Politics

The Rating Game: The Unintended Consequences of the Conservative Revolution

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this essay are those of French Philosopher, Michel Feher and do not reflect the views and opinions of ePa. Feher is founding editor and publisher of Zone Books

 

BY MICHEL FEHER

 

Elected on the promise to make the “free world” vibrant again, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan claimed a mandate to impose market discipline on everyone. The Iron Lady and her Great Communicator friend faulted their predecessors for responding to the restive 1960s with inordinate minimum wage and social benefits raises – thereby causing inflation to soar. They also blamed the CEOs of large corporations for balancing the wishes of shareholders with the demands of labor unions and consumers’ advocates – thereby causing profits to wane. Finally, they lamented that the propensity of politicians and employers to placate “special interests” groups enticed wage earners to rely more on wealth redistribution and collective bargaining than on their own hard work and initiative.

The architects of the “conservative revolution” argued that harnessing the power of the state to help markets do their job was not only good for business: more importantly, it was about encouraging the entire population to think and behave like self-reliant entrepreneurs. In their view, awakening the entrepreneurial spirit of every citizen required the creation of an environment where private companies, public administrations and individual consumers in need of resources would have to compete for private funding. To that end, they proceeded to lift the constraints that had hitherto limited the transnational circulation of capital, kept the various branches of the financial industry separate and checked the creativity of financial engineering.

Deregulations certainly enabled financial institutions to act as the arbiters of valuable endeavors. However, the order of priorities that resulted from the ascendency of finance turned out to be quite different than what its political facilitators had envisioned. For financial markets, as John Maynard Keynes warned, do not operate like other markets. More than coordinating transactions, pooling predictions is their specific function: thus the signals they produce are not prices representing the outcome of negotiations between buyers and sellers but ratings expressing the speculations of investors on the value of a project. Moreover, Keynes added, what investors speculate upon is not the eventual yield of an initiative but its immediate impact on the attention of their peers. Corporations were the first type of economic agents to internalize the guessing game of their potential backers. For almost four decades, CEOs have been less intent on maximizing commercial profits – conceived as the difference between sales revenues and production costs – than on bolstering their company’s financial credit – measured by the market value of its stock. Unrealized capital gain, rather than operating cash flow, is the metrics of success – which explains why firms use their resources to “buy back” their own shares.

The primacy of ratings is not confined to the private sector. Keen on improving the attractiveness of the companies based on their territory, 1980s governments catered to investors’ preferences for business-friendly tax codes and flexible labor markets. As the subsequent loss of fiscal revenues forced them to borrow the funds they could no longer collect, elected officials have become increasingly dependent on the value of their sovereign debt in the bond market. Maintaining the trust of bondholders is arguably the main concern of policy makers, over and above economic growth or the welfare of their fellow citizens. In time, the sway of shareholders and bondholders’ valuations has extended to households and individuals. Employers and political leaders who vie for investors’ attention can no longer provide lifelong careers and a sturdy safety net. It is now up to job applicants to make themselves valuable, either by advertising highly prized skills and an appealing address book or, failing that, by displaying unlimited availability and flexibility.

Furthermore, once faced with precarious jobs and receding social benefits, large swaths of the population have been forced to borrow, whether to access housing, study, or simply survive. Yet anyone hoping to obtain a loan must offer guarantees. In the absence of sizeable possessions, aspiring borrowers rely both on the estimated worth of what they want to acquire and the reputation for reliability that they have earned by repaying previous loans. There again, being deemed creditworthy is what enables people to navigate our brave new world. Altogether, the conduct fashioned by the speculations of investors scarcely fit the entrepreneurial type that the conservative revolution was supposed to mold. Pro-market reforms purported to create a world where capital owners, wage earners and even the unemployed would envision their lives as a profit-seeking business, calculating the cost and eventual benefit of every decision. In contrast, financialized capitalism breeds credit-seeking portfolio managers primarily attentive to the appraisal of the assets composing their material and human capital.

In the last fifteen years, the purchase of speculative ratings has spread beyond the economic sphere. Resorting to the same technologies as global finance, social media have also adopted its unique mode of valuation: online friends, followers and reviews attest to the advent of a culture predicated on the relentless pursuit of credit. Far from setting us free to pursue our self-interest, as the conservative revolution had pledged, the proliferation of platforms where people are invited to “share” their experiences, opinions, competences and needs compels us to catch and retain the interest of others – to generate bullish speculations about what we own, who we know and how we are. As ratings inform the various realms of our lives, creditworthiness gains political prominence as well. In China, the government already assigns an aggregate social credit score to its citizens – and denies them access to public utilities and programs when they rate poorly. In the US, Donald Trump has earned the undying support of his core voters by vowing to valorize some key components of their portfolio. Under his administration, being or standing by a nationalist, gun-carrying white male is, once again, a truly valuable asset.

