Political philosophy – section two

Also see Political philosophy – section one

The Other Big Surprise of 2016 Is the Return of Democratic Socialism By Lawrence Wittner, History News Network, commondreams.org, May 25, 2016  Democratic socialism used to be a vibrant force in American life. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the Socialist Party of America, headed by the charismatic union leader, Eugene V. Debs, grew rapidly, much like its sister parties in Europe and elsewhere: the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, the Australian Labor Party, and dozens of similar parties that voters chose to govern their countries

The rise of American authoritarianism by Amanda Taub, VOX.com, March 1, 2016  A niche group of political scientists may have uncovered what’s driving Donald Trump’s ascent. What they found has implications that go well beyond 2016. Trump has found the key to appealing to authoritarians, which makes him dangerous. The ability of any political party to respond to the anxieties of this group of people is very limited. Do we have institutions and structures in place to prevent the dark side of this growing trend?

Radical Politics in the Age of American Authoritarianism: Connecting the Dots By Henry A. Giroux,  truth-out.org, April 10, 2016, There has never been a more pressing time to rethink the meaning of politics, justice, struggle and collective action.

The New Populism Is A Fight For America’s Values by Elizabeth Warren, The New Populism conference, May 22, 2014  populism –  the power of the people to make change in this country… In every fight to build opportunity in this country, in every fight to level the playing field, in every fight for working families, the path has been steep. Throughout our history, powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor. From tax policy to retirement security, the voices of hard-working people get drowned out by powerful industries and well-financed front groups. Those with power fight to make sure that every rule tilts in their favor. Everyone else just gets left behind…We – the people – decide the future of this country.

Trump-Sanders Phenomenon Signals an Oligarchy on the Brink of a Civilization-Threatening Collapse By Sally Goerner, Evonomics,  May 29, 2016    Oligarchies win except when society enacts effective reforms   Scientifically speaking, oligarchies always collapse because they are designed to extract wealth from the lower levels of society, concentrate it at the top, and block adaptation by concentrating oligarchic power as well. Though it may take some time, extraction eventually eviscerates the productive levels of society, and the system becomes increasingly brittle.

America’s New Normal By Robert Zaretsky, THE STONE, New York Times, JUNE 22, 2016

Francis: When a Visitor Changes Your Home by Jim Wallis

Excerpt – In a clear message and mandate to Congress, Pope Francis said,

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology, to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power, and to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.”

By Jim Wallis, Sojourners, 09-25-2015

Stunning is the word that most comes to me after Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Washington, D.C. The country and the media was reveling in his presence, using language like “amazing,” “incredible,” and “wonderful” in response to this extraordinary moral leader who literally transformed our public discourse in the 48 hours he was in the nation’s capital. What these two extraordinary days mean going forward is the big question on all our hearts and minds.

At the formal welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House, a very traditional template was transformed by the “Vicar of Christ,” whose presence turned everyone’s language to one reference after another to those Christ called “the least of these” in the 25th chapter of Matthew. Never have I heard the most vulnerable being the most talked about in this city.

President Obama began the pope’s visit with these words, “What a beautiful day the Lord has made.”

Indeed. Then Pope Francis introduced himself to America as “a son of an immigrant family” who was “happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.”

Point made.

Later he went on to call us to “accepting the urgency. [I]t seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generations.”

Not clear to some political leaders — but clear to the Holy Father. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church — 1.2 billion global souls — called for the “care of our common home,” then lifted up the spirit of hope that defined his entire visit and was my favorite line of the week:

“For we know that things can change.”

In between the official events, Pope Francis seemed happiest when he was moving between ordinary people and encountering (one of his favorite words) the people of America, especially the children.

Yesterday, Sept. 24, Pope Francis delivered his own version of a State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress — one like no other in our nation’s history.

Yes, he spoke powerfully on a number of critical public issues, but he began by calling the political representatives of this country to their proper purpose and vocation as servant leaders.

“You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics,” he said.

“A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called, and convened by those who elected you.”

The pope cautioned against polarization, and basically told them they should work together — a very radical call in Washington’s ideological and vitriolic divided politics.

Pope Francis’ largest and longest standing ovation from Congress came when he reminded the lawmakers of the Golden Rule — something I never would have imagined.

He spoke of “a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War,” and how “on this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones…”

The pope said we need to learn, “not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation … always humane, just, and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (Matt. 7:12).”

That’s when all the politicians stood up and clapped.

But the most stunning thing to me was when Pope Francis brought to our attention, in a joint session of the Congress, four examples of extraordinary figures from American history to illustrate his moral convictions about how to serve the common good. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. were great choices but seemed less a surprise, but then he also named Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton; who — along with King — have regularly graced our covers and articles here at Sojourners. I really couldn’t believe it.

For the pope, each of these figures symbolizes a different American dream. In describing them, he said,

“President Abraham Lincoln — liberty; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — racial justice and inclusion; the founder of the Catholic Worker movement Dorothy Day — social justice and the priority of the poor; and Thomas Merton, the contemplative priest — the capacity for openness to God and a dialogue with others, even those of other faiths, with whom we need to build bridges.”

Neither Catholic mentioned — Dorothy Day, working with the poor everyday on the lower east side of Manhattan, or Thomas Merton, walking the hills of Kentucky and praying the daily cycle of prayers at Gethsemani Abbey — could likey have ever imagined being lifted up in the U. S. Congress.

When Pope Francis did speak about particular issues at the congressional podium, he spoke powerfully, in ways that transverse and transcend American political lines. He spoke in favor of abolishing the death penalty but also of protecting human life “at every stage of development.” He condemned the international arms trade as motivated “simply [by] money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” He spoke eloquently about the value of dialogue between hostile nations as an alternative to armed conflict. And throughout his remarks he lifted up the need to protect and provide justice for the poor, the immigrant, and the very planet.

After the speech to Congress, Pope Francis greeted the massive crowd waiting outside from the balcony of the Capitol building, using his native Spanish. “Buenos Días!,” he said to the diverse and beaming crowd.

He gave a blessing to the children praying, “Father of all, bless these. Bless each of them. Bless the families. Bless them all.”

He then asked for the prayers of all Americans, and the good wishes of non-believers, saying, “I ask you all please to pray for me. And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you to please send good wishes my way.”

Yet another gesture that makes so many Americans — Catholic, non-Catholic, and non-religious alike — so deeply attracted to this pope.

In the past two days, I have heard the messages of the gospel that Sojourners has spread over four decades presented at the nation’s primary venues of power and lifted up as the country’s leading national media story. Even some of our most beloved gospel heroes were raised before the nation as the Americans the nation needs most to be our examples.

Stunned is the feeling I still have, which is taking my breath away. Pope Francis has indeed changed the national conversation in America this week, pointing to those who also changed the conversation, and then calling us all to continue to do the same. How long this will last is not the deepest question. Rather, it’s whether Pope Francis’ words will fall on fertile or rocky soil as the gospel parable asks, and who will decide in their own lives and in nation-changing movements to now keep this conversation changing.

In a clear message and mandate to Congress, Pope Francis said,

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology, to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power, and to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.”

This is his clear message and mandate to all of us. We pray for the courage and perseverance to see that mission through. A stunning “Amen.”

Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided, the updated and revised paperback version of On God’s Side, is available now. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

- See more at: https://sojo.net/articles/francis-when-visitor-changes-your-home#sthash.sqPvLXl5.HLRfO7CQ.dpuf

https://sojo.net/articles/francis-when-visitor-changes-your-home

Overview – faith, values, religion and spirituality

Religion, spirituality, values

Understanding America’s religious landscape is the most important challenge facing us today…the change since the 1960’s has been dramatic and Muslims now outnumber Episcopalians, Jews or Presbyterians.…The Pluralism Project Eck directs at Harvard University is investigating religion in America, what the changes mean and “the challenge of creating a cohesive society out of all this diversity.”  “In the United States, the climate of tolerance and the engagement of pluralism emerge not from an authoritarian central regime, but from a democratic experiment as an immigrant nation, a nation in which, at our best, we are motivated by ideals and principles” says Eck. The conse­quences for community life and public policy are enormous. A New Religious America — How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation by Diana L. Eck

Pope Francis has been very clear about how he feels about ideological purity in religion. He’s been particularly critical of right-wing Christian fundamentalism. Pope Francis has shifted the focus of the Catholic Church to issues facing the poor and the sick. He has railed against economic inequality and has criticized the anti-gay and anti-abortion strains that have come to dominate the Christian Right here in America. Such ideological extremism is dangerous, not only to Christianity, but to the world. And Pope Francis said as much last Thursday. Pope Francis called right-wing Christian fundamentalism a sickness. Stephen D. Foster Jr. October 21, 2013

Holy Book Learning — Americans are shockingly illiterate when it comes to religions

What Do We Mean By ‘Judeo-Christian’?  By Shalom Goldman, Religion Dispatches, January 21, 2011

 

 

 

Millennial Searchers

By EMILY ESFAHANI SMITH and JENNIFER L. AAKER, New York Times, November 30, 2013

FOR Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor who wrote the best-selling book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” the call to answer life’s ultimate question came early. When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, “Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation.” But Frankl would have none of it. “Sir, if this is so,” he cried, jumping out of his chair, “then what can be the meaning of life?”

The teenage Frankl made this statement nearly a hundred years ago — but he had more in common with today’s young people than we might assume.

Today’s young adults born after 1980, known as Generation Y or the millennial generation, are the most educated generation in American history and, like the baby boomers, one of the largest. Yet since the Great Recession of 2008, they have been having a hard time. They are facing one of the worst job markets in decades. They are in debt. Many of them are unemployed. The income gap between old and young Americans is widening. To give you a sense of their lot, when you search “are millennials” in Google, the search options that come up include: “are millennials selfish,” “are millennials lazy,” and “are millennials narcissistic.”

Do we have a lost generation on our hands? In our classes, among our peers, and through our research, we are seeing that millennials are not so much a lost generation as a generation in flux. Chastened by these tough economic times, today’s young adults have been forced to rethink success so that it’s less about material prosperity and more about something else.

And what is that something else? Many researchers believe that millennials are focusing more on happiness than prior generations, and that the younger ones in that age cohort are doing so even more than the older ones who did not take the brunt of the recession. Rather than chasing the money, they appear to want a career that makes them happy — a job that combines the perks of Google with the flexibility of a start-up.

But a closer look at the data paints a slightly different picture. Millennials appear to be more interested in living lives defined by meaning than by what some would call happiness. They report being less focused on financial success than they are on making a difference. A 2011 report commissioned by the Career Advisory Board and conducted by Harris Interactive, found that the No. 1 factor that young adults ages 21 to 31 wanted in a successful career was a sense of meaning. Though their managers, according to the study, continue to think that millennials are primarily motivated by money, nearly three-quarters of the young adults surveyed said that “meaningful work was among the three most important factors defining career success.”

MEANING, of course, is a mercurial concept. But it’s one that social scientists have made real progress understanding and measuring in recent years. Social psychologists define meaning as a cognitive and emotional assessment of the degree to which we feel our lives have purpose, value and impact. In our joint research, we are looking closely at what the building blocks of a meaningful life are. Although meaning is subjective — signifying different things to different people — a defining feature is connection to something bigger than the self. People who lead meaningful lives feel connected to others, to work, to a life purpose, and to the world itself. There is no one meaning of life, but rather, many sources of meaning that we all experience day to day, moment to moment, in the form of these connections.

It’s also important to understand what meaning is not. Having a sense of meaning is not the same as feeling happy. In a new longitudinal study done by one of us, Jennifer L. Aaker, with Roy F. Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs and Emily N. Garbinsky, 397 Americans were followed over a monthlong period and asked the degree to which they considered their lives to be meaningful and happy, as well as beliefs and values they held, and what type of choices they had made in their lives.

It turns out that people can reliably assess the extent to which their lives have meaning, much in the same way that people can assess their degree of life satisfaction or happiness. Although a meaningful life and a happy life overlap in certain ways, they are ultimately quite different. Those who reported having a meaningful life saw themselves as more other-oriented — by being, more specifically, a “giver.” People who said that doing things for others was important to them reported having more meaning in their lives.

This was in stark contrast to those who reported having a happy life. Happiness was associated with being more self-oriented — by being a “taker.” People felt happy, in a superficial sense, when they got what they wanted, and not necessarily when they put others first, which can be stressful and requires sacrificing what you want for what others want. Having children, for instance, is associated with high meaning but lower happiness.

When individuals adopt what we call a meaning mind-set — that is, they seek connections, give to others, and orient themselves to a larger purpose — clear benefits can result, including improved psychological well-being, more creativity, and enhanced work performance. Workers who find their jobs meaningful are more engaged and less likely to leave their current positions.

Further, this mind-set affects what types of careers millennials search for. Today’s young adults are hoping to go into careers that make an enduring impact on others. Last spring, when the National Society of High School Scholars, a global honor society for high school students, asked more than 9,000 top students and recent graduates what they wanted to do with their lives, they found that these recession-era millennials favored careers in health care and government. Of the top 25 companies they wanted to pursue out of a list of more than 200, eight were in health care or at hospitals while six were in government or the military. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital came in as the No. 1 place these millennials wanted to work “The focus on helping others is what millennials are responding to,” James W. Lewis, the chief executive of the honor society, told Forbes.

Some studies have suggested that millennials are narcissistic and flaky in their professional and personal lives, and are more selfish than prior generations. But new data suggests that these negative trends are starting to reverse. In a study published this summer in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, the researchers Heejung Park, Jean M. Twenge and Patricia M. Greenfield looked at surveys that have, each year since the 1970s, tracked the attitudes of hundreds of thousands of 12th graders. Although concern for others had been decreasing among high school seniors and certain markers of materialism — like valuing expensive products such as cars — had been increasing for nearly four decades, these trends began to reverse after 2008. Whereas older millennials showed a concern for meaning, the younger millennials who came of age during the Great Recession started reporting more concern for others and less interest in material goods.

This data reflects a broader pattern. Between 1976 and 2010, high school seniors expressed more concern for others during times of economic hardship, and less concern for others during times of economic prosperity. During times of hardship, young people more frequently look outward to others and the world at large.

Of course, nobody likes living through tough economic times — and the millennials have been dealt a tough hand. But at the same time, there are certain benefits to economic deprivation. Millennials have been forced to reconsider what a successful life constitutes. By focusing on making a positive difference in the lives of others, rather than on more materialistic markers of success, they are setting themselves up for the meaningful life they yearn to have — the very thing that Frankl realized makes life worth living.

Emily Esfahani Smith is an editor at The New Criterion and Defining Ideas, a Hoover Institution journal.

Jennifer L. Aaker is a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/opinion/sunday/millennial-searchers.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20131201

Searching America’s Soul

Progressive Values e-letter October 25, 2013
Ideas we need to talk about        HTML version

Searching America's Soul

All of the various fields of human inquiry -- theology and philosophy and morality and psychology  - meet rather
beautifully in politics. And sometimes I wonder if politics isn't exactly that,it's the taking of all the sort of great ineffable and trying to make them have some meaning in the actually historical
moment on earth in which we live.
Tony Kushner - writer of the movie "Lincoln" - interview with Bill Moyers

To all Americans -
The shutdown debacle pulled back the curtain and revealed some deep
dark issues at the core of our crisis in American democracy. There
has been an outpouring of commentary from diverse voices on a broad
range of topics within this complex scenario raising issues that have
been under the radar until now. It's now indisputable that our
American democracy is in the greatest peril since the Civil War and
change must come effectively and rapidly from the grassroots up.

