THE BLOG

MLK and Politics

01/13/2008 01:12 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

With the dust-up between the Barack and Hillary camps over Clinton's intensely stupid gaffe comparing war-monger Lyndon Baines Johnson with peacemaker Dr. Martin Luther King, it seems a good time to bring up several embarrassing facts about MLK, his life, and his actual legacy.

I'll start by pointing out what no one who hangs her/his last hope of change on elections and elected officials wants to hear during an election year. Powers and principalities resist changing oppressive patterns until failure to do so threatens their first concern... stability. Neither John Kennedy nor Lyndon Johnson welcomed any "opportunity" to make history. They were both dragged kicking and screaming through the morass of political risk into signing legislation that was put before them by a mass and disobedient movement that threatened the social order (and not by violence, but by unmasking the mimetic of racism and war by offering their bodies).

That is why Clinton's claim that King's dream was only "realized" by the stroke of Genocidal Johnson's pen actually is offensive as hell. Pointing out that the enormously creepy Johnson -- also a Democratic Party political operator like both Obama and Clinton -- drove the nation deeper and deeper into the murderous quagmire of the American military occupation of Vietnam... is, shall we say, inconvenient.

Johnson campaigned against Goldwater in 1964 as the comparative "peace" candidate, portraying the Bad Republicans as the war mongers; whereupon he was elected by the credulous public in a landslide, and escalated the occupation into the deaths of almost 3 million Southeast Asians, 58,000 US troops, and the still under-reported ecocide resulting from a horrifying chemical war directed against the whole peoples of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

All politicians, and even hamburger empires, like to quote MLK's "I have a Dream" speech, selecting two or three useful, out-of-context quotes designed to be inoffensive to consumers and white people who believe they live in a meritocracy. So does the press... and now it's their turn.

When Dr. King spoke out against the war in 1968, and when he called out the US as a malignant and imperial power, and when he connected the racism that underwrote Jim Crow and its de facto correlatives in the oh-so-innocent North to the racism that allowed America to sleep soundly while Vietnamese men, women, and children were being slaughtered wholesale... then he was beyond the pale. The mainstream press -- far from embracing King -- fell all over themselves to denounce and marginalize him. Thi includes all the so-called "liberal" sheets that still tell the rest of the media what is and is not "news."

Dr. King had the courage to tell us then that every bomb dropped in Vietnam exploded over Harlem. When I hear that kind of truth-telling from either of the pre-anointed Democrats, instead of their relentless phrase-mongering and dressed-up equivocations, then we can take them seriously. Right now all we see are smooth-talking politicians.

With Martin Luther King Day right around the corner, expect plenty more of this disgusting mis-attribution to promote political careers.