This is the second time in a week that I have seen a public figure invoke of the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the purposes of furthering a right-wing agenda that would have simply horrified the man. it certainly horrifies me. The first time I noticed this sort of statement was in the Anderson Cooper interview Tom Horne about the recent Arizona banning of ethnic studies classes. He maintains that we should have, essentially, social studies but that they should not be taught by members of that ethnicity to members of that ethnicity. He fails to realize that in order to specialize enough to even teach the subject, those teachers would ideally have received college degrees in that subject. He also fails to realize that there is no prerequisite of being, say, Asian American to take Asian American studies and there never was. While trying to argue that we don't have a problem if we don't separate coursework on separate cultures, Horne points out that he was on the Mall at Martin Luther King Jr's I Have a Dream speech. Perhaps he was there but he certainly missed the point.
And then there's Glenn Beck (hat tip Barb Wold of Democracy for New Mexico for the video pointer):
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Imagine Beck's lunatic rantings had Martin Luther King Jr. said the following today, instead of in 1967:
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolution
It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; [Audience:] (Yes) the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain."
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
Would Tom Horne let this man teach in the Tucson Consolidated District? Not likely. More likely, both he and Glenn Beck would have been calling him a communist and many in the right wing did in the 60s.
Calling into their context the "I Have a Dream" speech from 1963 and tossing aside everything MLK said over the next 5 years is reminiscent of their use of Leviticus to suppress the human rights of gay people, while thumbing their nose at same book's call to embrace the strangers in our land. Perhaps if these people had taken a few ethnic studies courses, they would have a little better grasp of history.