Especially revealing was coverage, particularly via social media, of
the values and ideas driving the political posturing and maneuvering.
The shutdown had little to do with the actual debt or deficit and
everything to do with a narrow ideology, toxic certitude, delusions
of superiority and lust for power . Widespread consensus that this
conservative extremist worldview is dangerous gives me the moral
energy needed to continue seeking dialogue and understanding among
the citizenry.

It has been common knowledge for some time that the Republican Party
is controlled by its Tea Party faction. An entrenched hatred for
secular government and liberals is a major force in the Tea Party
ideology.

Ever-present racism and the threat of violence have grown
exponentially since the election of Barack Obama as President. The
passion of some in that fringe element is rooted in the conviction
that America is a "Christian nation" and should be ruled by Biblical
principles. This movement is called Dominionism or Reconstructionism
and has been part of the culture for many years. "End times" theology
is often a part of this mindset and came to the public's attention
during the candidacies of Gov. Sarah Palin and Gov. Rick Perry.

The fact that this faction calls themselves "Values Voters" while
they help the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer, is
infuriating. Their false labeling of progressives as being "morally
deficient" and "depraved" makes me furious.

Close observers of the moral dimensions of politics have been
concerned about this right wing movement since its emergence in the
early 1980s. General awareness and alarm have been fairly low until
recently. There are many individuals and organizations within the
progressive movement and mainline Christians that are deeply involved
in confronting the hypocrisy and cruelty of this extremist ideology
but a cohesive strategy has not yet emerged. Liberals, Democrats and
Progressives have long been inept at articulating the moral values
grounding their political philosophy.

Americans treasure their democracy (even when complaining about the
government) and the principles upon which it founded. Freedom of, and
freedom from, religion along with free speech are precious to us.
Tolerance for a wide range of opinions and cultural diversity is an
American characteristic.

However, when a small faction - made up of big money, skilled
operatives, "grassroots" organizing and Members of Congress who are
motivated by this extremist right wing ideology - amasses enough
power to shut down the government, a line has been crossed.  (see
Robert Reich's comments at left).

It's critically important that citizens learn about this insurgency
and organize to fight back so that American democracy stays firmly
rooted in its inherently progressive values. There are many
components of this crisis with faith and values playing a major role.

The study of moral politics has been my priority for the past eight
years. I've collected more information than I ever thought possible
when this project began and have posted selected articles on the
internet for citizen education. All are welcome to use this body of
knowledge and those progressives with a bent for political philosophy
are strongly urged to dig in.
With audacious faith, Phyllis Stenerson

We must move ahead with audacious faith. The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   * * *

There is such a thing as a crime against the soul of a nation. A
person or a political party can deliberately incite actions that
diminish the strength, the integrity, and the overall well-being of a
nation's inner core. America's soul is in a fragile state...We see
that in the near hatred between the Republicans and Democrats,
between liberals and conservatives, between free-thinkers and
evangelicals that continues to fester...we now have a public that
cannot discern lies from truth... Crimes Against the Soul of America
by Carolyn Myss, published on Huffington Post,September 5, 2009 

Despite such terminology as "fiscal cliff" and "debt ceiling," the
great debate taking place in Washington now has relatively little to
do with financial issues. It is all about ideology. It is all about
economic winners and losers in American society. It is all about the
power of Big Money. It is all about the soul of America...We are
entering a pivotal moment in the modern history of our country. Do
the elected officials in Washington stand with ordinary Americans --
working families, children, the elderly, the poor -- or will the
extraordinary power of billionaire campaign contributors and Big
Money prevail? The American people, by the millions, must send
Congress the answer to that question. The Soul of America by Senator Bernie Sanders,
published by Common Dreams, January 9, 2013

* * *

We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness,
our selfishness and our pride. Deliver us from the hypocrisy of
attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.
Chaplain Barry C. Black in one of his daily opening prayers in United States Senate,
New York Times,October 7, 2013

Go to www.ProgressiveValues.org for articles,
excerpts, quotations and more. To receive this e-letter directly, go
to bottom left of home page and sign up.

We are, or at least we used to be,a nation of moral ideals.
Reclaiming America's Soul by Paul Krugman,New York Times, April 24, 2009

Politics is noble because it involves personal compromise for the
public good.
Why We Love Politics by David Brooks,New York Times, November 22, 2012

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world
revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of
values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society
to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit
motives and property rights, are considered more important than
people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and
militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Do not retreat to the convenience of being overwhelmed.
Ruth W. Messinger

We can choose to use our lives for others to bring about a better
and more just world for our children.
CÉsar ChÁvez

Politics is what we create out of what we do, what we hope for,
what we dare to imagine.
Paul Wellstone

Religion without humanity is poor human stuff.
Sojourner Truth

From Robert Reich, posted on Facebook:
Suppose a relatively small group financed by a handful of
billionaires (1) takes over state governments in order to redistrict,
gerrymander, require voter IDs, purge voter rolls, and otherwise
suppress the votes of the majority; (2) secretly bankrolls candidates
for these safe seats who pledge to shrink and dismember the
government; (3) then, once these candidates are elected, has them
shut down the government in order to repeal or amend laws the
plotters dislike; (4) then forces the nation to default on its debts
and thereby throws the economy into a tailspin in order to get their
way; and (5) runs a vast PR campaign to convince the American public
of big lies about laws the plotters dislike or policies they seek.
Would you call this an attempted coup d'etat? If not, what would you
call it? And what would you do about it?  Robert Reich, Facebook, October 7, 2013

Articles posted by topic include
- Seditious conspiracy
- Shutdown crisis
- Right wing religious extremism
- America's Soul
- Government's moral authority

The Spiritual Crisis Underlying American Politics By John Amodeo, PsychCentral.com, October 14, 2013    -
The shutdown of good governance by Fred Hiatt, Washington Post, October 6 , 2013
A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning by Sheryl Gay Solberg and - Mike McIntire, New York Times, October 5, 2013
Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown, BillMoyers.com, October 9, 2013   -
Ignore the Spin: This Debt Ceiling Crisis is Not Politics as Usual by John Light, BillMoyers.com, October 9, 2013   The Radicalization of the GOP is the Most Important Political Story Today by Joshua Holland, Bill Moyers.com, October 10, 2013
Many in G.O.P. Offer Theory: Default Wouldn't Be That Bad by Jonathan Weisman, New York Times, October 8, 2013
The American Public's Shocking Lack of Policy Knowledge is a Threat to Progress and Democracy By Justin Doolittle,Truthout, October 12, 2013 
Racism and Cruelty Drive GOP Health Care Agenda By Robert Scheer, Truthdig, October 13, 2013
The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government by Chris Hedges, TruthDig.com, posted on CommonDreams.org, October 7, 2013
How Christian Delusions Are Driving the GOP Insane by Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, October 9, 2013

Recent e-letters

-  Status quo or change? 9/19/13
-  The battle for America's soul 10/4/13 

Phyllis Stenerson, Paideia LLC
612.331.1929
- phyllis@progressivevalues.org phyllis@progressivevalues.org - ProgressiveValues.org
Paideia (pu-di'uh) is an ancient Greek philosophy of educating for
citizenship to create an ideal society

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Government, War, and Hollow Principles

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Friday, 21 June 2013

“Our primary long range interest in Geneva, however, is general and complete disarmament, designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms. . . .

“While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both.”

That was President John F. Kennedy speaking to the 1963 graduating class of American University —announcing that the human race was ready to move beyond war. This was the speech in which he revealed that talks on a Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union had begun, and that the U.S. was unilaterally suspending atmospheric nuclear testing.

Fifty years later, the words seem like an archaeological find — quaint, strange, shocking. Look, common sense! Perfectly preserved. Once upon a time, such a goal — disarmament, the end (good God!) of war itself —had political cred at the highest levels.

