Dr. King, President Obama And Imperial America

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Obama should remember the advice of Dr. King “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 peoples 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.”

[Speaking Truth To Empower]

Forty years after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., America has elected Barack Obama; but would Dr. King be satisfied with America’s progress and political policies?

This weekend marks the commemoration of that deadly day of intrigue in Memphis, Tennessee.

On April 4 1968, the life of one of America’s greatest patriots, and the leading voice of conscience of the Civil Rights Movement, was taken when the assassin’s bullet struck Dr. King on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel.  Although the flesh dies the ideas and teachings of great men never do.

Dr. King left us a towering legacy, especially, in his eloquently perceptive speeches.  And exactly one year before his murder Dr. King delivered one of his most radical speeches at New York City’s Riverside Church.  In his April 4, 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech Dr. King decried America’s mixed-up priorities and imperial policies, while also articulating his hope for the nation.

In this legendary speech, Dr. King fingered America as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”  Yet, he also believed that “America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values.”

If ever there was a time for a “revolution of values” it’s now, as the seeds of Wall Street greed have blossomed into worldwide economic chaos.

Part of Dr. King’s dream for America has manifested itself in the Obama Presidency, and for the past few days, President Obama has met leaders of the so-called G-20 nations to agree on combined efforts to heal the hemorrhaging ruptures in the international financial system.

Can Obama help bring about that “revolution of values” that Dr. King spoke of? President Obama has already done some very positive things by pushing through, despite a recalcitrant Republican Party, a stimulus bill and budget to resuscitate America’s ailing economy; as well as prioritizing job creation, healthcare and educational concerns.

However, there are potential political pitfalls to be wary of.

The nomination of Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and their incestuous connection to financial shysters like those on Wall Street has created cracks in Obama’s armor that was impenetrable a few months ago.

The American public is outraged over banker bailouts, bonuses and whoever breaks bread with them. Obama should heed these words from Dr King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech:

“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. ”

Which leads to an area of great concern that Dr. King would no doubt disagree with President Obama on: his war policy concerning Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The main issue that gave then-Senator Obama early traction as he was embarking on his audacious quest for the American Presidency was his opposition to the Iraq War. 

In fact, during the January 31, 2008 Democratic Debate; Obama said “I don’t want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into the war in the first place.” He also added “That’s the kind of leadership that I think we need from the next president of the United States. That’s what I intend to provide.”

Yet, his stance on Afghanistan and Pakistan is rightly being questioned as emanating from the same warmongering “mindset.”  Question:  is President Obama backsliding in his stance in this region, because of the ubiquitous corruptive influence of the military industrial complex within Washington’s corridors of power? Or, is he engaging in political subterfuge buying time against those opponents who have charged that he will make America too vulnerable to foreign aggression?

Obama pledged to fight to “change” Washington.  But that’s a monumental task on Capital Hill where the military industrial complex, and their lobby, lines the pockets of many. Consider this: in 2008, world governments spent $1.47 trillion on military expenditures. America accounted for half of that spending $711 billion. By comparison, Europe spent $289 billion, China $122 billion and Russia $70 billion.  And as of 2009, American military-related spending will be about $1 trillion.

American military companies have succeeded in coercing, bribing—and silencing—Washington politicians by parceling out jobs to be delivered to diverse districts across the country.

But, Obama should remember the advice of Dr. King “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 peoples 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.”

This weekend as we remember Dr. King’s legacy, while trying to make sense of the chaos in our world, we should remember these haunting words from 1967 when he warned us “Somehow this madness must cease. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam and the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and 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 an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop must be ours.”


Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News's Editorial Board

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