By Richard Eskow
Today, January 20th, the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. If Dr. King hadn’t been murdered, he would be 91 years old. How would he view today’s activists?
The words to his “I Have a Dream” speech will be repeated from podiums and in classrooms across the country. But many of the people repeating these words have never heard other King quotes, like this one:
“I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.”
To those who condemn idealism, who preach the quiet cynicism of self-limiting “pragmatism” and insist it’s “how the world works,” Dr. King had an answer: He was, in his own words, “maladjusted.”
In a 1963 speech at Western Michigan University, he said:
There are certain things in our nation and in the world (about) which I am proud to be maladjusted… I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self-defeating effects of physical violence.
But in a day when sputniks and explorers are dashing through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can win a war. It is no longer the choice between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence…
Dr. King also said: “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
“We must… realize,” he continued, “that the problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.”
A Radical Spirit
In other words, Dr. King was a radical.