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January 17, 2011

Are You Able to Accept Blows Without Retaliating?

That was the question King asked of himself and those who stood with him in Birmingham.

In "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", King sought to respond to criticisms from fellow clergymen regarding their active demonstrations for Civil Rights in Alabama in the 60s.

I'm just a moron in Texas, but for what it's worth, I lived in Alabama until 1969, when one month before my tenth birthday we moved to Texas. I saw many of these things through a kid's eyes. There were questions I asked my father that had no good answers.

Anyway, I have no remarkable insights, but I have gleaned a few things from King's letter.


He sought to explain his principle of non-violent protestations.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham.
(emphasis mine).

Are you willing to make a stand against these injustices without inflicting injustice? Do you have the moral (and physical) courage to do that?

There is never a good time. There is only "now".

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

To confront an unjust law peacefully, and to be willing to accept the consequences shows respect for law.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. 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.

That this approach places a man squarely between two forces, one of complacency and acceptance of a moral wrong, the other, destruction.

The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

The church has a moral obligation that presses it toward justice.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

And that perseverance, and a right cause, can prevail over any darkness of man. Because this nation was founded upon these principles, justice and invidual liberty.

We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

These words mean something.

... when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

I will not play a trivial game of "MLK was this" or "stupid holiday" that. I don't give a damn about those things. I'm not even going to play "race card limited out" crap. I don't care. I respect the sentiments and ideas expressed in these words, and I'm glad I remembered them today.


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posted by Dave In Texas at 11:29 AM

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