Kennedy even had the audacity to proclaim that peace wasn’t totally a matter of our enemy du jour, the Soviets, changing their behavior. “I also believe,” he said, “that we must reexamine our own attitudes, as individuals and as a nation, for our attitude is as essential as theirs.”

Politics that makes room for self-reflection? While he proceeds to bash the Communists for bad-mouthing the U.S., he calls their rhetoric “a warning to the American people not to fall into the same trap as the Soviets, not to see only a distorted and desperate view of the other side, not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.”

This is politics outside the simple zone of winning and losing. Kennedy dared to suggest that that peace was complex, that it was not a mere matter of military strength and the power to dominate, and that “our enemy” was not subhuman. The American public was ready to hear this half a century ago. What happened? And more to the point, how do we return to this cutting edge of political sanity?

As I listened to Kennedy’s speech, which a number of people have pointed out to me recently, what struck me even more, perhaps, than the words themselves, was that the president seemed to be speaking from a position independent of the American and global military-industrial consensus. That this should stand out as unusual — that my inner political child should feel moved to ask, “Is a president allowed to do that?” — is truly unnerving.

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, the highest levels of American government were capable of representing more than just the status quo, and were not irrelevant to real social change. Once upon a time, principles stood independent of politics. It was always shaky, of course. The Kennedy presidency was flawed; the Vietnam War was set at simmer. But once upon a time, one could look for real values in the political arena . . . and find them.

What has happened in the intervening years has been a hollowing out of those principles and of democracy itself — a moral bottoming out, you might say. What has happened is that the military-industrial consensus has taken control. No more nonsense. War wins. We’re addicted to it.

“But any awake American can see that PRISM is only one sock on a long line of dirty laundry,” Erin Niemela wrote recently at Common Dreams. “The list of U.S. government abuses and failures to protect stretches far and wide. . . .

“While PRISM and the rest of the gang are individually sordid, when combined they are the track marks of a far more pervasive, widespread, life-wasting problem. One that has systematically attacked not just the Fourth Amendment, but also the First, Second, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and 10th. No matter how hard we advocate for the Fourth Amendment now, others will fall so long as this substance burns through the veins of the Republic.

“This is your government on war.”

Whatever the threats that emanate from beyond or within the national borders, the overwhelming condition that concerned citizens — the ones, for instance, in sync with Kennedy’s 1963 speech — must address is that the government itself is the problem, and its abuses both at home and abroad are only going escalate until its addiction to war is curbed. And the first step in this process is to declare: no future wars. The seductive rhetoric pushing “the next war” is a lie. It’s always a lie, concealing the addiction. The game stops here. No future wars!

Niemela proposes a constitutional amendment: “The American people, in accordance with the promotion of international justice, peace, human rights and dignity, hereby renounce the use of organized, armed force to resolve intra- and inter-state conflict; neither war nor war-making processes shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

David Swanson, in response, proposed enforcing the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, which the United States along with more than 80 other nations signed, agreeing that the settlement of all disputes between signatory nations “shall never be sought except by pacific means.”

The precedent is there. I don’t doubt that the moral passion, in the U.S. and around the globe, is there as well. The idea of ending war can no longer be compromised. Can it regain the political presence it had 50 years ago? That part is up to us.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com, visit his website at commonwonders.com or listen to him at Voices of Peace radio.

http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/item/18043-government-war-and-hollow-principles

The Humanist Vocation

By DAVID BROOKS, New York Times, June 20, 2013

Excerpt

A half-century ago, 14 percent of college degrees were awarded to people who majored in the humanities. Today, only 7 percent of graduates in the country are humanities majors…many humanists have lost faith in their own enterprise..The job of the humanities was to cultivate the human core, the part of a person we might call the spirit, the soul…This was the most inward and elemental part of a person…care, wisdom, truthfulness and courage…the million little moral judgments that emanate from that inner region. The humanist’s job was to cultivate this ground — imposing intellectual order upon it, educating the emotions with art in order to refine it, offering inspiring exemplars to get it properly oriented.Somewhere along the way, many people in the humanities lost faith in this uplifting mission…So now the humanities are in crisis. Rescuers are stepping forth. On Thursday, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a report called “The Heart of the Matter,” making the case for the humanities and social sciences…It focuses not only on the external goods the humanities can produce (creative thinking, good writing), but also the internal transformation (spiritual depth, personal integrity…

Full text

A half-century ago, 14 percent of college degrees were awarded to people who majored in the humanities. Today, only 7 percent of graduates in the country are humanities majors. Even over the last decade alone, the number of incoming students at Harvard who express interest in becoming humanities majors has dropped by a third.

Most people give an economic explanation for this decline. Accounting majors get jobs. Lit majors don’t. And there’s obviously some truth to this. But the humanities are not only being bulldozed by an unforgiving job market. They are committing suicide because many humanists have lost faith in their own enterprise.

Back when the humanities were thriving, the leading figures had a clear definition of their mission and a fervent passion for it. The job of the humanities was to cultivate the human core, the part of a person we might call the spirit, the soul, or, in D.H. Lawrence’s phrase, “the dark vast forest.”

This was the most inward and elemental part of a person. When you go to a funeral and hear a eulogy, this is usually the part they are talking about. Eulogies aren’t résumés. They describe the person’s care, wisdom, truthfulness and courage. They describe the million little moral judgments that emanate from that inner region.

The humanist’s job was to cultivate this ground — imposing intellectual order upon it, educating the emotions with art in order to refine it, offering inspiring exemplars to get it properly oriented.

Somewhere along the way, many people in the humanities lost faith in this uplifting mission. The humanities turned from an inward to an outward focus. They were less about the old notions of truth, beauty and goodness and more about political and social categories like race, class and gender. Liberal arts professors grew more moralistic when talking about politics but more tentative about private morality because they didn’t want to offend anybody.

To the earnest 19-year-old with lofty dreams of self-understanding and moral greatness, the humanities in this guise were bound to seem less consequential and more boring.

So now the humanities are in crisis. Rescuers are stepping forth. On Thursday, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a report called “The Heart of the Matter,” making the case for the humanities and social sciences. (I was a member of this large commission, though I certainly can’t take any credit for the result.)

The report is important, and you should read it. It focuses not only on the external goods the humanities can produce (creative thinking, good writing), but also the internal transformation (spiritual depth, personal integrity). It does lack some missionary zeal that hit me powerfully as a college freshman when the humanities were in better shape.

One of the great history teachers in those days was a University of Chicago professor named Karl Weintraub. He poured his soul into transforming his students’ lives, but, even then, he sometimes wondered if they were really listening. Late in life, he wrote a note to my classmate Carol Quillen, who now helps carry on this legacy as president of Davidson College.

Teaching Western Civ, Weintraub wrote, “seems to confront me all too often with moments when I feel like screaming suddenly: ‘Oh, God, my dear student, why CANNOT you see that this matter is a real, real matter, often a matter of the very being, for the person, for the historical men and women you are looking at — or are supposed to be looking at!’

“I hear these answers and statements that sound like mere words, mere verbal formulations to me, but that do not have the sense of pain or joy or accomplishment or worry about them that they ought to have if they were TRULY informed by the live problems and situations of the human beings back there for whom these matters were real. The way these disembodied words come forth can make me cry, and the failure of the speaker to probe for the open wounds and such behind the text makes me increasingly furious.

“If I do not come to feel any of the love which Pericles feels for his city, how can I understand the Funeral Oration? If I cannot fathom anything of the power of the drive derived from thinking that he has a special mission, what can I understand of Socrates? … How can one grasp anything about the problem of the Galatian community without sensing in one’s bones the problem of worrying about God’s acceptance?

“Sometimes when I have spent an hour or more, pouring all my enthusiasm and sensitivities into an effort to tell these stories in the fullness in which I see and experience them, I feel drained and exhausted. I think it works on the student, but I do not really know.”

