by Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III
The commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington will go silent as a bell rings the exact moment when Dr. Martin Luther King addressed the crowd. But MLK would himself be silenced in the current political environment. “Those within the African American community who are engaged in stifling honest, fact-based, critical analysis of the administration’s policies would not allow Dr. King on the dais.”
Dr. King’s “Dream” vs. Obama’s Realpolitik
by Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III
“Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1967
As America commemorates the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom I am compelled to ask the following question, would Dr. King be invited to speak at upcoming events to commemorate the March?
If you get past the marketed “Dream” reference in the “I Have a Dream” speech you will understand that it was an indictment of America. If you read “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” or Dr. King’s last book Where Do We Go From Here, Chaos or Community? you can rest assured that today Dr. King would be in opposition to America’s backing of the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi, drone attacks, indefinite detention at Guantanamo, NSA wiretapping, mass incarceration, and the Obama administration’s failure to speak forcefully about poverty in America. From that premise one can only conclude that if Dr. King were alive today, those within the African American community who are engaged in stifling honest, fact-based, critical analysis of the administration’s policies would not allow Dr. King on the dais. Reason being, Dr. King committed his life to a morally based sense of justice and humanity, not actions taken from a sense of political expediency or realpolitik.
“President Obama has claimed to be a champion of the middle class but rarely speaks to the plight of the poor in America.”
On August 28, 1963 Dr. King stated, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation…One hundred years later, the colored American lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” Today according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate stands at 7.6% and 15% in the African American community. Today, “in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity,” according to Bread For the World, “14.5 percent of U.S. households—nearly 49 million Americans, including 16.2 million children—struggle to put food on the table” and “more than one in five children is at risk of hunger. Among African-Americans and Latinos, nearly one in three children is at risk of hunger.”
President Obama has claimed to be a champion of the middle class but rarely speaks to the plight of the poor in America. Dr. King would not stand idly by and allow this to go unchallenged. As America spends billions of dollars on its drone program, children continue to go hungry. In his 1967 speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence Dr. King stated, “A few years ago…It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program…Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.” If you replace Vietnam with Afghanistan and the War on Terror I believe Dr. King would be engaged in the same analysis and saying the same things today.
“The icon that will be lauded at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington would not be invited to speak in today’s political context.”
Dr. King said that the people of Vietnam must see, “Americans as strange liberators…they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy…What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them…?” Today, Dr. King would be asking the same questions about America’s actions in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and the continued US support for the Zionist government in Israel as it continues to build settlements on Palestinian land in violation of international law.
Let’s be very clear, I have used actions of the Obama administration to highlight many of the contradictions that we face and to demonstrate how the man we now revere, the icon that will be lauded at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington would not be invited to speak in today’s political context. That’s the symptom of a greater problem.
To gain great insight into the real problem you have to examine the work of Edward Bernays and the rise of the propaganda industry in the 1920’s. “[The] American business community was also very impressed with the propaganda effort (created by Bernays). They had a problem at that time. The country was becoming formally more democratic. A lot more people were able to vote and that sort of thing. The country was becoming wealthier and more people could participate and a lot of new immigrants were coming in, and so on. So what do you do? It's going to be harder to run things as a private club. Therefore, obviously, you have to control what people think. There had been public relation specialists but there was never a public relations industry.” History as a Weapon – Noam Chomsky - 1997.
“Pay very close attention to what is said and even closer attention to what is not.”
The business community as Chomsky discussed, or the corptocracy in today’s parlance, uses propaganda to co-opt the American political landscape and has contributed to the decline of the American political left. The politics and policies of the Obama administration are examples of that decline, not responsible for it.
At the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington pay very close attention to what is said and even closer attention to what is not (August 27, 2013 is the 50th commemoration of the passing of W.E.B. DuBois).
Understanding the moral basis of Dr. King’s analysis, he would be standing today for the very things he stood for then. He would be critical of the current administration, and as such, great efforts would be made to shut him out of the national debate since many in the African American community see honest, fact based, criticism of Obama administration policy as antithetical to the interests of the African American community. The prophet is never welcome in his own village.
Dr. King’s “Dream” was significant because of its juxtaposition against the reality of the Negros nightmare but Bernaysian propaganda keeps the focus on the “Dream.”