Allocating credit is not the uncontested privilege of authoritarian and populist leaders, however. Some of the most vibrant exponents of the resistance to Trump’s agenda, from Black Lives Matter and #MeToo to the March for Our Lives, are equally focused on producing and circulating their own rating system. Their purpose is not only to discredit behaviors protected by institutional prerogatives, gender norms, and powerful lobbies but also to reappraise the lives that these behaviors depreciate. Though hardly indifferent to specific reforms regarding police practices, workplace environment and gun control, these budding movements understand that deciding who and what deserve credit has become the decisive stake of political struggles. For them, pervasive ratings are not a curse to reverse but a challenge to meet. Speculation is far too important to be left to professionals.

 

I Have A Dream…

 

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free; one hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination; one hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity; one hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.

So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was the promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. 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; now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice; now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood; now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content, will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy, which has engulfed the Negro community, must not lead us to a distrust of all white people. For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of Civil Rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality; we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities; we cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one; we can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”; we cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote, and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No! no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations.  Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi. Go back to Alabama. Go back to South Carolina. Go back to Georgia. Go back to Louisiana. Go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.  Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I HAVE A DREAM TODAY!

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama — with its vicious racists, with its Governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I HAVE A DREAM TODAY!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be plain and the crooked places will be made straight, “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.  With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brother-hood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.  And this will be the day. This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire; let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York; let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania; let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado; let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia; let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee; let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill of Mississippi. “From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

 

Source: Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have A Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World, ed. James Melvin Washington (San Francisco: Harper, 1986), 102-106.

 

Marking The 50th Anniversary Of Shirley Chisholm’s Historic Election To Congress

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was a force to be reckoned with. Fifty years later, the country is remembering her historic election as the first African American woman to serve in Congress. This, in a time when the country is seeing a historic rise in women being elected to political office.

During a 1983 speech Chisholm said, “I think it’s important that as we look around ourselves in the room today, there are so many complex complicated problems. And the time has come that somehow we must be able to utilize our creative energies on a positive manner and work together for the remediation of the human condition. It matters not whether you are white or black, whether you are male or female but that if you have special talents and aptitudes and abilities that these collective talents and abilities should be utilized by all of us in order to try and help make this world a better place in which to live.” Thanks to the brilliant, feisty, bold, unapologetic “unbought and unbossed” Chisholm, we’ve come a long way in the fight for a more just and equal world, but the fight is far from over.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s remarks on Shirley Chisholm: 

Congresswoman Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14) the organizer of the, “Unbought and Unbossed: A Forum Honoring the Life and Legacy of Shirley Chisholm,”  said, “Fifty years after Representative Chisholm became the first black woman in Congress, she continues to inspire women to push the boundaries.” She’s right. Sheroes have been shaping the world since the beginning of time and thanks to these efforts they’re getting the credit and recognition they deserve.

Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence remarks on Shirley Chisholm: 

The event was co-hosted by the Democratic Women’s Working Group, Congresswomen Lois Frankel (FL-21), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Yvette D. Clarke (NY-9). The women gathered at the event spoke about Chisholm’s legacy and influence on policy priorities in Congress and pledged to continue her fight for civil rights, gender equality, lifting families out of poverty, and improving our democracy.

Rep. Steny Hoyer remarks on Shirley Chisholm: 

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” ― Shirley Chisholm

 

Brett Kavanaugh: America’s Privileged Good Ol’ Boy Demands His Due; A Supreme Court Seat!

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

One did it as their civic duty, the other as their defense against a terrible sex crime. And GOP Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee want us to pretend we didn’t see the blaring truth during the hearing; that Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a rotten person. One who led a life currently catching up to him at the peak of what should be the greatest honor of his professional life. If karma could be picked out of a crowd, it would look like the sniffling, bombastic image of a lying man we all saw following the testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing him of attempted rape when they were both teenagers 36 years ago.

