Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr.

Go read 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail'!

For Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday – the holiday is tomorrow, but the actual anniversary of what would have been his 83rd birthday is today – I recommend that you read Letter from a Birmingham Jail, written 16 April 1963 to “My Dear Fellow Clergymen”, published in the Atlantic magazine as The Negro Is Your Brother. Below are just a few excerpts that I believe are particularly applicable to today. For a historical context of the letter, read here.

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.”…I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.”…

…More basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Continue reading Go read 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail'!

Getting All Post-Racial with MLK, Jr.


Since the King holiday is coming up, I thought I’d mention that noise I’ve been reading about Martin Luther King, Jr. being a Republican. This involved posters over the past couple years and his niece declaring it to be so. Frankly, I have not come across a totally credible source proving it one way or another.

The Republican party, of course, was the party of Lincoln, while the Democratic party, particularly in the South, where King lived, was the party of George Wallace and other segregationists. So it is quite plausible that he was a member of the GOP, at least until the 1960 election of John Kennedy. Surely he voted for Democrat Lyndon Johnson over Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964, his public comments make clear.

But most of the conversations miss the greater point, which is, “Would Martin Luther King, Jr. be a Republican in the 21st Century?” Those who suggest that the answer would be “yes” generally zero in on one section of his March on Washington I Have A Dream speech in August 1963, the part that goes: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. The clear implication is that race-based remedies for past or current discrimination should be off the table.

But read the very end of the speech: Continue reading Getting All Post-Racial with MLK, Jr.

Stevie Wonder is 60


Stevie Wonder is 60 years old today. Only 60? Seems that he’s been around forever. I guess that’s what happens when you’re dubbed the “12-year-old genius.” Wish I had the time to indicate all of his significance in my musical life. Among other things, I’ve stated that he and Paul Simon were THE two most important artists in my record collection in the 1970s. Here are just some highlights.

Really don’t remember the earlier singles, such as “Fingertips, Part 2”, except as an oldie. The first song I recall listened to, on the radio, was Uptight (Everything’s Alright) in 1966. I loved it! Later, I got an album from my sister’s godfather, of all people, of Bill Cosby called Silver Throat, where he sings a parody of Uptight called Little Old Man.

My sister owned the 1966 album Down to Earth, containing the title track and A Place In the Sun, the latter a song written by Stevie that everyone at the time seemed compelled to cover. I owned 1970’s Signed Sealed Delivered.

Possibly my favorite Wonder song in the early years was 1967’s “I Was Made to Love Her”

I owned the so-so 1967 Someday At Christmas, though it contains THE great secular Christmas tune, “What Christmas Means to Me.” Continue reading Stevie Wonder is 60

35 Years After Vietnam


Was it only six years ago when I realized that the Vietnam war, contrary to the historic record, was not over after all? I’m talking, of course, about Vietnam vet John Kerry and what he did (or didn’t) do in protesting a war he once fought in, dredged up during the 2004 Presidential election between Kerry and George W. Bush, whose own military record also came into question.

I admit to have been one of those people who actually supported the Vietnam war in the beginning of 1967. After all, it was an American war, I was an American, ipso facto, Q.E.D. My opposition to the conflict evolved over the next year or so, starting with the Beyond Vietnam speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he died. (Was that just coincidence?)

The group that most influenced me at the time was the VVAW, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. It was one thing for civilians to oppose the war. It was quite another thing to see soldiers who had been fighting the war then come out against it.

In time, I found about some of the history of conflict in Vietnam, the fighting against the Japanese and the French, among others. The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 might have signaled the end of colonial occupation, but it led to greater involvement by the Americans, first in small numbers of analysts in the 1950s to massive numbers troops in the mid-1960s, facilitated in no small part by the prevarication that was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August of 1964.

No doubt that many of the soldiers may have operated honorably, but it’s also true that the My Lai massacre in 1968 was not the only atrocity in this drawn-out engagement. My buddy Steve Bissette wrote a piece about a couple films delineating military failings during Vietnam and a more recent conflict. (I actually chuckled when I discovered his post was dated February 2, for that was the date in 1972 when the draft for those born in 1953 took place; that’s a LONG story.)

My general disinclination towards war is fueled by the belief that even in a “good war” (a true oxymoron), bad things, unintended things occur. Even the “good guys” get it wrong sometimes, regardless of the safeguards. Thus war should always be a last resort, not a first option.

In a bold attempt to be “fair and balanced, I point out to you The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Vietnam War — “the latest installment in Regnery Publishing’s bestselling Politically Incorrect Guide™ (“PIG”) series — [Phillip] Jennings gives you the surprising truth, and backs it up with facts that liberals ignore.”

I should note that I haven’t read the book. Among the assertions:
*The Tet offensive was a debacle for the North Vietnamese
*Communist Vietnam is now trying to emulate a more capitalist approach
I actually agree with both of those statements, but not with most of the others.

Thirty-five years after Vietnam and we’re still fighting the war.

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Pete Seeger: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy from the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Pete turns 91 on Monday.

ROG