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.
BlackCommentator.com 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.