Teachers like that were zealous for the humanities. A few years in that company leaves a lifelong mark.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/opinion/brooks-the-humanist-vocation.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130621&_r=0

A Simple Exercise That Works Wonders: Affirm Your Values


By Annie Murphy Paul, creativitypost.com, Apr 30, 2013

Synopsis

Social psychologists have developed a simple activity, called a values affirmation, that can restore our sense of equilibrium.

Life is full of vulnerable moments—occasions when we feel off-balance, unsure of ourselves and our abilities—and in these moments we are likely to perform less well than we might. Social psychologists have developed a simple activity, called a values affirmation, that can intervene in such situations to restore our sense of equilibrium.

Here’s how it works: Make a list of the values that matter most to you, or for ten minutes, write in depth about a value that is central to your life. Perhaps it’s your close relationship with your family, or your skill with a camera or in the kitchen, or your strong religious faith. What matters is that it’s your value, your identity.
It’s a quick and simple exercise, but numerous studies have shown that it can have tremendous effects. Some of the things a values affirmation can do:

1. Tamp down stress. A study led by psychologist Traci Mann of UCLA found that participants who affirmed their values had significantly lower cortisol responses to stress compared with control participants. “These findings suggest that reflecting on personal values can keep neuroendocrine and psychological responses to stress at low levels,” Mann and her coauthors write.

2. Strengthen willpower. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2009, researchers found that affirming one’s values can replenish willpower when it’s been depleted by repeated acts of self-control. The researchers conclude: “Self-affirmation holds promise as a mental strategy that reduces the likelihood of self-control failure.”

3. Increase openness. Joshua Correll of the University of Chicago found that a values-affirmation exercise allowed subjects in his study to objectively evaluate information that would otherwise evoke a defensive reaction. The participants became less biased in favor of their own position, and more discriminating in evaluating the strength or weakness of arguments made by others.

4. Improve accuracy. In a study published in the journal Psychological Science in 2012, researcher Michael Inzlicht of the University of Toronto and his coauthors found that people who had affirmed their values were more receptive to negative feedback and better able to recognize and correct their own errors. “Self-affirmation produces large effects,” the researchers note. “Even a simple reminder of one’s core values reduces defensiveness against threatening information.”

5. Close achievement gaps. Multiple studies by professor Geoffrey Cohen of Stanford University and others have found that affirming one’s values raises the test scores of minority students, and of female students in science and math classes. A reminder of one’s core values seems to protect these students from “stereotype threat”—that is, concerns about their ability to succeed because of their gender or race.

Pretty impressive results from a simple intervention. And it makes me wonder: What would happen if were reminded of and affirmed in our values as part of everyday life at school and at work?
Abstracts of the studies referenced here can be found on my blog.

http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/a_simple_exercise_that_works_wonders_affirm_your_values

Imagine If America Had Adopted Martin Luther King’s Economic Dream

By Bill Moyers, James Cone, Taylor BranchBillmoyers.com, April 6, 2013 posted on Alternet.org

Excerpt

Martin Luther King, Jr…. was a prophet, like Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah of old, calling kings and plutocrats to account, speaking truth to power…He had long known that the fight for racial equality could not be separated from the need or economic equity – fairness for all, including working people and the poor

KING [said] There are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And in a sense this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, and culture and education for their minds, and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. […] But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

[King] was trying to converge economics, race, social and political equalityto take on the tough structure of prejudice in economics in the North?…it was about humanity….What he said about poverty still rings true…it’s chilling to think what the distribution of wealth was when he made that indictment compared to what it is now. It is much more skewed now than it was then and it was back then…these issues of poverty…[were] part of his message all along….

excerpt of the speech he delivered, one year to the day before he was killed, at Riverside Church here in New York City.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives, and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered….

Martin Luther King saw race as the gateway. If you can deal with race and the fundamental denial of common humanity through race, then it opens up possibilities which I think happened in history…

Economic and Social Bill of Rights that he and the Poor People’s Campaign developed in the first, early part of 1968.

“The right of every employable citizen to a decent job, the right of every citizen to a minimum income, the right of a decent house and the free choice of neighborhood, the right to an adequate education, the right to participate in a decision-making process, the right to the full benefits of modern science in health care.”

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: Never forget that freedom is not something that is voluntarily given by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed. If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it. And you know what? You may have to escalate the struggle a bit. If they keep refusing and they will not recognize the union, and will not decree further check-off for the collection of dues, I’ll tell you what you ought to do, and you’re together here enough to do it. In a few days you ought to get together and just have a general work stoppage in the city of Memphis…

JAMES CONE: Yes, it was. And but you can’t do that without that inner freedom that he’s talking about, which is the freedom that empowers you to stop the work. It is the freedom inside that makes you do that. And for King, everybody has to claim that freedom. It’s not a gift. Freedom is something that you have to demand from others, but you cannot demand it from others unless you have it internally yourself. And that’s a kind of inner freedom… the freedom from fear is the necessary freedom to get to civil rights, to get the jobs, to get work against poverty, even though the odds may be against you. And for black people, the odds were against them… he was putting a nonviolent black movement not only in the heart of American patriotism, but in the vanguard heart of American patriotism.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Poverty is probably the toughest issue…for the time that it was active and that it matured into what is the movement. Movement is a word we use often, but don’t reflect on what it means. It was the watch word of politics. People were moved and literally moved history. But in a very, very short time. Now, the watch word of politics is spin. You know, nothing’s going anywhere and nobody’s moving…

JAMES CONE:…getting rid of poverty, redistribution of wealth is not as easy as getting the right to vote. The right to vote doesn’t cost anything. But redistribution of wealth takes across class lines. That costs a lot. And people will fight you in order to prevent that from happening

King was identifying with labor and workers and felt that unions were an essential part of the civil rights struggle….

JAMES CONE: I think he would say something about, “You — this society cannot survive with the huge gap between the one percent and the 99 percent. When you have that kind of gap, then you destroy the possibility of genuine human community and showing how we are interconnected together.

TAYLOR BRANCH: We only have two hopes: enlightenment, which comes from really wrestling and conquering your pride and appealing to the young, quite frankly; and catastrophe. That’s the only other hard teacher that we would have, which is that we’re going to ride this system into a catastrophe. And then we will wake up and say, “Why didn’t we do it before? Why didn’t we listen to Martin Luther King?”

Full text

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. You may think you know about Martin Luther King, Jr., but there is much about the man and his message we have conveniently forgotten. He was a prophet, like Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah of old, calling kings and plutocrats to account, speaking truth to power.

Yet, he was only 39 when he was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th, 1968. The March on Washington in ’63 and the March from Selma to Montgomery in ’65 were behind him. So were the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. In the last year of his life, as he moved toward Memphis and fate, he announced what he called the Poor People’s Campaign, a “multi-racial army” that would come to Washington, build an encampment and demand from Congress an “Economic Bill of Rights” for all Americans — black, white, or brown. He had long known that the fight for racial equality could not be separated from the need or economic equity – fairness for all, including working people and the poor. That’s why he was in Memphis, marching with sanitation workers on strike for a living wage when he was killed.

With me are two people steeped in King’s life and work. Taylor Branch wrote the extraordinary, three-volume history of the civil rights era, “America in the King Years.” The first of them, “Parting the Waters,” received the Pulitzer Prize. He now has distilled all that work, adding fresh material and insights to create this new book, “The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Right Movement.”

James Cone, a longtime professor of theology at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, wrote the ground-breaking books that defined black liberation theology, interpreting Christianity through the eyes and experience of the oppressed. Among them: “Black Theology and Black Power,” “Martin and Malcolm and America,” and this most recent bestseller, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.”

Before we talk, let’s listen to these words from Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken at Stanford University just a year before his assassination. It’s as if he were saying them today.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: There are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And in a sense this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, and culture and education for their minds, and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. […] But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to you both.

