January 18, 2010

Peace Is the Means and the End

On this day, I earnestly commend to your attention an article by Jeff Nall: "How Obama Betrays Reverend King's Philosophy of Nonviolence."

Here are several excerpts I view as especially significant:
Each year, many remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work on behalf of civil rights. Yet the most fundamental piece of his philosophical legacy, his rejection of the utility and morality of violence between individuals and nations, remains at best ignorantly obscured or at worst actively suppressed. In his 1967 book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, Rev. King wrote that "it is as possible and as urgent to put an end to war and violence between nations as it is to put an end to poverty and racial injustice."

When President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace prize some in the peace movement noted the irony of awarding such a prize to a man overseeing multiple wars and hundreds of military bases around the world. What was most horrifying about Obama being awarded the peace prize was the content of his acceptance speech in which he defended the utility and morality of violence and war. Rather than merely ignoring the legacy of peacemakers before him, Obama used the speech as a full-frontal assault on the very philosophical tenets of nonviolence advocated by Gandhi and Rev. King.

On December 10, 2009, Obama followed in the footsteps of so many believers in war before him: letting out a cry for peace while loading his guns. ...

Rev. King directly assailed those who proffered words of peace and love while they showered their enemies with bullets and bombs. "Many men cry ‘Peace! Peace!’ but they refuse to do the things that make for peace," wrote Rev. King. Summing up the philosophical tenet underwriting nonviolent direct action King continued: "One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal." In short, peace is both the means as well as the end.


Continuing [Obama] said, "Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."

The history Obama recognizes, however, is that cruel, blood-soaked fable of American Exceptionalism. Rev. King saw through this fraudulent cloak of Divine American Right when he observed, on April 4, 1967, that it was the United States that is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

Rev. King was not being hyperbolic. He merely fulfilled the call of justice to look beyond national heritage and to honestly assess the actions of his country. And so his heart and mind followed our nation’s long trail of blood. ...

Since King made those remarks the U.S. only increased its commitment to resolving problems through militaristic means.
I also want to draw your attention to this passage:
In a way that perhaps only the U.S’s first black president could have done, President Obama seemed to attempt to marginalize and disappear Rev. King’s message that the United States was on "the wrong side of the world 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."


Perhaps President Obama’s ascendancy up the staircase of power has left him dizzy and too far removed from the cause of peace and justice. Whatever the cause, it is now all too clear that he either does not know or refuses to recognize the injustices of U.S. militarism. Rather than recognizing our nation’s foreign policy crimes, Obama merely referred to the inferior others, to the irrational barbarians who simply will not listen to reason – the reason of U.S. domination, the reason of corporate militarism from sea to shining sea. According to Obama, the U.S. has never been on the wrong side of the world revolution. ...

Standing on the world’s stage, receiving a prize for peace, Obama stared straight into the eyes of Rev. King’s legacy and declared not hostility but rather his loyalty to militarism. Rev. King called for America to "get on the right side of the world revolution" by undergoing a "radical revolution of values." Obama defended the American exceptionalism which has and continues to color U.S. militaristic violence in a divine shade of ineffability. Dismissing the hundreds of thousands left dead from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama described the U.S. as the world’s great savior which never does wrong. "Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms." As if tearing out pages from reality and replacing them with the most egregious doublespeak Obama stated plainly: "America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens."
I have been discussing certain of these themes for several years. I point you in particular to an article from May 2009: "Obama and the Triumph of the American Myth." The second, major part of that essay, "Torture and the American Project," sets forth many of the facts of American history that Obama steadfastly refuses to acknowledge and, as Nall observes, blatantly lies about. Obama announced his dedication to the propaganda of American Exceptionalism on a comprehensive scale in his widely praised speech on race; see "Obama's Whitewash" for the details.

