Monday, January 16, 2012

MLK Day in Retrospect

Martin Luther King is in that middle area of figures considered "great" enough to have a holiday: he was too long ago to be real to most people, and he's not yet a figure so remote that he's going to be used to sell used cars or shill for a sale on his Day, as are the figures of Washington and Lincoln.  But when GOPers who stoked the suspicion and hate that enveloped him in a penumbra of violence for what was left of his young life are blithely praising his idealism and "hope for the future," then the attempted co option has reached beyond reality.

It's pretty clear that while culturally and in certain legal areas, African Americans are better off than in the 1960s, in other ways they are in worse circumstances that are worsening.  The indefensibly high rates of incarceration of black men generally, and specifically for crimes that whites much more often escape such penalties, is clearly racist in effect and to a great extent in cause.  This is one of the more obvious remnants of racism.

The promises of the 1950s and 1960s have not been fulfilled in other ways.  De facto segregation of schools, separate and unequal, are still the law of the land, however formally illegal.  De facto retrenchments of voting rights are rising, with the poll tax substitute of ID laws.  And an entire state of Michigan is denying entire cities with majority black populations of the right to vote for any local official, by installing GOPer governor appointed dictators.  This is as clear a tyranny as any this continent has ever seen.

But of course the most telling fact is the economic injustice that has swollen the wealth of the inconceivably wealthy 1% and is sending more and more people off the cliff of ordinary life, among the 99%.  People without homes, without enough food, without medical care, without the means to have a decent life--those numbers are growing, and growing fastest among the most vulnerable populations, which certainly includes minorities, and certainly includes African Americans.

In that context, the South Carolina GOPers who assembled for their debate on Martin Luther King Day--as other GOPer audiences in other primary debates--are showing  faces of America carefully hidden behind suburban doors and suburban secret codes, small town murmurs and city euphemisms, for decades.  But these days the mobs are whipping into a frenzy again, and the white sheets are there for all to see.  Their hate extends to all other colors, to any other religion or culture (they even booed the idea of applying the Golden Rule), and even to any foreign language (French, say, or science.)  These are shock troops of the Dark Ages, and if they succeed, those times will hasten. 

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