I Have a Nightmare: The 2013 March on Washington
Not the usual March on Washington video, I promise:
I really did try to stay away from posting this diary, as I sincerely hadn’t wanted to lay any bad juju on what I’d hoped could be, might be, a big deal action for ‘freedom and jobs’ for all; that masses of citizens might be able to let the White House and Congress see just how unified, discontented, and determined citizens are to have at least some of their civil rights restored, and demand some measure of economic justice, without which, of course: there is no justice. Even when the Popular Resistance newsletter came in on August 16 with Zeese and Flowers reporting that two of the speakers at the upcoming march would be Steny Corporate Hoyer and Nancy Dry Grin Pelosi, I was loth to write this.
At the time, I’d just read an updated version of ‘Welfare Reform and an Ever-Expanding Police State: The Origins of the Neoliberal War on the Poor’ by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn. Admittedly, they depended on the ever-Machiavellian Dick Morris’s versions of events, but it does tally with much that we know. Step by step they take us through the reasons behind, and strategy for Clinton/Gore triangulation over many former ‘Republican issues’, thus pushing a ‘values based agenda’ on an easily manipulated public. The two most relevant pieces of legislation they pushed for this discussion were Welfare Reform and the Three Strikes law; read the stats they quote on how those have worked out for the poor and blacks, then give the middle-finger salute to Toni Morrison for calling the Big Dog ‘the first black President’. ‘Say, let’s become Republicans, and pretend they made us do it.’
Nope; ‘stay away from it, wendydavis’, I’d thought. There are hopes yet that groups like HealthCare-NOW and the National Nurses who are organizing buses to the march, as the folks at Labor Fightback and Workers Compass, will help to radicalize the march, and be heard over the droning Democrats at the podium. Uh-hunh; hope springs infernal. We’ll see who speaks for labor, I guess, Big Bosses or breakaway unionists.
But jayzus, one of MLK’s main contentions was that social movements NOT be aligned with political parties; that they must stand outside, engage in direct actions, then negotiate from positions of strength, using direct actions to create the necessary tensions of that dynamic, to break a few laws while in pursuit of the higher, principled law that could lead toward the betterment of all citizens. OWS knew the importance of that, and fought the Move-On.org cooptation of the movement because it was clear that it would be disastrous.
But I digress, so Onward and Downward, Wagons Ho! It gets worse!
There had been a bit of buzz that Saint Obomba had been invited to be the keynote speaker at the March. Three or four days ago I checked in with the 50th Anniversary folks, and what did I find? Yeppers, you got it: my ‘that fooking tears it’ moment. From the site’s March schedule page:
‘…and then on to the Lincoln Memorial where we will wait to hear President Barack Obama speak to the nation from the very spot where Dr. King delivered his ‘I have a Dream’ speech fifty years ago on August 28, 1963.’
Bloody Brilliant. Invite this iteration of the Democrat Neoliberal Capitalist Authors of Your Oppression to speak his pretty words while he stabs you and the rest of the 99% in the back repeatedly, exemplifying everything MLK feared and told Harry Belafonte along the civil rights road:
Midway through the Civil Rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. realized that the struggle for integration would ultimately become a struggle for economic rights. I remember the last time we were together, at my home, shortly before he was murdered. He seemed quite agitated and preoccupied, and I asked him what the problem was. “I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply,” he said. “We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.”
That statement took me aback. It was the last thing I would have expected to hear, considering the nature of our struggle, and I asked him what he meant. “I’m afraid that America may be losing what moral vision she may have had,” he answered. “And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears at the soul of this nation.”
Hat tip to Glen Ford, whose piece ‘The Black Mis-Leaders’ Love-Fest with Power on the Mall’ came in with the BAR newsletter yesterday.
Yes, some of the same groups who organized the ’63 March will be at the head of the parade, arms linked in solidarity, but they are indeed mere ghosts of those whose legacies they have abjured as they jostled for positions of power themselves, and without fanfare allowed, nay, encouraged, the first black President to Murder the Dream by an absence of critique, forcing him to accountability, as he genuflects before the financial class, the prison-industrial complex, the Imperial War Machine, ruinous-to-the 99% and national sovereignty secret trade deals, helps erode the social safety net, attacks journalists as terrorists, fails to prosecute fraud, and…whoosh; you can add some of the rest of his mis-deeds; I’m tired.