Ford’s testimony was not just credible, it was impactful. And that impact is still rippling across America, encouraging many to speak their own truth about sexual assault. The angry senators not courageous enough to treat Ford equally and respectfully, in step with the social movements of our times, are doing more damage to our country and culture in their sunset years that may take another civil war to settle. It’ll be a fight they won’t be around for, and with their wealth, ensure their sons and daughters won’t have to fight either. The spectacle surrounding the Kavanaugh hearing is yet another reminder that the most out of touch Americans, remain the most powerful, making culture shaking political moves that largely impact a demographic on shaky grounds; the average American forced to live (and give) on a minimum wage not one of these power wielding old white men could, or have ever been forced to survive on.

We the people have gone from movement to movement to bring about change; positive change.  And this moment being led by women and supportive men is no different. Unfortunately, some who claim to be leaders for their people are instead the barriers of our inevitable social justice evolution taking root. In other words, a gang of old white rich men are forcing their will upon us like Kavanaugh allegedly did to Ford.

“I remember their laughter … I was underneath one of them while the two laughed,” Dr. Ford testified, adding, “Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life.” And yet, despite her powerful testimony, GOP Senators saw fit to throw a fit to shield their good ol’ boy, “Bart.” And Donald Trump, aka “Cult 45” boarding Air Force One yesterday with what looks like toilet paper on his shoes kept his special kind of crazy exactly as is; going from being sympathetic to Ford, and quickly turning to feed his cult members a basket of undignified mockery of an alleged sex assault victim at one of his strange rally’s. I can only hope the toilet paper on his shoes is God’s way of telling the world; don’t worry, I got this.

But are we really in good hands?  The Senate held a procedural vote on Judge Kavanaugh today. The angry, dismissive old man gang is moving ahead despite the lies Kavanaugh told under oath. They’re defending his temperament, his disrespect and blatant partisanship by rewarding him for his good ol’ boy loyalty with a Supreme Court seat. It’s clear they need his vote to protect their larger agenda and grip on power. Today they voted 51 to 49 to move the procedural vote to a final one. If confirmed, angry “Bart” could be cloaked and seated by next week.

 

Trump’s Smite On The Arts In America

Editors Note: This piece was also featured in DCReport.

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Taking a deeper look at two more of Donald Trump’s nominees for the National Arts Council, having examined the other two in this recent article.

Barbara Coleen Long is the wife of Rep. Billy Long (R-Missouri) who lists his top policy issue as “Conservative values.”  A 20-year search of the Nexis news database turns up not a single mention before her before her July 12 nomination to this prestigious federal advisory board.

The nominee is unknown in the national arts world or even in her own small community of Springfield, other than as someone who attends local performances. Indeed, prior to July 12, the day Trump nominated her, we could not find a single news report mentioning her. Leslie Forrester, executive director of the Springfield Regional Arts Council, said that although she isn’t familiar with Long she supports her nomination. “Congressman Long and his family have been involved in the arts. They’ve been involved in our local community theater, local cinema and others. They’ve been patrons of the arts for a very long time and we certainly count them as allies in terms of advocacy work as well,” Forrester said.

“I have not had the opportunity yet to meet Mrs. Long but I think that having her representation coming from a mid-western state and coming from a smaller community and understanding what is happening in the arts and in rural Missouri as well as our metro area will be beneficial because there are lots of great arts things happening  outside of metro areas and continuing that kind of representation at the national level will ensure that the National Endowment for the Arts is able to fully engage with the arts at all levels,” Forrester said.

If the Longs were truly allies in Springfield’s art community, Forrester would have been familiar with her, but she’s not. The city population is 167,000 and the metro area only 550,000 people, small enough that people engaged in any broad field of activity tend to be known by the leaders in specific fields, like the arts. Rep. Long makes his conservative views crystal clear on his congressional website — he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. So unless the Longs live in a house divided, it’s logical to surmise his wife holds similar conservative view points.

That made me wonder about what she would think of “Piss Christ,” a 1987 creation of photographer Andres Serrano. It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a small glass tank of the artist’s urine. It won a Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art’s Award in the Visual Arts. The competition, in Winston-Salem, N.C.,  was sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Considering Long’s family stance on morality, the question then must be; will she support art deemed controversial? Or is her nomination a signal of the type of country Trump wants to create, one that shares his philistine views on arts and culture?

