Click here to go to the Home Page Cover Story: King, Obama and the Other April 4th - The African World By Bill Fletcher, Jr., Editorial Board

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As April 4th approaches I cannot but think of the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.  On April 4th this year there will be the standard remembrances of Dr. King on the 43rd anniversary of his assassination.  There will also be demonstrations taking place across the country initiated by labor unions and their allies to protest both the budget cuts that harm working people and the assault on our rights carried out by the hard-right Republicans.  Yet, I wonder how many people will commemorate the other April 4th, that is, April 4, 1967 when King gave his famous Riverside Church speech condemning US aggression in Vietnam? (Click here for the full text and audio of the “Beyond Vietnam” speech in this week’s issue of BC).

The ‘other’ April 4th is critical to remember as we watch foreign policies advanced by the Obama administration that would be an anathema to Dr. King.  The continued occupation of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, drone attacks and imperial interference in Pakistan, complicity in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, silent support for the 2009 coup in Honduras, and now the US-led NATO military strikes on Libya are policies that would be contrary to everything for which Dr. King stood.

It was interesting to watch the bizarre Glenn Beck rally at the Lincoln Memorial this past August 2010.  It turned my stomach to see the signs and pictures of Dr. King used in the right-wing attacks on both the Obama administration and progressive legislators.  Yet the irony is that while it is inconceivable that Dr. King would have attended Beck’s rally, let alone spoken in favor of their regressive program, King would almost certainly have been highly critical of the Obama administration.

It was King who asserted, much as did W.E.B. Dubois years before, that it was the USA that was the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet.  There has been nothing in the last 44 years to suggest that this conclusion is anything but accurate.  While the Obama administration has gone out of its way to attempt to change the image of the USA internationally, the substance of the relationship has not shifted qualitatively.  The hypocritical military strikes against Libya in the name of averting a humanitarian disaster while US-supported regimes in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia continue to repress their populations—in some cases quite violently—destroys any notion of an alleged continuity between that for which Dr. King stood and the policies of President Obama.

While I feel nothing but contempt for Glenn Beck and his minions, those of us on the left side of the aisle must not let our hostility toward the political Right restrain our criticisms of Obama administration policies that flow, not from the legacy of Dr. King, but from the imperatives of the US-led empire. Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.

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Mar 31, 2011 - Issue 420
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