These deeds will only be part of Obomba’s legacy, unless we lose our struggles, and allow ‘the victors’ to write their version of this history one day. His other legacy will be declaring himself Chief Assassinator, willing and able to kill essentially anyone he wants, whenever he wants, or to render them abroad ‘for short durations’ to dark sites for…gathering useful information.
How can anyone of conscience, ethical principles, and who champions justice and the Rule of Law fail to see His Serenity’s (h/t ChePasa) presence at the March as anything but an obscenity? Curious as to how this current March may compare to the ’63 March, and especially the tensions between the radical v. moderate forces in the leadership, I started with the Wiki entry, which is surprisingly good, even if not wholly accurate. What interested me were the behind-the-scenes machinations alluded to by John Lewis in the video, and the clergy’s part in it all. At some point, rather than the March’s focus on being on ‘freedom and jobs’ some of the groups wanted to use it to get Congress to enact Kennedy’s civil rights legislation, to essentially ‘not call out the President’.
What was removed from John Lewis’s (SNCC’s) speech? Wiki Says it was these lines:
In good conscience, we cannot support wholeheartedly the administration’s civil rights bill, for it is too little and too late. …
I want to know, which side is the federal government on?…
The revolution is a serious one. Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the streets and put it into the courts. Listen, Mr. Kennedy. Listen, Mr. Congressman. Listen, fellow citizens. The black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom, and we must say to the politicians that there won’t be a “cooling-off” period.
…We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own scorched earth policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground—nonviolently…
If Representative John Lewis walks at the head of the parade six days from today, what will he be thinkin’, do you imagine?
Also interesting in the Wiki entry ‘excluded speakers, one being the fiery James Baldwin, who apparently:
‘…‘was prevented from speaking at the March on the grounds that his comments would be too inflammatory. Baldwin later commented on the irony of the “terrifying and profound” requests (at a dinner meeting with Robert Kennedy) that he prevent the March from happening:
“In my view, by that time, there was, on the one hand, nothing to prevent—the March had already been co-opted—and, on the other, no way of stopping the people from descending on Washington. What struck me most horribly was that virtually no one in power (including some blacks or Negroes who were somewhere next door to power) was able, even remotely, to accept the depth, the dimension, of the passion and the faith of the people.”
After the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church in Birmingham on September 15:
‘…Baldwin called for a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience in response to this “terrifying crisis.” He traveled to Selma, Alabama, where SNCC had organized a voter registration drive; he watched mothers with babies and elderly men and women standing in long lines for hours, as armed deputies and state troopers stood by—or intervened to smash a reporter’s camera or use cattle prods on SNCC workers. After his day of watching, he spoke in a crowded church, blaming Washington –“the good white people on the hill.”
Baldwin’s Wiki entry said he did speak at the big March, along with Brando and Belafonte, so…I dunno. No women spoke, either, no. (Read more about it at Wiki.) Here, by the way, is Malcolm X on what he called ‘The Farce in Washington’.
Indeed, would King himself have even been invited to speak? Not on your Nellie. Before his death, he’d mentioned the ‘fierce urgency of now’, and had tasked himself to never abjure telling the truth, engaging in dissent, fighting the powers of those who wanted to keep it all for themselves in the name of Empire, wealth, and war-profiteering. I believe Barack Obomba and his Department of Justice would have loathed the man. I leave it to you as a thought experiment as to how he might have neutralized his voice, and the powerful moral suasion of it.
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.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.”
Yes, we may hear this President pay lip service to MLK’s ‘values’, but his ever-so-blythely-uttered words will all be pretty lies in aid of continuing more pretty lies in aid of continuing, but hiding, his status quo fealty to the 1% .
Ah, and I wonder what the good Reverend Joseph Lowery, who completely upstaged the odious Rick Warren’s first Obomba inaugural prayer, thinks about now. Yes, Good Reverend; many of us hoped that he would have heeded your words, and ‘embraced what is Right’.
(cross-posted at Cafe-Babylon.net)