The fourth nominee is Michelle Itzcak, a board certified, registered art therapist and a licensed mental health counselor in Indiana. What she will contribute to the national arts scene is anyone’s guess. How did Itczak get nominated, being relatively unknown in her own town’s art scene? Even Jeremy Efroymson, a major name in the Indianapolis art scene, declined to comment. “Thanks but I’m not interested in commenting,” he said. People named to federal boards usually have track records that get them into the news. So we did a Nexis news database search for all English language news going back 20 years to find news reports prior to the July 12 appointment by Trump. Here is the entire file on Itczak from the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, first from a story in 2010:

Michelle Itczak has resigned from her position as South Vermillion’s girls soccer coach to work at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. Itczak will begin an art therapy program at Riley. And there is this from a story six years ago on a group dynamics: In the conflict resolution workshop, the participants discussed how to avoid mismanaging conflicts to avoid more damage. “If handled positively, I believe conflict is an opportunity to grow,” said session leader Michelle Itczak, an adjunct professor in SMWC’s Master of Art in Art Therapy Program. “Overcoming those challenges can build trust and strengthen relationships.” And from the Indianapolis Star that same year: “Art is a positive outlet for anyone, but particularly incarcerated individuals because it is a nonviolent way for them to express themselves,” said Michelle Itczak, a board-certified registered art therapist, licensed mental health counselor and president of the Indiana Art Therapy Association.

The only other published report we could find was from the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette in 2012: Every week, Katherine travels to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis so medicine can be put into her blood. And that’s where she met Michelle Itczak. Itczak is an art therapist who helps children. She urged Katherine to start drawing and painting on the days she had her treatments. Whatever Trump’s, or more likely his staff’s, reasoning for selecting these four nominees to sit on the National Council for the Arts is anyone’s guess but we don’t have to dig too deep when it comes to understanding His Shallowness and the arts. There’s no mystery to Trump. He’s all about worshipping him and money.

When Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul, passed away this week, many took note of her  stirring performances and her  2015 Kennedy Center Honors, which brought President Obama to tears. Not Donald Trump. He reduced her decades of contributions to the arts as one of the greatest singers the world has ever known to this: “she worked for me.”

Trump; the only president to deliberately skip the Kennedy Center honors that are arguably America’s most important evening for the arts, doesn’t care about the arts. His selections seem to fit this pattern.

 

Yes We Can Read These Books This Summer!

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Former President Barack Obama gave us a sample of what he’s thinking, influenced by and of course, reading. Before traveling to Africa recently he reached out to millions of his adoring fans to share his summer reading list. It’s not too late to get started! Quick tip: Audible allows me to catch up and keep up with my reading list, and my long drives are made easier.

Which category do you fall under? 

Former President Barack Obama:

This week, I’m traveling to Africa for the first time since I left office – a continent of wonderful diversity, thriving culture, and remarkable stories.

I was proud to visit sub-Saharan Africa more times than any other sitting President, and I’ll return this week to visit Kenya and South Africa. In South Africa, the Obama Foundation will convene 200 extraordinary young leaders from across the continent and I’ll deliver a speech to mark the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Kenya, of course, is the Obama ancestral home. I visited for the first time when I was in my twenties and I was profoundly influenced by my experiences – a journey I wrote about in my first book, Dreams from My Father.

Over the years since, I’ve often drawn inspiration from Africa’s extraordinary literary tradition. As I prepare for this trip, I wanted to share a list of books that I’d recommend for summer reading, including some from a number of Africa’s best writers and thinkers – each of whom illuminate our world in powerful and unique ways.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

A true classic of world literature, this novel paints a picture of traditional society wrestling with the arrival of foreign influence, from Christian missionaries to British colonialism. A masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world.

A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

A chronicle of the events leading up to Kenya’s independence, and a compelling story of how the transformative events of history weigh on individual lives and relationships.

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Mandela’s life was one of the epic stories of the 20th century. This definitive memoir traces the arc of his life from a small village, to his years as a revolutionary, to his long imprisonment, and ultimately his ascension to unifying President, leader, and global icon. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand history – and then go out and change it.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

From one of the world’s great contemporary writers comes the story of two Nigerians making their way in the U.S. and the UK, raising universal questions of race and belonging, the overseas experience for the African diaspora, and the search for identity and a home.

The Return by Hisham Matar

A beautifully-written memoir that skillfully balances a graceful guide through Libya’s recent history with the author’s dogged quest to find his father who disappeared in Gaddafi’s prisons.