BILL MOYERS: As he was trying to converge economics, race, social and political equality, what was he struggling for at that time when he, alone among his colleagues, wanted to take on the tough structure of prejudice in economics in the North?

JAMES CONE: I think he was thinking about class issues. He talked about class issues to his staff. He didn’t do it primarily in speeches because of the kind of anticommunism spirit that was so deep in America at that time.

But on many occasions, he talked about the economic and about America having 40 million people who are in poverty in the richest country in the world. He was talking about restructuring everything. And if you talk about restructuring, you’re talking about class too.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Yes. You have to understand that some of this class tension was also within the black community. Some of King’s most stinging speeches were to the members of his own, like Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, saying, “You spend more money on liquor at your annual convention than you contribute to the NAACP.”

“This is — we’re more concerned about, I know ministers who are more concerned about the wheel base on their Cadillac than they are the spiritual base of their commitment to this world.” So, King drew an awful lot of sustenance and biting challenge from the basic notion of — I think that his favorite parable was the parable of Lazarus and Dives in Luke about–

BILL MOYERS: Which was?

TAYLOR BRANCH: It was about the rich man who passed Lazarus begging at his door and didn’t notice him and went to hell and saw Lazarus up in heaven.

And King interpreted this thing as saying the rich man did not go to hell because he was rich. He went there because he didn’t notice the humanity of the man he was passing at his gate. And it was about humanity.

Remember how the sanitation strike started, it started because two members of the sanitation force were crushed in the back of a garbage truck that was a cylinder, one of those compacting cylinders, in a torrential rainstorm and they were not allowed by the city to seek shelter in storms.

Because the white residents didn’t like it if black garbage men stopped. All the garbage workers were black. And, so, they weren’t allowed — the only place they could get shelter in — they wouldn’t all fit in the cabin. So, the ones that could fit in the cabin and two of them had to climb in the back with the garbage and a broom fell on the lever and it compacted them with the garbage. And that is the origin of the slogan, “I am a man. I am a man, not a piece of garbage.” And that connects to King’s philosophy.

BILL MOYERS: And the sanitation workers carried those signs, remember? “I am a man.”

TAYLOR BRANCH: “I am a man.” And to them, that was about Echol Cole and Robert Walker, their two friends who had been literally crushed with the garbage and nobody noticed. And King is saying, “You’re going to go to hell as a nation if you don’t notice the humanity of Echol Cole and Robert Walker.

JAMES CONE: And that’s why justice is so central for King and why poverty became the focus of his ministry after that civil rights and voting rights. Because the civil rights and voting rights is not going to get rid of poverty. And, so, King saw that as central.

BILL MOYERS: Let’s listen again to Dr. King, from the speech he made to those striking sanitation workers in Memphis just weeks before he was shot to death. What he said about poverty still rings true.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working every day? They are making wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation. These are facts which must be seen. And it is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income.

BILL MOYERS: Could anything be more current right now?

TAYLOR BRANCH: No. It’s hard to imagine, and of course, it’s chilling to think what the distribution of wealth was when he made that indictment compared to what it is now. It is much more skewed now than it was then and it was bad then.

So, you really get a sense of King’s power. I would only caution that we not assume that he undertook these issues of poverty only late in his career. It was part of his message all along. Certainly, if you look at Nobel Prize lecture in 1964, he says, we are — the world is seeing the widest liberation in human history, not just in the United States but around the world.

And we cannot lose this opportunity to apply its nonviolent power to the triple scourge of race, war, and poverty, what he called violence of the flesh and violence of the spirit. This was a very, very broad vision early on. It’s only at the end of his career that he’s making witness on that because he sees his time limited and he wants to leave that witness.

He made a wonderful quote when he was arguing with his staff about doing the Poor People’s Campaign and most of them didn’t want to do it. He quoted something saying, ‘At times, you must finish with what you have, even if it’s only a little.’

BILL MOYERS: You remind that the famous March on Washington five years earlier in 1963 wasn’t called the March on Washington. It was a march for jobs–

JAMES CONE: Jobs and freedom.

BILL MOYERS: –and freedom. Which goes back to his early concern, as you say.

JAMES CONE: Actually, you know, King grew up, he was a child during the Depression and he saw relief lines, even as a young man, and he was disturbed about that. He came from a middle-class family, but he was disturbed about it then. And even when he got ready to go the Crozer Theological Seminary out of Morehouse, when they asked him why he wanted to go into ministry, he connected it with helping people, helping them deal with hurt and pain.

So, it’s not new for King. King has always been concerned about that. I think it becomes sharp for him at the end because he’s accomplished civil rights, and the voting rights, and now he sees that it’s still, he sees the cities burning.

BILL MOYERS: Right.

JAMES CONE: And he wants to provide an alternative to riots.

BILL MOYERS: I want to play you an excerpt of the speech he delivered, one year to the day before he was killed, at Riverside Church here in New York City.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives, and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

BILL MOYERS: A radical revolution of values.

TAYLOR BRANCH: The revolution in values is to see people first, to see Lazarus at the gate and not pass them by. So, I think the revolution in values is Christian and it’s democratic, but it starts with people. They have equal souls and equal votes and we are very stubborn, human nature, about denying that and wanting to see anything but.

BILL MOYERS: Was it theological?

JAMES CONE: Oh, yes. Because people are created in the image of God. If you’re created in the image of God, you can’t treat people like things. If we are interconnected with each other, we can’t treat each other like things. If America is concerned with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, you can’t have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness if you’re treating others as things.

BILL MOYERS: So, what was the turning point that moved him from an understanding of what you’re talking about to an actual agenda of trying to achieve it?

TAYLOR BRANCH: Well, I think part of it is a natural progression. If you are totally invisible, you’re not even up to the level of a thing yet. The bus boycott, the sit-ins, the freedom rides, getting the right to vote, if you’re not a citizen, you’re not even up to the table where you can start dealing with these issues.

To me, Martin Luther King saw race as the gateway. If you can deal with race and the fundamental denial of common humanity through race, then it opens up possibilities which I think happened in history.

And finally, toward the end of his career, he said, we have an opportunity. Now that we are learning, at least the beginnings of treating each other as equal citizens to really tackle what he called the eternal scourge of racism, poverty, and war.

JAMES CONE: His fight against poverty was multiracial. He wasn’t just focused with black people. Well, you can’t get that multiracial fight against poverty unless first black people are regarded as persons. So, civil rights, that earlier part, is, as Taylor was saying, black people coming to the table. So, after they get to the table, if you’re going to deal with poverty, it spreads across races. So, King was concerned about a multiracial movement against poverty because that’s what the Poor People’s Campaign was about.

BILL MOYERS: So, that would help us understand the colorblindness of that Economic and Social Bill of Rights that he and the Poor People’s Campaign developed in the first, early part of 1968.

“The right of every employable citizen to a decent job, the right of every citizen to a minimum income, the right of a decent house and the free choice of neighborhood, the right to an adequate education, the right to participate in a decision-making process, the right to the full benefits of modern science in health care.” Quite a statement.

TAYLOR BRANCH: And he had a workshop, one of the more remarkable events that never made any news and is not preserved in history, in which he had representatives of Indian tribes, Appalachian white coal miners–

JAMES CONE: That’s right.

TAYLOR BRANCH: –Latinos of every different stripe. He had to do hurry-up education on how to tell a Chicano from the Mexicans. His rule was if they are poor, have them here. And half his staff was revolting against that, saying, “We are a black movement.”

BILL MOYERS: Why? Because they felt it would dilute the impact of–

TAYLOR BRANCH: It would diminish the unfinished agenda for black folks. It would diminish their expertise. Hosea Williams, who was a lovely rascal –

JAMES CONE: That’s right. That’s right. He was strongly against it.

TAYLOR BRANCH: He said, “You’re taking my budget and giving it away to Indians and Mexicans. You can’t do that.”

JAMES CONE: That’s right. Yeah.

