Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King , Jr. " Letter From Birmingham Jail " On Civil Disobedience

Photo: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Updated Jan. 21, 2008, 6:25 PM
And on the Historical Reality of Black Oppression in America here's some music and video on Lynchings of Black People in America:America's Shame
Strange Fruit - Lynchings In America

For more on Lynchings and other atrocities committed by so-called Civilized Christian Americans see:

The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States,1880-1950 by Robert A. Gibson

Lynching in America: Statistics, Information, Images

African American Holocaust

America's Black Holocaust Museum

Here are some excerpts from Martin Luther King's " Letter From A Birmingham Jail " in which he explains the necessity of taking some form of action against those who oppress black people . King also explains the strategy of Peaceful Civil-Disobedience and Non-Co-operation :

I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture...

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws.

...A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority, and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes and "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship, and ends up relegating persons to the status of things...

An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or creating because they did not have the unhampered right to vote.

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy, and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

(The Failure of the White Churches )

I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be some of our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of the stained-glass windows.

I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshippers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, "follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, "Those are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which made a strange distinction between body and soul, the sacred and the secular.

In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love.

The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgement of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

To read full text of the speech see:
Martin Luther King Jr. "Letter From a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963"

In a similar fashion the Bush regime has become a law unto itself which answers not to the American people or to the International Community. Through deceit and manipulation and fear it has passed unconstitutional laws . It has engaged in an unnecessary , illegal and immoral war. Yet few in America dare stand up to this illegitimate and immoral regime.

The Bush Regime also came to power under a cloud of uncertainty . The election results were in question. Yet the Bush regime was permitted to stop any official inquiries into possible wrong-doing on the part of election officials. The American people appeared to have been uninterested in such allegations. The American churches also were silent on this issue. And even now some seven or eight years later there is still little action being advocated for officially exploring these allegations. Many people were either prevented from voting or their votes were not counted or were given to a member of the competing party . Most of those who were affected were blacks or Latinos who often voted for the Democrats and not the Republicans.
If this were a third world country there would be a call for having an international group of observers to come into America to ensure that the next elections will be fair and that thousands are not arbitrarily disenfranchised.

As the White Churches in general were silent in America during the civil-rights movement or in fact were antagonistic to the movement. The Churches in America also for the most part were silent in the face of an illegal and unnecessary and immoral war in Vietnam. Somehow Christians and their Churches believed that war and civil rights were not their business unless it was to support the war. In the end all that mattered was that they either be silent or that they support the " status quo ".

It seems that once again the church and Christians have sat silent while injustices have been committed by the Bush regime from ' renditions' & ' torture ' to curbing and undermining the rights of America's citizens to the unjust and brutal war and occupation of the once sovereign country of Iraq.

The Bush Regime's propaganda machine tells Americans in subtle and not so subtle ways that all Iraqis are the enemy and that they are a " barbaric " and " inhuman race " who do not value human life as we in the West do. . They have been demonized to such an extent that many Americans are unable to sympathize or empathize with their sufferings since the Iraqis are seen as not quite human. As the anti-Semite perceives and characterizes Jews as the enemy as members of " The Satanic Synagogue " so too do the Anti-Islamic bigots characterize the majority of Muslims and Arabs as if they were merely the " minions " of Satan or of the Antichrist.

Even now where is the outrage heard from the Christian Churches . No instead once again in the face of evil there is silence.

The only loud voices of Christians we hear are from those who have allied themselves with the anti-democratic forces and with those who continue to beat their drums for even more wars and even more brutal treatment of all those who are designated as the " enemy".

And who is the enemy. The enemy are they tell us not just the terrorists and their supporters but also innocent civilians who protest in Iraq or in America. Anyone who dares protest against the war or against the abuse of " detainees " or who call for justice when American forces have allegedly committed atrocities in Iraq. But if all Iraqis are the enemy and are therefore seen as enemy combatants then they are according to the U.S. courts " Non-persons " who therefore have no rights .

As in the sixties the media is still self-serving providing us with entertainment rather than substance. As for the news the Media likes the catchy 'soundbite 'which plays into the hands of the Bush Regimes propaganda and the ' Spin-Doctors '. There is little need for in depth coverage of events when it can all be reduced to a matter of 'slogans ' and 'good' versus 'evil '. Shades of nuance and complexity of an issue or an event we find tedious and boring . Then those in power tell us in no uncertain terms which is which so we therefore do not need to tax our little brains about the matter.

We are spoon fed whatever the 'Status Quo' wants us to believe. And in the end how are we to decide on an issue of importance when we become so cynical that it becomes difficult to know when we are being told the truth and when we are being deceived. It is no wonder so many well meaning people become the victims of the most outrageous of ' conspiracy theories ' in a world of cynicism and doubt. While other members of the public do not want to hear about the 'bad news' and want their reality 'sugar-coated'.

So the media feeds us all the grizzly details of a particular murder case and we lap it up . But we do not want to hear about the grizzly details about 'detainees ' being abused , humiliated and tortured and having their basic legal rights denied to them.

Nor do we want to hear about the grizzly details about an unnecessary, illegal and immoral war supposedly being fought on our behalf. We like our wars 'sanitized' with very little blood-shed. We do not want to hear about the the broken bodies , the limbs torn asunder , bodies burned beyond recognition either of those fighting on our side or those who are supposedly our enemies including elderly men and women or children and babies shot to pieces by an M16 in the hands of our valiant soldiers. Nor do we want to hear about entire towns and cities bombed till all that remained was rubble.

Nor do we want to hear that many of those soldiers on our side do not understand what their mission is besides that of killing anything that moves. Nor do we want to hear about those soldiers who refuse to fight or kill who would prefer prison or escaping to some foreign country in order not to have kill one more person whom their superiors call the ' enemy ' .

and so it goes,

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