Monday, January 17, 2011

What MLK might have told us today

Good piece by Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Right Project:

Perhaps, if the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were to write a letter on the holiday set aside for him, it might go something like this, albeit more eloquent:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Forty-seven years ago, in August 1963, while imprisoned in the Birmingham jail for nonviolent demonstrations against segregation, I wrote a letter in longhand to eight religious leaders. They had criticized me for moving too fast on issues that didn't concern me, and saw me as an outsider from Atlanta, Georgia.

I reminded my religious colleagues that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider."

Today, as I look about, I am bewildered by the many political leaders, who assemble each year to commemorate me. They almost seem to make me a saint. It is as if many of them never heard my message. These leaders forget about my unrelenting challenge to this country's economic structures that leave so many people in severe poverty. Do they remember I was assassinated while trying to help low-paid Memphis sanitation workers raise their salaries? Do they not hear my lament about the racial barriers in education?

Instead, they focus only on the "safe" part of my life, not my voice lifted in prophecy against war and poverty, for which I was severely chastised. How can they not answer those contradictions I spent my life laying bare about the United States?

They ignore the many times I called America to task for using war against perceived national security threats. Then, it was Vietnam. Now, it is Iraq and Afghanistan.

When will Americans heed the vision of Isaiah to transform our weaponry of death into tools for peace to end world poverty?

Terrorists build off social inequality, lack of education, poverty, and a perverted view of the United States, which they perceive as materialistic and militarily aggressive. War, the killing of innocent people, and destroying social infrastructure provide them with recruiting opportunities they would not otherwise have.

What if the United States had used the $1.3 trillion it has spent on the wars to build schools and hospitals in foreign lands? Or starting farming coops? Those would have yielded more success in our common struggle against terrorism. And the world economy would have been better off.

Instead, 7,000 troops have died -- not to mention the tens of thousands now disabled, and a hundred thousand or more non-combatant men, women, and children in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I also lament the attacks on immigrants in our country, people who have migrated here to support their families. Perpetrating discrimination against them because of their national origin or religion will come to justify discrimination against others, an alarming regression in the hard-fought victories we won so painstakingly.

As Leviticus reminds us, "When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself."

When you get together on my birthday holiday, don't just celebrate the strides we have made -- for many more remain to you. Organize to end injustice, anywhere and everywhere.

Your brother,

James C. Harrington is a civil rights lawyer and professor in Austin.

photo by makingpeace from today's MLK March and Celebration in Austin, Texas

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Victory for DC civil disobedience

Good news issued yesterday by Veterans for Peace:

Washington, D.C. – January 4, 2011: Anti-war military veterans and other activists celebrated a breakthrough victory today in DC Superior Court, when charges were dropped, following arrests in front of the White House, on December 16, 2010. Over 131 people were arrested in a major veteran-led protest while participating in non-violent civil resistance in a driving snowstorm. US Park Police charged all 131 protesters with “Failure to Obey a Lawful Order,” when they refused to move. All remained fixed to the White House fence demanding an end to the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and further US aggression in the region.
Among those arrested were members of the leadership of the national organization Veterans for Peace , Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dr. Daniel Ellsberg; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges; former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern; and, Dr. Margaret Flowers, advocate for single-payer health care.
Forty-Two arrested opted to appear in court and go to trial with the first group appearing in DC Superior Court on January 4, 2011. Prosecutors from the DC Attorney General’s office stated that the Government “declined to file charges due to missing or incomplete police paperwork.” Presiding Magistrate Judge Richard Ringell confirmed that the cases were dropped and defendants were free to leave.
Those who participated in this action make this statement:
“This is clearly a victory for opposition to undeclared wars which are illegal under international law, have led to the destruction of societies in Iraq and Afghanistan, bled the US Treasury in a time of recession, and caused human rights violations against civilians and combatants. Many of us will return to Washington, DC, to support an action on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 to protest the continued use of Guantanamo detention facility, including torture of detainees in violation of international law.”
The defendants were represented by co-counsels Ann Wilcox, Esq. and Mark Goldstone, Esq. Ms. Wilcox stated: “clearly the Government and Police felt that these veterans and their supporters acted with the courage of their convictions, and did not wish to spend the time and funds necessary for a trial proceeding. This is a major victory for the peace movement.”
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