Friday, April 04, 2008

Nonviolent Saints

Today was the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination, the third public murder of an American leader within a five year span, probably with the connivance of J. Edgar Hoover, the poisonous director of the FBI, according to my friend SFWillie (click here for his J'Accuse).

Gandhi and his philosophy of nonviolence was always one of King's major influences, but when the media retrospectives are revved up on anniversaries like today and King's birthday, they tend to focus on race rather than nonviolence.

This is partly because many racial attitudes have changed, while American militarism in its quest to retain empire is sadly unchanged from King's time, as Iraq clearly demonstrates. This is King on the subject of Vietnam soon before he was murdered: "God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war . . .We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world."

And this little zinger: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

For a good article on the subject, check out Jeff Cohen's "40 Years Later..." (click here), and to continue King's work, I highly recommend spending a little time with the old, nonviolent secular saints in front of the Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue every Thursday at noon.


sfwillie said...

Great MLK quotes, Mike,

The one about war crimes, if out of Rev's Wright's mouth, would be widely condemned.

God bless the Quaker witness. Your photo-documentation encourages.

markley said...

Thanks for a lovely post, Mike.

But I have one request: please don't clutter the word "nonviolence" with that pesky little hyphen.

Getting rid of the hyphen is perhaps the most concrete accomplishment of the nonviolent movement. Forty years ago all the dictionaries hyphenated the word and now none of them do.

To my way of thinking this is important because when we say "nonviolence" we mean so much more than the absence of violence.

sfmike said...

Dear Markley: With the magic of the internets, I'll change it immediately.

Chris M. said...

Fine post, as usual. Thanks for your faithful coverage of the vigil over the years.

One nit to pick: Quakers aren't secular! Most of us aren't, anyway.

sfmike said...

Dear chris m: Thanks for the kind words. Though most of the people at the peace vigil have arrived there through religious groups, I haven't, so you're MY secular saints. Plus, I thought the entire concept of "saints" was specifically Catholic, which is definitely a minority among you outrageous Federal Building peaceniks.

Allison said...

I understand the "secular saints" award thing. I'm Quaker too, but I found the Friends after looking for a religious group that matched my secular beliefs (peace, social justice, a love ethic). Isn't it sad that it seems so few religious people embody that?! No wonder people are turned off from religion!

Henry Holland said...

It's been hilarious to see far right blogs like Red State claim MLK as a conservative, mostly because he was a preacher. I suppose they'd not be happy to find out that in 1967, MLK mused that maybe a social democrat way of government would be best. Oh noes! teh socialism!