The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes

It’s true, Ben does not have African blood running through his veins. But few others so closely see the world through my eyes like he can. Ben’s one of the few who’ve been with me since that first presidential campaign. His memoir is one of the smartest reflections I’ve seen as to how we approached foreign policy, and one of the most compelling stories I’ve seen about what it’s actually like to serve the American people for eight years in the White House.

 

Thanks Trump! The Global Shaming Of America

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

America is being shamed by the world. And it’s all thanks to President Donald J. Trump and his clan. It’s clear, we have an unusual leader at the helm. Unfortunately, the helm is leader of the free world and that’s terrifying af. It’s rare when the world speaks with one voice. And right now it’s chanting loud and clear across Europe, “We hate you Donald Trump, Go Away!” Even the State Department is cautioning Americans abroad to keep a low profile. And, believe it or not, the word Trump actually means Big Fat Problem Baby in Na’vi! That’s why they made a huge baby Trump float to “welcome” him. It’s true.

But, in all seriousness, the take away from this stance is positive and negative. It’s uplifting to know that most people, world-wide, don’t want to blur the lines that separate right and wrong for greed’s sake. This collective stance against Trump and all he represents—arguably, the worst of mankind—makes the negative response to his visit even more poignant, especially on the heels of countless terror attacks in the region and a wave of anti-immigration moves from the top down. I mean for God’s sake, Brexit happened!

On the other hand, it’s deeply disappointing to see the man who represents us as Americans not only behave badly in all social situations but is pushing to advance policies that divide and weaken us here and abroad. Rather than move us forward as a world that stands as one and beholden to goals rooted in humanity and prosperity, Trump is trashing his opportunity to make the world a better place for all of us. And that includes taking care of planet earth, allowing future generations to experience the miracle of life, nature and the universe.

With a decreased status as the world’s super power, thanks to China’s hot dragon breath behind our neck, America is perceptibly floating on “the Nile” River tap dancing away like Fred Astaire because the show must go on despite what’s at stake; nuclear war. President Trump’s performance at the G7 Summit in Europe didn’t go any better than his current visit across the pond. Remember the iconic photo of the G7 leaders looking down at the petulant child-man with all the power? I’m still embarrassed.

But seriously, is he that clueless and unprofessional?! Leaving the queen waiting? … Walking in front of her and just embarrassing himself and by default, the rest of us decent and good Americans? The. Queen. Of. England. Had. To. Stop. And. Go. Around. Him. While. He. Was. Puffing. His. Chest. And. Chin. Out. I cringed watching him walk with his chest inflated, chin up in the air and that ever present stupid, and spoiled, jerky brat look on his face. Keep in mind, Trump goes out of his way to treat women poorly. His lack of respect of the queen is right in line with what he embodies; misogyny. From refusing to shake hands with Angela Merkel, throwing skittles at her, insulting and rating women’s looks and boasting that he can get away with sexual assault. When it comes to modern social norms, Trump is revealing that manners and respect for others didn’t matter in his household when he was growing up. Only he did; shame on his parents.

And considering his hostile policies targeting immigration, you’d think his family never migrated here from one of the countries protesting his European visit; Scotland. His mother migrated to the U.S. from Scotland, paving the way for the life he now lives. Nevertheless, the hypocrisy that keeps him afloat is astounding. His current and third wife, First Lady Melania Trump is accused of lying on her own visa application… It’s hard to think back to her appearance on Larry King Live to support the birther movement to discredit Obama’s birth certificate. She clearly hiked Mount Audacity in Pandora…

The blatant racism, bad behavior, hypocrisy, bold-faced lying and shameful unprofessionalism from this family and the entire administration is astounding and dangerous because it sets the tone of normalcy and precedent for our nation, the world and future leaders.

From Britain to Scotland, people have taken to the streets to voice their disdain for Trump. And yet he doesn’t care that the world hates him and all he represents; American greed and culture. The world can literally see Trump … chosen “democratically”… grabbing America and the rest of the world “by the pussy” and we can’t move his little hand away.

Our democracy is hanging in balance and Trump, propped up by his supporters and enablers couldn’t care less. Why? Because they want to win; even though the prize is debasing American values.

The press plays a crucial role inflating the Trump blimp. Being their bread and butter makes coverage of him and his family increasingly disheartening. And, at times even laughable if there wasn’t so much at stake, making the laughter morph into instant pain and concern. World renowned expert on culture, Edgar H. Schein says culture is very hard if not impossible to change. But in the age of Trump one can argue that American culture is rapidly changing right in front of our eyes. Thanks Trump!

