Thursday, April 4, 2013

RIP MLK and Liberalism

     Five years ago, WaPo columnist EJ Dionne wrote a column on the 45th anniversary on the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and it was entitled "When Liberalism's Moment Ended." It was the rare article that would prove to be transformative to me as both a human being and a liberal and helped pinpoint for me the answer to a nagging question that had been bothering me like a cat hair in the eye:
     When, exactly, did liberalism die? I didn't know and wasn't even sure it could be traced back to a split second in time, to a specific number of square feet, to a singular event. I thought it could've been a slow process of attrition, some toxic creep of conservatism accumulating in size, speed and momentum like a dirty snowball across several decades. But that's not really the answer. That's not how and when liberalism died. So when was it?
     45 years ago today, that's when. It ended, or began breathing its last, on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN on April 4th 1968. For good measure, the last nail in the coffin came about two months later when Bobby Kennedy's life ended in a kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel, opening the way for Richard Nixon, seven more years of Vietnam, Watergate, the privatization of the health care system and a whole host of evils too numerous to list even in a single book, let alone a blog post. So that's where and how liberalism's ignoble death occurred: At a motel balcony and a hotel kitchen. The winds of change got knocked out of our sails and we've never recovered since.
     If you want a single but telling indication of how much we've lost our way since then, take a look at the trending topics on Twitter for the United States. They are, in their current order:
     You may choose not to see too much into that. But an infallible indicator of a national population's priorities is in how they view history and how far back they go, as well as what they choose to learn or not learn from it. At the same time I was making note of the lack of attention paid to an assassination that indisputably altered America forever and not for the better, someone chose to mourn Heath Ledger, whose birthday happens to be today. But Ledger was a gifted actor who tragically died young, not someone who'd devoted his entire life to ending prejudice and corporate greed and making the ultimate sacrifice in a moment of unimaginable violence.
     We truly have lost our way if we continually think of things to distract us with a single-minded commonality that can be defined as a trend according to one social networking algorithm or another. You want to know one of the reasons why I don't blog as much as I used to? Sure, my fruitless Godot-like job hunt takes up some of my time, as does my fiction writing, publishing these books that no one buys, running my household and etc. But I did all these things 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 years ago and while I was working a 40 hour work week.
     I see this country's degeneration into this bread-and-circuses parody of the great, compassionate nation we once were, a nation I still remember from my own childhood and I see icons like King have been replaced in popularity and Three Penny Fame by people like Beyonce ("You're not a single lady, buddy. Oh, no, I've made him cry.").
     These are our crazy obsessions. And they will literally be the death of us.


At April 4, 2013 at 10:03 PM, Anonymous CC said...

From Dionne's commentary:

"Liberals had turned on each other over Johnson's Vietnam policy."

Just insert "Obama's" or "Clinton's" in place of "Johnson's" and "War on Terror" or "domestic" in place of "Vietnam" and you'll have the Democratic platform over the last 20 years, along with liberals turning on each other once again.

One can argue that MLK-style liberalism began its slow death on April 4, 1967, when King criticized the Vietnam War and linked it to problems at home.

The mainstream media, which lauded him in 1963, quickly turned on him. "I have a dream" was "sanitized" liberalism that the establishment could swallow. Once King began to target its institutions, he made some dangerous enemies. For exactly a year after his Riverside Church speech, he was a dead man walking.

At April 5, 2013 at 9:57 AM, Blogger Mongo, At The Moment said...

(Q:) How did we devolve into a nation where a TeeVee Daddy like Reagan, or a peevish dullard like Lil' Boots Bush, are lauded as wise stewards and brilliant leaders?

Where the majority of the population tolerate drones, surveillance, and watching their children's futures reduced by an in-your-face economic inequality that ensures a few benefit, while Social Darwinism replaces the rule of law ... so long as they can service their debt and have 400-channel porn-on-demand?

(A:) The path of least resistance / You can't fight City Hall / Anyone in America can grow up to be a Billionaire / America is the light of Freedom for the world / There's One Born every Minute.

At April 5, 2013 at 7:14 PM, Blogger Stan B. said...

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. -MLK


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