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MLK and Bull Connor Met Again Yesterday at Quantico

After the flap last week over the reporting of DOD General Counsel Jeh Johnson’s remarks on Martin Luther King and what he might think of our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, it’s good to find out that someone in the Defense Department understands MLK: Commander Roger E. VanDerWerken, USMC USN [corrected, see below]. Cmdr. VanDerWerken is the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group chaplain stationed at Quantico (it figures that a chaplain would know his MLK), and last Thursday in the “Chaplain’s Corner” column in the Quantico Sentry, he wrote this:

On Monday we celebrated the birthday of this great clergyman, pre-eminent civil rights leader and proud American. It was helpful to reflect upon the sources of his inspiration. According to ‘‘Stride Toward Freedom,” ‘‘Christ furnished the spirit and motivation through the Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7), while the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi furnished the method, that of non-violent resistance.”

Non-violent resistance is what brought down the racist, segregationalist policies of 1960s America. The six principles of non-violence that King used in leading this massive movement include: 1) it is not for cowards, 2) it does not seek to humiliate others, 3) it takes a stand against evil, not the evil-doer, 4) it is willing to accept suffering without retaliation, 5) it commands us to love, and 6) it trusts, ultimately, that the universe is on the side of justice.

These principles might prove helpful in facing the injustices we might see in our world today. As we celebrate the accomplishments of this great American, may we also remember the spiritual principles that guided his life.

I’m guessing no one on duty at the gate at Quantico yesterday had read the Chaplain’s Corner, nor had those at “the top” who ordered Jane Hamsher and David House’s detention and delay until visiting hours were over.

Honestly, this looks like a kinder and gentler version of the tactics of Bull Connor. The USMC may not have brought out the firehoses, but they certainly reacted to people taking a principled non-violent stand against evil with Bull Connor’s attitude toward protesters:  “I’m the law around here, and we don’t like outside agitators coming round and making trouble.”  . . .

As Jane wrote yesterday,

David has been detained at the airport, his computer seized and held for months with no explanation. The McCarthy-esque actions of the security agencies has terrified all of these idealistic young people.  It is exceptionally admirable that David and others persist in supporting Bradley Manning despite it all.

The net effect of the MP’s actions today was to escalate the climate of threats and intimidation around David, a 23 year-old who just graduated from college, and cut Manning off from any personal contact with the one person who is still showing up to visit him after the government consciously scared everyone else off.

I am very happy that I went, and could be there to support David, because one of the first things the MPs said to us when we arrived — long before they asked for driver’s license, social security numbers,  registration, phone numbers, quizzed us about the addresses on our licenses, etc, etc, was that they had orders to do all of this. Which means they were planning to detain us long before we got there. They were going to use any excuse to keep David from visiting Manning, and try to intimidate him from coming back.

What a contrast. While Cmdr. VanDerWerken was praising MLK inside the fences, the MPs at the gate were ordered to follow in Bull Connor’s footsteps.

The good chaplain may want to remind his colleagues at Quantico how well that path worked out for old Bull.

(h/t to dcwriterdawn for the photo of the Birmingham civil rights sculpture)

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.