Partisanship is part of the fabric that formed our country. As a nation, we will never see eye-to-eye on how to govern ourselves or lead the world. But that’s what makes us innovative and progressive people. That’s why we have three branches of government, the Constitution and Bill of Rights to ensure our cooperation and coexistence with one another; a diverse people working to overcome a painful past and striving for racial, civil and economic equality. Unfortunately, the hive that accompanies Trump are like biblical locusts dead set on destroying everything in front of them. Who knew Roe v. Wade would be in jeopardy after all this time?! Don’t be surprised when bible thumping conservative lawmakers call for segregation across the land as they work to weaken the working class.

The election of President Obama revealed a dormant racist underbelly anxious to rear its ugly head; an attempt to reverse racial progress. And everything was Obama’s fault. Even rain couldn’t escape being blamed on the man. The trend, “Thanks Obama!” became fodder. Lawmakers at the highest levels of government were more interested in seeing him fail than move the country forward together. It’s those race-obscured blinders that has us waste deep in Russian election meddling today. A serious national security threat. Trump deflecting his involvement with Russia in swaying the election by pointing fingers at Obama is not only par for the course, it’s telling of the continued partisanship that has crippled our democracy.

Trump shames us at home and he shames us abroad. And his party remains silently complicit while feverishly turning the wheel of progress backward to fit a country and world that only values those with golden toilets. The wealthy, the ignorant and the racists among us are the only ones benefiting from Trump. And, the indictment of 12 Russians accused of tampering with the 2016 presidential election won’t phase him or his supporters. This, despite publicly being asked by Trump to hack our security system. Sadly, their “Make America Great Again” slogan touting patriotism as their rationale for standing behind the antithesis of what a great American actually looks like, lives on. Josiah Gilbert Holland once said, “The soul, like the body, lives by what it feeds on.” Perhaps it’s Trump’s glutinous soul diet that needs an overhaul for him to become the human being this world needs. But, I won’t hold my breath while I cringe.  Thanks Trump!

 

China & America: The New Geopolitical Equation

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

A recent talk in New Hartford sponsored by Upper Mohawk Valley Chapter of the United Nations Association, (UMVUNA) highlighted some of the factors facing U.S.–Sino relations as the two sides work to settle contentious trade agreements. Visiting Assistant Professor of Government & Politics, Jun T. Kwon, Ph.D. says to fully grasp the foreign policy directions of both countries we have to understand the Five T’s; Thucydides Trap, Trade, Taiwan, Tibet and Tiananmen.

Starting with the first T, Kwon says the two sides share a relationship that is mainly rooted in the “Thucydides Trap,” referring to ancient Greek historian Thucydides’ reasoning of the Peloponnesian War. “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” Kwon says, “The 21st Century belongs to China.” He says it’s this fear that’s causing disruptions in U.S.-China relationships. “China’s power is growing and it’s causing fear in America,” he said. He explains that despite the pessimistic prospects of the two countries, some are optimistic of China rising especially as it pertains to world politics. “They welcome China challenging the U.S. in world politics.”

When it comes to the second T; Trade, Kwon says, “There’s definitely a trade war going on. Free trade benefits everyone. The issue is who will gain more? The U.S. wants to curb China gaining but the U.S. and China are economically intertwined. And, so many other countries are losing to U.S. in trade policy. Chinese growing power is striking fear.” Despite the circumstances, Kwon says, “There’s a compromise expected in the next couple of weeks on the U.S.-China trade dispute.” He adds that ultimately, without an agreement, its American consumers that stand to lose because they’ll see prices skyrocket when China retaliates over trade disputes. Kwon says the negotiations are ongoing because trade relations should be reciprocal.

The third T; Taiwan, may be one of the most contentious issues between China and the U.S. Although Taiwan is a self-governed island under U.S. protection, China claims it as part of the PRC, (People’s Republic of China). Kwon states, “President Trump signed Taiwan Travel Act last month which would facilitate and expand high level visits and exchanges between senior officials in Washington and Taipei. It has fueled the already strained relations between the U.S. and China. One China policy is a principle from China’s point of view that there is only one China and that Taiwan is part of China.” He goes onto say that China sees it as U.S. intervention into Chinese domestic affairs. “Nothing is angering China more than perception of foreign intervention into domestic affairs.”

