The Legacy of Dr. King

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies—or else? The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, I wept as my forehead was pressed against the wall of glass partitioning me and other National Civil Rights’ Museum goers from the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, lie after he was shot down by an assassin’s bullet on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tn. I wept for perhaps the greatest American civil rights’ leader, but also for the man who had begun (against the wishes of many of his colleagues) to vigorously not only speak out against the murder in Vietnam, but also strenuously against militarism, which he called in his Building the Beloved Community (which I feel is King’s opus) speech delivered at Riverside Church in NYC exactly one year before his death: one of the greatest of “evils” along with racism and poverty.

I also wept for my son, Casey, who was killed on the same day (April 4th) 36 years later and thousands of miles away. Dr. King and Casey were killed by the same evils: militarism, racism and poverty. Casey was killed by the racism of genocide against the Iraqi people; obviously gross militarism that led our nation to Iraq in the first place; and the poverty of being from a working class family that couldn’t afford to send him to university. All of these factors combined also, obviously, killed Dr. King.

However, I also wept for Oscar Grant, 22 year-old, black father, who was murdered in cold blood as a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) cop cowardly shot him in the back as he lie face down on the concrete as he pled for his life. I wept for Oscar’s friends and family and prayed for justice for his killing.

I wept for the innocent babies and children in Gaza who are being slaughtered by the unholy military alliance of the US and Israel and I wept for the mothers of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I wept for the people of color in New Orleans, my own community, San Francisco, and many communities around this nation who are facing the racist displacement of gentrification and pollution and are losing their homes due to foreclosure and eviction and for our immigrant workers who are being demonized because they need to take care of their families.

I wept that next week, homophobe and hate monger, Richard Warren will be spewing his filthy prayer at Obama’s inauguration AND at the sacred place where Dr. King was killed.

Finally, I wept for Dr. King’s legacy. Although he was hopeful after the Civil Rights’ Law was passed in 1964 that the US would see a “negro” elected to the highest office in the world within “40 years,” I don’t see Obama as the fulfillment of any Dr. King legacy of non-violent, systemic change.

Although I think it’s about time that a person of color was elected to the Presidency and understand the black community’s euphoria over his election, Obama has proven to be a sell-out in opposition to King’s legacy, not a fulfillment.

Besides filling his cabinet with militarists and members of the white establishment, he has selected very few persons of color. His support for a trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street shows that he has sold out himself, and the nation’s poor to be a tool of the bankers.

Obama’s devotion to war (“I am not against war, I am against dumb wars”) is not only demonstrated by his words, but by his actions, as well. While pledging to withdraw “combat troops” from Iraq, he also promises to dramatically increase troop level in Afghanistan and also increase overall troop levels by almost 100,000 warm bodies. Obama recognizes Israel’s right to “defend” itself by bombing the prisoners of Gaza.

I have heard reports from all over the nation that during MLK, Jr. day parades, the military sends tanks and recruiters hoping to fill its human coffers with recruits from our poorest of communities. Where do we think the 100,000 troops are going to come from? Are the war profiteers, bankers and Democrats going to start encouraging their children and grandchildren to enlist to fight Obama’s wars?

Larry Pinkney, Black Panther and columnist for the Black Commentator, (and who editorially scolded me and my cohorts for targeting, Rep. John Conyers in July 2007), says this in his article entitled: Barack Obama and the Euphoria of Madness:

Many Black Americans and our Brown and Red sisters and brothers will, I fear, come to be deeply disappointed in Barack Obama, once he demonstrates who he really is. There will be no peace or justice under an Obama Presidency, should such come to pass. Even the majority of white Americans, with the exception of the corporate liberals and conservatives, may yet come to realize that Obama’s interests are corporate interests; they are not the needs and interests of everyday people, who represent the overwhelming majority of this nation and the world.

Despite the upcoming inauguration (coronation spectacle, costing millions of dollars) of the first black president, I submit that Dr. King’s legacy is far from being fulfilled, in fact, during the Bush years many may say, we have slid backwards in human rights, in general. As I walked back to my hotel from the museum in the freezing Memphis afternoon, I reflected on the legacy of Dr. King that I personally feel is so intertwined with Casey’s.

To visit the place where Dr. King was shot on the day of his birth was holy to me and I think we should use this time to renew our commitment to the struggle for peace, but not only peace: peace with justice. As Dr. King once said: “We may have all come on different ships, but we are all on the same boat now.”

We haven’t yet reached that mountaintop and we can’t stop climbing until we do.

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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