TAYLOR BRANCH: But he had this incredible conclave there of people who didn’t know each other. And everything and he said, “If we can’t agree together that there’s a poverty and a common approach that’s bigger than race, then we should stop now.”

But by the end of this thing, he had them all together and the rival Indian tribes were settling differences, and the Chicanos said, “Okay, well, we’re going to let the Indians go first because they were here first,” you know and deferring.

JAMES CONE: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.

TAYLOR BRANCH: It was a remarkable event.

BILL MOYERS: He was growing more impatient in the last few months and more radical. Let’s listen to what he told those workers we were talking about in Memphis.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: Never forget that freedom is not something that is voluntarily given by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed. If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it. And you know what? You may have to escalate the struggle a bit. If they keep refusing and they will not recognize the union, and will not decree further check-off for the collection of dues, I’ll tell you what you ought to do, and you’re together here enough to do it. In a few days you ought to get together and just have a general work stoppage in the city of Memphis.

BILL MOYERS: That was a genuine call to the barricades.

JAMES CONE: Yes, it was. And but you can’t do that without that inner freedom that he’s talking about, which is the freedom that empowers you to stop the work. It is the freedom inside that makes you do that. And for King, everybody has to claim that freedom. It’s not a gift. Freedom is something that you have to demand from others, but you cannot demand it from others unless you have it internally yourself. And that’s a kind of inner freedom.

BILL MOYERS: In what sense was he free?

JAMES CONE: Well, King was free because death did not stop him. That is, the fear of death did not keep him from doing his actions for freedom. See, if the fear can stop you, then you are not free. So, freedom from fear was crucial. And throughout the South, having grown up there, I know what that fear is like.

And what is the most amazing thing for me is how King could inspire ordinary black people by the masses, like in Memphis, to march when white people have intimidated them for centuries. What King taught was that inner freedom that makes you confront the oppressor, even if it means risking your life. So the freedom from fear is the necessary freedom to get to civil rights, to get the jobs, to get work against poverty, even though the odds may be against you. And for black people, the odds were against them.

BILL MOYERS: But here’s the unfortunate thing. As you write about it, after his assassination, riots broke out across Memphis. And even though he acknowledged that, quote, “Riot is the language of the unheard,” didn’t this outbreak of violence in some way begin the end of the movement?

TAYLOR BRANCH: This is a very, very profound and difficult topic and I would have to say that it had already begun before. Nonviolence was already not popular. It had already become passé. Some of the most hostile language toward nonviolence came from the Left, people saying that nonviolence is kind of Sunday school and outmoded now.

And that we want to adopt the language of violence.

And King’s answer to that was, “Nonviolence is a leadership doctrine. If we abandon nonviolence, it’s not that we’re stepping up to demand the right to be just violent, just like first-class white people. We’re stepping back from a leadership doctrine in the United States.” And that’s what America including especially white America, does not understand.

One of the few speeches, by the way, in which a white leader acknowledged that was Johnson.

Before he said, “We shall overcome,” he said “so it was at Appomattox, so it was at Concord, so it was at Selma last week, when fate and destiny met in the same moment.”

So, he was putting a nonviolent black movement not only in the heart of American patriotism, but in the vanguard heart of American patriotism.

BILL MOYERS: But do you admit that nonviolence ultimately didn’t work? That it couldn’t change America?

TAYLOR BRANCH: No.

JAMES CONE: No. It did change America.

TAYLOR BRANCH: It did change America.

JAMES CONE: It changed it radically for me. I grew up in Arkansas and I know what fear is. What the movement did, nonviolence did, was to take the terror out of the South. And for the first time, you can not only go to hotels, but you can go all over the South without much fear of harm. That is a major achievement.

BILL MOYERS: Certainly I recognize that.

TAYLOR BRANCH: The white South was the poorest region of the country when it was segregated. It was totally preoccupied in this terror.

It was not fit for professional sports, even, until nonviolence lifted it out of segregation and white Southern politicians were no longer stigmatized. So, you get Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and all these people elected president. And they’re all standing on the shoulders of a nonviolent black movement. Whether they realize it or acknowledge it or not. That’s the reason that our blinkered memory of this period is such a handicap for us today.

BILL MOYERS: Granted, but nonviolence did not bring about the economic restructuring that King hoped for. So that today he could make the same speeches about inequality, poverty, work that he made 45 years ago.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Poverty is probably the toughest issue. You’re talking about how much nonviolence? Maybe two or three years?

And for the time that it was active and that it matured into what is the movement. Movement is a word we use often, but don’t reflect on what it means.

It was the watch word of politics. People were moved and literally moved history. But in a very, very short time. Now, the watch word of politics is spin. You know, nothing’s going anywhere and nobody’s moving.

BILL MOYERS: Not since Martin Luther King has inequality been on the table the way it was at the Occupy briefly appeared on the scene. And I wondered watching Occupy from here if a Martin Luther King had risen to embody that movement, would they have carried us further toward the changes that King and others wanted?

JAMES CONE: It may would have. I’m not sure. But, you know, getting rid of poverty, redistribution of wealth is not as easy as getting the right to vote. The right to vote doesn’t cost anything. But redistribution of wealth takes across class lines. That costs a lot. And people will fight you in order to prevent that from happening. And I don’t know what it would take in order to make that happen.

TAYLOR BRANCH: It’s also not a simple formula. Dr. King never said we were going to give up freedom to have redistribution imposed on us. He never advocated something like that. It is a hard intellectual, spiritual challenge to figure out, “How do you preserve freedom and address poverty?” I don’t think Occupy got that far yet. It didn’t take that much responsibility.

It was just kind of a sign of protest and not a developed sense of responsibility the way, even the sit-ins were taking lessons from Rosa Parks.

JAMES CONE: Yes. That’s right. The sit-ins disrupted society. The freedom riots disrupted things. Occupy Wall Street didn’t disrupt much of anything. They just camped down there and they were not grassroots in quite the same way the Southern movement was during the time of King.

BILL MOYERS: King was identifying with labor and workers and felt that unions were an essential part of the civil rights struggle.

I have this speech from 1961, when he told delegates of AFL-CIO convention, “Our needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for the children, and respect in the community.” He felt this radical structuring that you talk about could not come without labor. And today, 45 years later, unions are largely impotent, smallest percentage of the workforce. So, what’s happened to labor today?

TAYLOR BRANCH: Labor has fallen in disfavor and fallen into, in some respects, an intellectual vacuum. Because people take for granted the right that we give capital to organize in form of corporations. Every corporation is a public charter.

It is a creation of our people. It is a legal entity that we create. And the notion that people on the other end need some sort of vehicle in a global economy in order to make their rights effective ought to be an easy idea at least to begin a conversation with. But we’re so frightened that anything — I guess we’re beholden to corporations in the way that people in the early movement felt that they were beholden to segregation, that their place in the order was threatened.

If you start messing around with this thing, your whole place might go. That’s how they marshaled a lot of Southerners who were not in sympathy with segregation into not being for doing anything about it. And, so, right now, you know, I think that we’re hostage to our fears and don’t really understand how we need to think about economics.

BILL MOYERS: A year before his death, this time he was speaking in California at Stanford University, he said, “In the North, schools are more segregated today than they were in 1954, when the Supreme Court’s decision on desegregation was rendered. Economically, the Negro is worse off today than he was 15 and 20 years ago.

“And, so, the unemployment rate among whites at one time was about the same as the unemployment rate among Negroes. But today, the unemployment rate among Negroes is twice that of whites. And the average income of the Negro is today 50% less than whites.” Now, Taylor and James, he could practically say the same thing today, 45 years later.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Absolutely.

JAMES CONE: Absolutely.

TAYLOR BRANCH: And when he did it, though, he could also say to American white people, “You tend to think of black people as hopelessly caught up in the rear. The way you should look at this is that the things that are happening to black people, unless you make common cause, are going to happen to you, too.”

