil disobedience, saying: "Now I want you to notice first here that these young men practiced civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the refusal to abide by an order of the government or of the state or even of the court that your conscience tells you is unjust. Civil disobedience is based on a commitment to conscience. In other words, one who practices civil disobedience is obedient to what he considers a higher law. And there comes a time when a moral man can't obey a law which his conscience tells him is unjust."
  • Without using the terminology of natural law as articulated by abolitionist and political philosopher Lysander Spooner in the 1800s, Dr. King draws the exact same distinction that Spooner draws, between artificial (or man-made) law and natural law (which Dr. King calls "conscience," "higher law," "moral law," or "eternal and divine law" in this sermon). In other words, both declare any immoral "law" to be no law at all -- Spooner using the example of the Fugitive Slave Acts in the United States, and Dr. King using the example of criminal acts perpetrated in Nazi Germany under Hitler which were "legal" but only in the sense of artificial law -- they were actually immoral and illegal and Dr. King declares he would have openly disobeyed them. Warming to this theme, he declares beginning at the 06:50 mark in the above audio: "And so it is important to see -- that there are times -- when a man-made law is out of harmony with the moral law of the universe; there are times when human law is out of harmony with eternal and divine law: and when that happens, you have an obligation to break it. And I'm happy that in breaking it, I have some good company!"
  • He later connects this obligation to resist man-made laws which oppose the moral and eternal and divine law with the statement by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in Daniel 3:18 beginning with "But if not." Dr. King explains that our obligation to oppose immoral law is not dependent upon being spared from negative consequences in doing so, nor is it dependent upon being promised positive rewards for doing so: it must be done because it is the right thing to do. This leads him directly to his soaring and justly famous conclusion, a portion of which is quoted next, beginning just prior to the 17:00 mark in the above audio.
  • Notice that directly connected to his assertion that we must come to the place where we cannot but stand up for the moral law irregardless of reward or consequences is Dr. King's mention of the conventional doctrines of heaven and hell -- and he likewise declares that we do not simply decide to stand up for the right either for the promise of the one or the fear of the other. At 16:46, building to a crescendo, Dr. King proclaims: "What does this mean? It means in the final analysis, you do right NOT to avoid hell. If you're doing right merely to keep from going to something that traditional theology has called 'hell,' then you're not doing right. If you do right merely to go to a condition that theologians have called 'heaven,' you aren't doing right. If you are doing right to avoid pain, and to achieve happiness and pleasure, then you aren't doing right. Ultimately, you must do right because it's RIGHT to do right. You've gotta say, 'But if not.'"
  • It is impossible not to notice that Dr. King's framing of the concepts of heaven and hell as "something that traditional theology has called 'hell'" and "a condition that theologians have called 'heaven'" serve to call into question the traditional or conventional (that is to say, "literal") understanding of those two concepts, and to distance himself those traditional literal theological interpretations. The fact that Dr. King here appears to strongly call into question the traditional literal understanding of those two ideas is in keeping with the argument put forward in the preceding post (and elsewhere in other previous discussions), that the literal interpretation of the scriptures can be (and historically has been) used to control thought and behavior and even to oppress and enslave, whereas the sacred scriptures and ancient teachings of humanity (including those in the Bible) were actually intended uplift (and not oppress), to liberate (and not enslave). For further discussion of the likelihood that the concepts of both hell and heaven in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments relate to celestial metaphors connected to spiritual teachings about our incarnate condition, rather than to literal places of eternal punishment or reward as they have been interpreted by literalistic theologians (and then used as convenient tools to control thought and behavior), please see "No hell below us . . ." and "A land flowing with milk and honey."
  • This aspect of Dr. King's sermon is very important, because the entire thrust of his sermon is to place the moral obligation of "doing right," including when necessary civil disobedience to immoral laws, upon an ancient scriptural foundation. Following other researchers, including Mark Passio, I have argued that widespread institutionalized violations of natural law must necessarily be accompanied by some form of mind control: those techniques which are used to "hypnotize" large numbers of people into (wrongly) believing that violations of natural law are actually right or good or moral or acceptable. Misinterpreted, the Biblical scriptures have in fact been used in the past -- and continue to be used -- as an instrument of mind control, to condone oppression of one group by another, for example, or to condone the use of force for reasons other than protection against violence. But, this does not mean that we should "throw out" the Biblical scriptures, or any of the other ancient scriptures and traditions of humanity, just because they have in the past been twisted around to try to support the opposite of what they really mean. On the contrary, these ancient teachings, properly interpreted, actually stand against mind control (I believe). Dr. King in the above sermon clearly evidences a high regard for the ancient scriptures -- in this case, the Book of Daniel from the Hebrew Scriptures (or the "Old Testament") -- and I believe he can be seen to be using them in a way that dispels mind control and promotes human freedom and natural law.
  • Ultimately, I believe that open, non-violent civil disobedience itself is designed to call attention to ongoing violations of natural law (or, as Dr. King puts it, "human law out of harmony with eternal and divine law"), and to remove the "veil of legitimacy" which techniques of mind control attempt to throw over those violations of the natural law. By his willingness to face consequences while non-violently doing actions which do not violate natural law (but which may indeed break these "out of harmony human laws") -- the same willingness he connects back to Daniel chapter 3 and verse 18 -- Dr. King helped to "wake up" those who had previously been too hypnotized to notice that those human laws were actually profoundly immoral.

