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Posts Tagged ‘MLK’

MLK: A Dream Realized?

Forty-six years after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, we are compelled to self evaluate: has the dream been realized? Are we now finally a nation where color and creed truly do not matter when speaking of an individual’s character? Are we even close? Or, did the speech describe a fantasy, a utopia which human nature does not allow to exist.

To answer this question, we first need to answer a pre-requisite question: Can dreams ever become reality? And if so, where does religion play into that role? After all, Dr. King was also known as Reverend King. I submit that King’s extensive background in religious studies fueled, at least in part, his dream of equality of all peoples as the foundation of his movement. However, that being said, I do not believe that subscribing to any form of religion or other spiritual practice is a necessary portion of one’s background to fuel progressive change. You do not have to be religious to want the world to be a better place, but for Dr. King, there is almost no doubt that it played a significant part.

As for dreams becoming reality, is it simply a matter of willing into being, or is it a matter of practicality? One has to ask, is it practical not just to want, but to expect, America to become colorblind? Can we honestly expect past prejudices to completely disappear? I believe we cannot ever hope to completely eradicate prejudice, in large part due to ignorance. Those who are consciously prejudiced are inherently ignorant, no excuses. Dr. King’s struggle was, in large part, to eradicate that very ignorance from American society.

But with some people, no matter how hard you try, no matter if you tell them their house is burning and falling down around them, they refuse to listen. REFUSE. Stubborn ignorance is the greatest of all. Let’s face it, xenophobia and fear of change dominate many lives in this country, because those people allow it to happen. This was at the heart of Dr. King’s message, that ignorance of change and the inherent ignorance of prejudice must be done away with if we are to ever truly reach a higher level of civilization in this country.

Do I believe dreams can be realized? Yes, provided that their practicality is within reasonable bounds. It is reasonable to want to go to the University of Michigan, this dream can be realized, on an individual basis at that. Living in a world without color? Not as long as humans retain their human nature. We are flawed beings, even the most enlightened of us occasionally fall pray to subconscious prejudice, at the very best. The masses tend to classify themselves with their race, forming a major component of their identities. Dr. King’s dream can not be realized in the literal sense, as a country, let alone as a civilization, as we still posses too many flaws as a people. However, Dr. King knew as well as anyone that his dream is really a process, like the ocean of knowledge gradually eroding the rock of ignorance. Every day, the waters wash over the rock and change its face-so is knowledge to ignorance. Human nature in its current form cannot allow Dr. King’s dream to be realized uniformly, but then, its only been 46 years. Perhaps all we need is time.

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On Tuesday Iranian students at Sharif University held an antigovernment protest. The cause for the protest was the controversy with the current president of Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There are beliefs that he unjustly swayed the election in his favor. The Minister of Science and Higher education, Kamran Daneshjoo, was supposed to pay a visit to the University on Tuesday morning, but due to the protests, the visit was cancelled (for more information please click this link: nytimes article)

The acts of the students and the steps they have taken closely resemble the steps Dr. Martin Luther King outlines in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. The first resemblance would be the simple fact that, as to this point, the protests held by the students have been non-violent. The four steps addressed by Dr. King are the, “…collection of facts to determine whether injustice exist; negotiation; selfpurification; and direct action” (page 2, 2).  In the article it is implied that the government has done some unjust, and what seems to me as Machiavellian, things. Soon after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election hundreds of former government officials and activist were thrown in jail. Although not for the most thorough of reasons, the Students have collected enough facts and witnessed enough unfairness to say that injustice exists. The students achieved self-purification by openly accepting their punishments of jail time and being banned from attending class. They took the direct action of nonviolent, persistent protests; something Dr. Martin Luther King was an activist for, as long as injustice was proven.

I would also like to take the time to point out the Machiavellian actions the Iranian government has taken. The article states, “Dozens of student activists were jailed or barred from attending classes this month, according to student Web sites, in an effort to intimidate students” (1). In chapter eight of “The Prince” Machiavelli explains the need a ruler has for cruelty (3). In my discussion session we talked about why Machiavelli believes a ruler must use cruelty from time to time. A majority of the class agreed it was a way of establishing and maintaining power. If you kill someone who committed a crime such as theft, then that is an example to all others what will happen to them if they commit the same crime. Cruelty is a way to ensure that as a ruler you have the upper hand and keep your legitimacy as the authority. The Iranian government seems to be following this same idea; if they put some of the student protesters in jail it will send a message to the others what they will face if they continue their actions. The second Machiavellian action taken by the government is that once the new President came to power he made sure to get rid of those who were in power previously, “More than a hundred activists and former government officials were arrested after the election” (1). In chapter seven of “The Prince” Machiavelli lists the things a ruler should do when they come to power, among other things he lists “…destroy one’s enemies…” (page 21, 3). According to Machiavelli, by imprisoning the former officials President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secured his power as the new leader and showed his people the control he has.

Works Cited

  1. Fathi, Nazila. “The New York Times Log In.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 29 Sept. 2009. Web. 29 Sept. 2009.         <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/world/middleeast/30iran.html?hpw&gt;.
  2. King, Martin L. “Letter from a Birimingham Jail.” Letter to Fellow Clergymen. 16 Apr. 1963. Historicaltextarchive.com. Historical Text Archive, 2001. Web. 27 Sept. 2009. <http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?op=viewarticle&artid=40&gt;.
  3. Machiavelli. “The Prince.” Ed. David Wootton. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub Co Inc, 2008. 9+. Print.

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Rage against the Machine and MLK

So this is definitely not recent, but I thought it tied in with what we’ve been discussing in class.

My favorite band of all time Rage Against the Machine was kicked off SNL for their beliefs, here is the link:http://www.musicfanclubs.org/rage/snl.htm

How far does our right to free speech go? If one of the most liberal TV shows won’t allow the beliefs of others to be expressed then maybe we haven’t come as far as we thought. What RATM believed is exactly what MLK believed, everyone should be represented by the government not just a select group of people. In RATM’s case the people that weren’t represented were the middle and lower class. In MLK’s case it was African-American’s.

This article makes me wonder (even now with a president for the middle class) if everyone is represented. Is it possible for everyone to be represented with the type of government we have? If not what type of governmental system should we have? Tell me what you guys think.

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 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.  

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