As I was reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I couldn’t help but think of the protests and rallies that have been going on across the United States throughout the summer, the Tea Parties and health care protestors.
These Tea Parties, which protest the expansion of government and higher rates of taxation, have occurred in every state and have drawn massive crowds. They recently culminated in Washington D.C. The actual number of people who attended the D.C. Tea Party is highly contested, most claim that the numbers were somewhere between 60,000-75,000, but other sources state that there were over one million.
Reading Dr. King’s letter, I was left with the impression that MLK would most definitely respect the protesters, and would frown upon politicians such as Nancy Pelosi, who has accused the grassroots operation of being “astroturf” and implied that the participants are Nazi sympathizers.
Through his statement, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored,” Martin Luther King, Jr. shows that he believes it is necessary for people to make some noise when they see something happening that they believe is unjust. He even calls out people who do nothing as being “lukewarm.”
The Tea Party goers and the healthcare reform protesters are not violent, they are peacefully assembling to voice their concerns, in order to do all that they can to help the nation (in their own eyes).
Speaker Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress need to realize that there is nothing wrong with voicing opposing views, and the worst thing they can do is ignore these voices and engage in name-calling.
Pelosi recently stated that the rhetoric against President Obama and his policies needed to be toned down to avoid violence. I believe that Martin Luther King would disagree. “If … repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history.” In this quote, MLK suggests that the best way to ensure violence doesn’t take place is to have worries, opinions, and thoughts all publicly discussed. Martin Luther King’s view of this current situation would very likely be that Speaker Pelosi’s actions are much more likely to spur violence than any protests and words ever could.
If Nancy Pelosi wanted to avoid violence, then she would listen to the protesters and stop her name-calling. The protesters are protesting policy, whereas Pelosi is attacking ideas, beliefs, and the American people.
Martin Luther King’s Letter from from a Birmingham Jail suggests that he would view the protesters as legitimate and Nancy Pelosi’s dismissiveness and unwillingness to engage as dangerous. Martin Luther King perhaps wouldn’t agree with the Tea Parties and healthcare protesters, but it is clear from his letter that he would not agree with the accusations by Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats that these protesters are dangerous, radical, or un-American.