The issue of Tibet covers the fourth T. Tibetan independence is undoubtedly an issue causing social instability in China. Kwon says the U.S. stands accused by the Chinese government of instigating Tibetan independence and with an expected White House visit from the Dalai Lama soon, China is concerned about what President Trump will do to harm already strained relations. Kwon says, even though China is eagerly awaiting the death of the Dalai Lama who has tirelessly worked—even in exile–toward Tibetan independence, the concern is a real one for the country because other minorities want to break away from China too. “Tibet refers to one of the most sensitive sources of social instability in China, which is so-called ethnic minority issue. In particular, two notable minorities which have expressed their independence sentiments are Tibetans and Uyghurs who are Turkish speaking Muslims residing in Xinjiang Province in Northwest of China.”

The final T is centered on an important moment in China’s political liberation; 1989 Tiananmen Square. “There has been no meaningful protest since,” Kwon says. This, despite the human rights violations China stands accused of by the U.S. and other world organizations. When the Chinese government removed constitutional term limits to allow President Xi Jinping to be president for life, the Chinese people didn’t seem to care about removing the 10-year term limits and Professor Kwon says, “This is a problem with the lack of activism since Tiananmen Square.” Adding, “China is not democratic at all. But how democracy should be defined is relative. Whether human rights are universal is relative. And, what is democracy? How do you define it? Comparing U.S. and China; U.S. is focused on the By The People part while China focuses more on the For The People part,” he says, adding, “The U.S. wants to use human rights and democracy to make China look bad.” Nonetheless, Kwon says democracy in China will take time and imposing values on others is not democracy.

In a labor intensive industry the U.S. can’t compete with China because China has labor power. “And this threatens U.S. markets.” Asked if the fear is justified, Kwon says, “China wants to come back as the super power. To be number one on the world’s stage. There will be conflict because the U.S. does not want China to take over. If that happens, it’s going to be a major conflict similar to a 1920s war.” Professor Kwon explained that China is not interested in injecting their influence around the world other than in East Asia. However, China does want to expand its economic power around the world, especially in Africa. “The U.S. has military alliances with 58 countries. China has only one; North Korea.”

There is some good news coming from the attention China is receiving as it negotiates new trade agreements with the United States. China, a member of the Paris Agreement, is actively working to reduce pollution. One way is by controlling the purchase of cars by putting limits on purchases, and working to expand where people live and work by building mega cities all over the country to entice people to relocate there and ease congestion in its larger more densely population cities like Shanghai and Beijing. And as it pertains to its relationship with North Korea, Kwon says, “China is nervous about North Korea drifting away from them and forming a relationship with Trump. China wants North Korea to pull back because it’s concerned they are moving too fast to meet with the U.S.”

The recent and third inter-Korean Summit’s focus was the geopolitical landscape and according to Kwon North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons. He says, “Security guarantee from the U.S. is the only way North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons and that’s never going to happen.” He adds, “The U.S. goal is to handcuff North Korea. And, North Korea is scared. They feel threatened.” As it pertains to unification, Kwon says it would mean the collapse of North Korea unless it’s a very slow process of unifying the two Korea’s. He says part of the problem has to do with pathological nationalism. “North Koreans have been brain washed by pathological nationalism. They are brainwashed to worship their leader and blame the U.S. for their economic hardships.” Regardless of the views held from either side of the geopolitical landscape on the future of U.S.-Sino relations, it’s safe to surmise; China’s time as the world’s number one super power will come.

 

Utica Students Will Be Counted In The March For Our Lives This Weekend

 

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets to demand that their lives and safety become a priority, and that we end gun violence in our schools and communities. Here in Utica, NY, students are heeding the national call to action. Many of them will be marching from Proctor High School to Oneida Square on Saturday. The march kicks-off at Noon.

 

March for Our Lives is a demonstration created and organized by #NeverAgain, a group of students who survived the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Every town for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, is helping the students plan and coordinate the event. Organizers are calling on lawmakers to address the issue of gun violence in American schools by implementing comprehensive gun control legislation.

 

 

March for Our Lives has three primary demands:

  • Pass a law to ban the assault weapons frequently used to carry out mass shootings
  • Stop the sale of high-capacity magazines, restricting the amount of ammunition
  • Close loopholes in America’s background checks and implement laws that require background checks on every gun purchase, including those that occur online or at gun shows

For more information about this national event, click here.

 

Letter From A Birmingham Jail, King, Jr.

 

16 April 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. 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. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

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. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

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.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

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.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. 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.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

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.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that 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.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.