At the end of this famous sermon (beginning around 18:20), Dr. King declares that "if you have never found something so dear and so precious that you will to die for it," or if

"some great opportunity stands before you and CALLS upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause," and you refuse to do it because you are afraid, you refuse to "take the stand" as he puts it, then you will die inside. He prefaces these stirring words by saying "you may be 38 years old, as I happen to be" -- but those of us who are already older than that need not think that it is already too late for us to find such a cause, whether we are 48, or 68, or 88 or 108 years old! There is never a lack of need for the kind of willingness to stand up for justice that Dr. King proclaims in this sermon!

I would humbly suggest that, if we are unsure of what "great principle" that we ourselves might stand for, we could perhaps hardly go wrong if we decide to stand for natural law, which is the same as the universal law, the eternal law, the divine law, and the moral law. 

From there, we can be alert to identify places in which human law is, as Dr. King puts it,

"out of harmony with the moral law of the universe,"

and then to stand against them and to show others how they are illegitimate and ultimately illegal. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of such human laws and actions going on today, any more than there was in 1967.

Martin Luther King, Jr. clearly understood natural law, and the fact that natural law is woven into the very fabric of our universe. He understood that, because of this fact, widespread institutionalized violations of such law actually require forms of mind control, to veil their illegitimacy. He clearly understood the importance of exposing this mind control, in order to dispel it, and he saw that nonviolent civil disobedience was a way to seize the moral high ground and expose the illegitimacy of actions which run counter to natural universal law.

He also understood the importance and power of the ancient scriptures, and held them in high esteem, and he saw that they teach resistance to illegitimate artificial laws, and that the scriptures actually illustrate non-violent civil disobedience, and provide a basis and foundation for it.

All of these lessons, and the sermons of Dr. King, are as vital today as they have ever been. And, they are vitally important for our own well-being as moral individuals.


Martin Luther King and the war against consciousness

January 15, 2014 marks the 85th anniversary of the birth of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.  He would be turning 85 today if he had not been viciously murdered in 1968.

Dr. King's efforts to awaken the world to the injustices of institutionalized racism in the United States are, of course, well-known, as is his express commitment to non-violence in the pursuit of that goal and the goal of ending that injustice.

In recent posts about the sudden sharp rise in awareness about the inhumane treatment of captive orcas due to a 2013 documentary film, we have seen that one of the film's effects on viewers is to suddenly cause them to become aware of the extent to which a "status quo" which they basically took for granted their entire lives and never really thought to question has all along been built upon what this post called "a foundation of captivity and exploitation that propped it all up."  We have seen quotations from people who have woken up to the truth ask in disbelief, "How can anyone look at that and think that that is morally acceptable?"

The discussion argued that the film was basically shaking people out of a sort of "trance" state -- a state akin to that of someone under hypnosis, who is unaware of what is really going on right in front of them -- and that being in such a state is essentially the opposite of any definition of the term "consciousness."  To that extent, the effect of the film was to raise consciousness and dispel this harmful "trance" state.

Clearly, Dr. King's efforts during his life were efforts to raise consciousness in the very same way -- to wake people out of their stupor and into awareness of the horrible inhumanity and injustice that they were tolerating, even participating in and supporting by their actions (even if they weren't giving their support of this injustice very much conscious thought at all).

However, there were forces which we can only describe as forces aligned against consciousness that were violently opposed to Dr. King's efforts to awaken consciousness in the United States and the wider world.  While most people today are aware of Dr. King's legacy, many remain completely unaware of the nefarious campaign to discredit and destroy him in the eyes of the public, despite the fact that this nefarious campaign has been well documented and that it indisputably did take place.

