Jarrod McKenna wrote today, on this MLK day 2012, about the big problem so many Americans have in co-opting MLK and making him a “cheerleader” for whatever cause they please. I have heard this over and over from those who oppose the Occupy movement on the basis of “lawlessness” and seemingly the very idea of being critical of U.S. structures.
Aside from this being a huge irony for Tea Party folks to be saying this (since it is their claim that the Tea Party is opposing “big government” and that “big government” has reached its apex in the administration of Barak Obama. Their claim is that it is time foir citizens to rise up and say no to government intrusion. A rather stark critique of the status quo itself. And yet they are just as critical of others finding fault with the American system. They cannot even seem to bring themselves to a point of saying they support the right of the Occupiers to voice thier protest, rather they focus on accusations intended to discredit it altogether. (Another irony as well, since the oppositon to MLK in his day used practically all of the same criticisms and accusations being hurled at Occupy by its most ardent opponents today.
as Martin Luther King Jr day rolls around again in the United States, we are often presented with a figure that seems more like a cheerleader for the status quo rather than a prophetic challenge to it. Somehow, it seems we have made this dangerous figure very safe.
I have written before about how I suspect that the Tea Party is not really putting their energies behind challenging big government, but rather this particuar big government. When the GW BUsh administrstion grew the size and spending of government, the Tea Party was not “rising up” in protest. It was when Obama rose as challenger.
It turns out that the Tea Party is very much a defender of the status quo. We see it in their reactions to Occupy, and the lists of “connections” and “endorsements” being ciurculated regarding Occupy Wall Street. The same lists were offered up as white southerners (including the mainstream press, as Jarrod relates in this article) . These kinds of invective accusations and hearsay ratcheded up as King began to encompass issues of war and economics into his message.
Many in his movement began to criticize his widening of the circle of influence regarding what constitutes justice. King once said “I’ve worked too long and too hard against segregation to end up segregating my moral concerns. I’m not going to do that”.
When it comes to specific struggles, the status quo has a track record of fighting tooth and nail against the campaigns to bring injustices to light. As the society is forced to change, it will, as in the case of slavery and then, civil rights and MLK, adopt the language of those changes into the canon of public acceptance. But it continues to resist at each front where it is confronted by the people and asked to account for it’s inequitable behaviors and systems of perpetuating those inequities (which allows the status quo to appeal to the “workings” of that system as “neccessary” and “for the greater good”…..when it is , in reality, “for the good of a select few” who have the economic power to mold the educational systems and what Noam Chomsky calls the “manufacturing of consent”; the advertising , journalism, and education machine that is molded by the pressures of monied interests to fashion a system that benefits those who benefit most (and today, through Occupy, we are told that this is “the top 1%”). Fox, the Tea Party, GOP candidates (and, through their “silence”, the Democrats as well) insist that the critiques of OWS are promoting “class warfare”, and that the 1% “provide jobs” (even though as they are rewarded with more and more of the government revenues through increased tax relief, jobs have disappeared and income disparity has grown to its highest in recorded economic history). The system has continued to insist that “it’s working for all of us” solong, that it is finally come toa boiling point.
Arab Spring planted the seeds, as many were asking “what about our country?”, and Wisconsin’s reaction to Scott Walker’s radical moves to curtail unions (along with several other right wing GOP governors across the country) further ignited the spark. In 6 months time, Occupy Wall Street sparked a flame. What MLK saw as he began to organize the Poor People’s march is the Civil Rights movement of our day. MLK saw further down into the roots of injustice, the economics. The responsibilities of the richest nation on earth to its citizens, and even to the citizens of the world.
There’s no co-opting MLK on this one. He spent his last years noticing and exposing the problems he saw in our economic system and declared that ”
America must undergo a revolution of values”. He would have been a teacher in the school of Occupy Wall Street. OWS needs a “University” to open the doors to the people of the United States into the economic history and “People’s History” such as that of Howard Zinn. This movement is writing some new chapters, chapters for which MLK had been laying the groundwork in 1968. We’ve had 40 years to see what can happen when the wheels of government , taken out of the hands of the people and entrusted to “representatives” who have increasingly allowed monied interests to pressure them into “laying low” as the country swings more deeply into oligarchy.