But there is an earlier passage in "Obama and the Triumph of the American Myth" that I offer again here, since it speaks to Nall's argument:
Given the fundamentalist fervor with which the U.S. ruling class maintains and burnishes the national mythology, an exercise in which the majority of "ordinary" Americans join with equal enthusiasm (for such dedication to onanistic joys will forever find many followers), Barack Obama was inevitable. It was dangerous enough when truth was the enemy; truth was to be destroyed, but there remained a barely discernible acknowledgment that the truth still existed. With the ascension of Obama the Marketer, Obama the Fulfiller of Dreams, Obama the Commander of Illusion, the lie occupies the most prominent national space. Once installed, the lie grows daily and hourly. The smallest remaining tatters of truth are pushed always farther to the edges, until they vanish into the growing swamp of pain, suffering and death. To search for the truth in these circumstances is to sentence oneself to ridicule and hatred. To speak the truth is to render oneself irrelevant and invisible.

But, the liars insist, after our disgusting and vile history of slavery and discrimination, we miraculously have a Black president. Surely, this must be regarded as a wonderful development. In the unlikely event that you missed the intended intimidation, an additional phrase is often included: "Surely, this must be regarded as a wonderful development by all decent people." Now you understand, and now you will shut up.

Honest to Christ, talk about the lie ascendant. I suppose it is "uniquely American" that the first Black American president could only have been elected by molding himself entirely in the image of the white, male ruling class, and by adopting a white racist perspective. But still he has Black skin! O, glorious symbolism! O, wondrous marketing!

To hell with this vicious nonsense...
See the full essay and follow some of the links for much more. I also mention for your consideration the concluding section of that article, which discusses an especially egregious instance of monumental lying and massive historical distortion in the name of hack partisanship on the part of Paul Krugman. It might prove of some value to those who are only now disillusioned with Krugman, given his dishonest shilling for the health insurance abomination. I remind you that this example of Krugman's superficiality and manipulativeness dates from May of last year. I'll return to Krugman soon for further examples of his analytic failures, which are numerous and sometimes enormously consequential. His current, unrelenting propaganda on behalf of the health insurance monstrosity should surprise no one, provided they were paying attention and understood the arguments he frequently put forth.

But then, we could say the same, with full justification, about the "disappointment" experienced by so many with regard to Obama himself, couldn't we? For more about why such disappointment is singularly misplaced, see, "The Fatal Illusion of Opposition" (from May 2008) and a still earlier essay (from May 2007), "Songs of Death." I've analyzed many of the reasons for the inability and/or refusal of so many people to see and identify the significance of even massive evidence spread before them on all sides; I will shortly be returning to that subject in some articles I've planned for quite a while, for there is much more to be said on that subject.

Let me go back to Jeff Nall's article, and reprint his concluding paragraphs:
Despite depicting Gandhi and King’s philosophy of nonviolence as impractical, Obama urged all to be guided by "the love they preached." Yet "the love they preached" cannot be so easily pulled apart from the nonviolence and anti-militarism they preached. In sum, for all of his gestures of respect for Rev. King, President Obama’s deeds have exacted nothing short of the betrayal of the fundamental legacy of peace and justice of the man who made it possible for him to be president.

So as we commemorate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the year 2010, let us recognize ... the necessity and the supreme practicality of nonviolence. Let us join Rev. King in understanding militarism in the same way we think of racism: an instrument of violence and oppression. For the violence and terrorism we hate so much will not end until we force our government to realize that peace and justice can’t be created via military operations that take the lives of innocent mothers, fathers, and children. The hate that fills our bullets and missiles will simply fertilize and enlarge the malevolence we seek to destroy. And in the process we may find that we not only kill the innocent abroad, but that we lose our conscience and our very souls in the process.

While men like President Obama continue their faith in war let us hear Rev. King, and heed his call for a "peace offensive."
I emphasize this in particular: "let us recognize ... the necessity and the supreme practicality of nonviolence." I've seen a few recent articles advocating the policy of nonviolence. Some of them have made significant and very valuable points. But I haven't yet seen sufficiently explained, at least to my own satisfaction, two aspects of nonviolence: one of the ultimate roots (and probably the ultimate root) of a profound personal dedication to nonviolence, and how powerful and effective nonviolence can be.

Although I have long had many articles in various stages of preparation, I think I will begin with this subject. At this moment in history, it is a matter urgently demanding the most careful consideration.