King's Assassination and Legacy of Nonviolence

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MartinLutherKingJr.jpgToday there has been much reflection on MLK's assassination. I can't imagine what it would have been like to be alive then, losing both him and RFK in quick succession.

Someone also asked today what would have been "done about Bush" in an earlier era (meaning -- how he would have been violently overthrown). I think these sort of questions miss the point, and are very contrary to Dr. King's Gandhian and Christian teachings. 

There have been extraordinary abuses of power in the White House, but the people -- citizens in all strata of society -- have allowed them. We have not held our leaders accountable. Taking one man's life would not add a bit of good to the world or correct a corrupt system. In fact, I imagine that any sort of attempt on anyone in the White House would only result in more draconian security measures and civil liberties abuses.

I don't think I actually condone killing of any sort except in extreme self-defense, if I felt my life was in danger (even then, we're in very theoretical territory here -- my fingernails are my most viable weapon). When a friend and I once discussed the possibility of my learning to use a gun, I could only imagine doing so in self-defense, to injure, which apparently is an unrealistic expectation (I have never been so scoffed at in all my life, actually).
I don't remember having handled a gun since I shot a sparrow's eye out with a BB-gun at around age 8. I had to put it out of its misery and felt guilty for weeks.

One of the people who recently entered my life under false pretenses did a lot of talking about a friend of hers who runs a gun control organization out of the U.K. -- brought her up every time we met. Like much of what she said, this apparently was designed to elicit some sort of incriminating self-disclosure from me (instead, I expressed interest in interning with the organization before commencing the study of human rights law). Reflecting on her motivations makes me want to be very clear in case my passions for civil liberties and civil rights have been misunderstood.

When it comes to "martyr-like" characters responding to fascism (and we in the U.S. luckily still have the opportunity to ensure we don't go Germany's route), I would relate much more to Sophie Scholl than
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (whose story a friend introduced me to last fall). Scholl expressed her political views in a rather unobtrusive manner, trying to influence through words, and was subjected to a kangaroo court and then execution. An example was made of her and two others in the White Rose resistance. I admire her courage, fortitude, and loyalty and would expect nothing less of myself. I strive to be the kind of person who would have the will to face my fate with such resolve.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on the other hand, was a Protestant minister who was part of the resistance that attempted to assassinate Hitler. At this point, the war was raging on, and, the way I see it, this was more of a tactical/militaristic decision. For him it was also one of faith. I have no military training, or mind, and would certainly be the last person to ever do well in any such undertaking. I can see the value of having Hitler gone, but don't see how that situation at all applies to our current one. Again, we are still in a place where we have the ability to prevent something like Nazi Germany from fully flowering on U.S. soil.

King's sentiment seems the most effective:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

People are at the heart of King's dream. We aren't meant to kill them to get there.

~~

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This is purely an academic opinion, but notably the first objection registered by "Brutus" to the Constitution in his first anti-federalist essay was that the recovery of power from government by the people usually required force.

Of course, at no point in history (at least that I can think of off the top of my head) has an assassination served to do anything but martyr the murdered leader. Assassination is not a revolutionary act, but merely a violent and futile one. The brilliance of the Ghandi/MLK pacifist rebellion lies partially in the potential for civil disobedience to become violence. Governments and oppressive classes are made blatantly aware of a group who does not fear violent repression. They are made aware of the size of the group and their aims. When a government realizes that their population might explode at any time, they are faced with the choice of shifting policies or risking the explosion.

Violence lies beneath the surface of all social activity. Politics, especially in a republic, is the continuation of war by other means. A nonviolent revolt can be successful precisely because of its capacity to do violence, either systemic violence or, if escalated, overt violence.

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A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyeann published on April 5, 2008 12:49 AM.

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