Readers unfamiliar with this specific aspect of the war against consciousness, carried out by agents of the US government against black leaders and specifically against Dr. King, may want to start with this Wikipedia overview of the COINTELPRO activities of the federal government during that period.  They then might want to read the transcripts of the Church Committee Hearings that took place during the 1970s, after documents stolen from an FBI office revealed the existence of this program of institutionalized surveillance of citizens considered threats.

In this document, for example, the reader can see evidence being presented to congress that government agents staged a deliberate campaign to depose Dr. King, with one attorney saying of the FBI that "the Bureau at one point had a plan to select a leader who they thought ought to lead the blacks in this country, and at the same time to depose Martin Luther King, against whom they ran their most sustained and toughest program of any we have seen" (page 7 in the pagination of the original document, or page 16 of the pdf file linked). 

That campaign included planting bugs and wiretaps to record Dr. King's activities, in the hope of discrediting him.  Although the original congressional document linked above specifically states that the details of the surveillance data which was collected was being withheld from the record "out of consideration for the privacy of Dr. King's family" (see footnote on page 21 of the document as originally paginated, or page 30 of the pdf file), the section of this Wikipedia article on Dr. King entitled "allegations of adultery" cites evidence that the government surveillance included tape recordings of alleged extramarital affairs, which were then released to third parties and also mailed to Dr. King along with threatening notes.

This evidence of nefarious surveillance is extremely shocking and troubling, especially the evidence that suggests that there were specific government plans to remove Dr. King and replace him with a leader that the agents of the government felt would steer things in a direction that they liked better.  This despite the fact that Dr. King was specifically committed to non-violence and civil disobedience in the face of clear and aggressive injustice.

During the hearings, Senator Mondale asked an attorney (on page 42 of the original pagination, or page 51 of the pdf file), "What was the threat that the FBI believed that Martin Luther King posed to this country?"  The answer is telling:
You get different feelings on that, Senator, from the documents, but it is a threat of change.  There is a flavor running in there of an assertion that he was influenced by Communists, but that does never seem to be followed through on or proven what his actions were.  It was the threat of change, I would say.  [. . .] I think it is easy to underestimate the impact the concept of civil disobedience had on the Bureau in general and Mr. Hoover in particular.
This little exchange goes a long way towards demonstrating the fact that the true situation involved a battle between consciousness and mind control.  Dr. King had specifically disavowed violence, but his actions of civil disobedience posed a tremendous threat to people who did not want the consciousness of the public at large to be raised.  Because his actions were designed to increase consciousness, the enemies of consciousness saw him as a threat.

Dr. King proved that the most effective actions for consciousness and against oppression do not involve the use of force.  Oppression and the denial of natural rights always involves mind control, because human beings innately know what is wrong, even if they are often put into a trance state in which they stop seeing gross injustices being enacted right in front of them, gross injustices that they themselves might even be perpetuating.  The most dangerous thing for the forces of oppression is a situation in which those masses of people who are in a trance begin to wake up to the injustices that they themselves are supporting.

The war between consciousness and the forces of anti-consciousness goes on today.  Those who celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. know which side they are on in this conflict.

Martin Luther King Day

This year, the United States celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. day on Monday, January 16. His actual birthday was January 15, 1929.

The life and work of Dr. King opposed oppression and discrimination on the basis of race, particularly in the United States. This message, however, transcends any one specific national or cultural setting or time period.

It also transcends the discrimination against one specific "race," for he argued for a universal brotherhood of humanity and opposed violence against other human beings, whether physical violence or discriminatory behavior and oppression that is based on the threat of violence, even if no overt violence is present. This fact is clear from the expansive and stirring final words of his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, in which he declares:
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
From these words it is clear that his vision went beyond exclusion or oppression based upon any one specific way of dividing up the human family, but that he opposed exclusion based on ethnic grounds, religious grounds, and by extension all other grounds. It is also clear from his choice of language that he believed human equality was based upon the fact that all people are made in God's image, and that they can all be equally described as "God's children."

Another important aspect of Dr. King's example was his rejection of physical violence as a means of addressing grievances. In "Nonviolence: the Only Road to Freedom" (May 1966), he said:
Only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead us toward a community where men can live together without fear.
and also:
If one is in search of a better job, it does not help to burn down the factory. If one needs more adequate education, shooting the principal will not help, or if housing is the goal, only building and construction will produce that end. To destroy anything, person or property, can’t bring us closer to the goal that we seek.
This is an important topic which has been examined previously in posts such as "A Memorial Day mediation on the Mystery of Easter Island" and "How does barbarism win?" Both posts discuss situations in which grievances were apparently used as an excuse for violence against people designated as different or deserving of retaliatory violence.

Today, as we honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., it is very appropriate to consider these issues, and their implication for the future of civilization.