The poverty rates, the divorce rates in families that were decried among black people now, the white society has long since passed. The notion that higher education is primarily harder for men, which is now afflicting white society. Most of our college graduates are females. That’s been true in black society for years.

And it has had effects in the culture. So, Dr. King said black folks are a headlight of the problems we need to deal with. And white people too often just see them as something that needs to be left behind and out of mind.

BILL MOYERS: So, what would liberation theology say today about what Taylor just described?

JAMES CONE: Well, you know, liberation theology came into being largely because mainstream theology had not spoken to that gap. So, it was in the late ’60s, early ’70s, throughout the ’80s, all the way up to the present day that liberation theology has its meaning primarily in seeing Jesus as one in solidarity with the poor to get them out of poverty.

So, in actual fact, what I see King as, is a precursor to liberation theology. I see King actually making liberation theology, particularly on the American scene, as real and true. And I think if he were here today, he would be trying to bridge this gap between the rich and the poor.

He focused on black people but it was always multiracial for King.

TAYLOR BRANCH: To connect it to what Jim just said, I think that an awful lot of people today are fearful of the basic economic structure and it keeps them from thinking and rattling and getting together to address these problems. He said that King conquered his fear. I say it took him a while to do it, but he certainly did it.

JAMES CONE: Yeah. Yeah.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Fannie Lou Hamer conquered her fear. Everything that she did, including testifying as an unpolished woman before the Democratic Convention, she did when she was homeless. She had been evicted from her plantation. But she had gotten rid of her fear and had a vision that would empower and make productive whole generations of people who racism had denied, you know.

So, we have an awful lot of productive people in the society today who are productive and educated and have talent because the movement helped people conquer their fear. But we’re now at another stage.

Now it’s hitting us and I think everybody is afraid to deal with these issues in the way that the movement dealt with them, which was, “I’m going to let loose of my fear. I’m not going to worry about my savings and my wealth and whether my kids are going to get into Harvard. I’m going deal with the basic issues of how we can cope with these things together.”

BILL MOYERS: Given the absence of a movement today, given the power of money, corporations, and the structure, what do you think Martin Luther King would say to those in power today?

JAMES CONE: I think he would say something about, “You — this society cannot survive with the huge gap between the one percent and the 99 percent. When you have that kind of gap, then you destroy the possibility of genuine human community and showing how we are interconnected together.

TAYLOR BRANCH: I pretty much agree with that. I think he would have to be saying, “Don’t give into pride and thinking that it is solely your genius that’s creating all these billions that you’re sitting on. You are reaping the interconnectedness that we have.

“And that interconnectedness is precious. And it is political. And that can vanish. And so, you need to look beyond that.” We only have two hopes: enlightenment, which comes from really wrestling and conquering your pride and appealing to the young, quite frankly; and catastrophe. That’s the only other hard teacher that we would have, which is that we’re going to ride this system into a catastrophe. And then we will wake up and say, “Why didn’t we do it before? Why didn’t we listen to Martin Luther King?”

BILL MOYERS: Taylor Branch and James Cone, thank you very much for being with me and for your thoughts and ideas.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Thank you.

JAMES CONE: Thank you.

http://www.alternet.org/print/civil-liberties/moyers-imagine-if-america-had-adopted-martin-luther-kings-economic-dream

Full text

Moyers: Imagine If America Had Adopted Martin Luther King’s Economic Dream

April 6, 2013

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. You may think you know about Martin Luther King, Jr., but there is much about the man and his message we have conveniently forgotten. He was a prophet, like Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah of old, calling kings and plutocrats to account, speaking truth to power.

Yet, he was only 39 when he was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th, 1968. The March on Washington in ’63 and the March from Selma to Montgomery in ’65 were behind him. So were the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. In the last year of his life, as he moved toward Memphis and fate, he announced what he called the Poor People’s Campaign, a “multi-racial army” that would come to Washington, build an encampment and demand from Congress an “Economic Bill of Rights” for all Americans — black, white, or brown. He had long known that the fight for racial equality could not be separated from the need or economic equity – fairness for all, including working people and the poor. That’s why he was in Memphis, marching with sanitation workers on strike for a living wage when he was killed.

With me are two people steeped in King’s life and work. Taylor Branch wrote the extraordinary, three-volume history of the civil rights era, “America in the King Years.” The first of them, “Parting the Waters,” received the Pulitzer Prize. He now has distilled all that work, adding fresh material and insights to create this new book, “The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Right Movement.”

James Cone, a longtime professor of theology at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, wrote the ground-breaking books that defined black liberation theology, interpreting Christianity through the eyes and experience of the oppressed. Among them: “Black Theology and Black Power,” “Martin and Malcolm and America,” and this most recent bestseller, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.”

Before we talk, let’s listen to these words from Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken at Stanford University just a year before his assassination. It’s as if he were saying them today.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: There are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And in a sense this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, and culture and education for their minds, and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. […] But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to you both.

BILL MOYERS: As he was trying to converge economics, race, social and political equality, what was he struggling for at that time when he, alone among his colleagues, wanted to take on the tough structure of prejudice in economics in the North?

JAMES CONE: I think he was thinking about class issues. He talked about class issues to his staff. He didn’t do it primarily in speeches because of the kind of anticommunism spirit that was so deep in America at that time.

But on many occasions, he talked about the economic and about America having 40 million people who are in poverty in the richest country in the world. He was talking about restructuring everything. And if you talk about restructuring, you’re talking about class too.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Yes. You have to understand that some of this class tension was also within the black community. Some of King’s most stinging speeches were to the members of his own, like Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, saying, “You spend more money on liquor at your annual convention than you contribute to the NAACP.”

“This is — we’re more concerned about, I know ministers who are more concerned about the wheel base on their Cadillac than they are the spiritual base of their commitment to this world.” So, King drew an awful lot of sustenance and biting challenge from the basic notion of — I think that his favorite parable was the parable of Lazarus and Dives in Luke about–

BILL MOYERS: Which was?

TAYLOR BRANCH: It was about the rich man who passed Lazarus begging at his door and didn’t notice him and went to hell and saw Lazarus up in heaven.

And King interpreted this thing as saying the rich man did not go to hell because he was rich. He went there because he didn’t notice the humanity of the man he was passing at his gate. And it was about humanity.

Remember how the sanitation strike started, it started because two members of the sanitation force were crushed in the back of a garbage truck that was a cylinder, one of those compacting cylinders, in a torrential rainstorm and they were not allowed by the city to seek shelter in storms.

Because the white residents didn’t like it if black garbage men stopped. All the garbage workers were black. And, so, they weren’t allowed — the only place they could get shelter in — they wouldn’t all fit in the cabin. So, the ones that could fit in the cabin and two of them had to climb in the back with the garbage and a broom fell on the lever and it compacted them with the garbage. And that is the origin of the slogan, “I am a man. I am a man, not a piece of garbage.” And that connects to King’s philosophy.

BILL MOYERS: And the sanitation workers carried those signs, remember? “I am a man.”

TAYLOR BRANCH: “I am a man.” And to them, that was about Echol Cole and Robert Walker, their two friends who had been literally crushed with the garbage and nobody noticed. And King is saying, “You’re going to go to hell as a nation if you don’t notice the humanity of Echol Cole and Robert Walker.

JAMES CONE: And that’s why justice is so central for King and why poverty became the focus of his ministry after that civil rights and voting rights. Because the civil rights and voting rights is not going to get rid of poverty. And, so, King saw that as central.

BILL MOYERS: Let’s listen again to Dr. King, from the speech he made to those striking sanitation workers in Memphis just weeks before he was shot to death. What he said about poverty still rings true.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working every day? They are making wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation. These are facts which must be seen. And it is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income.

BILL MOYERS: Could anything be more current right now?

TAYLOR BRANCH: No. It’s hard to imagine, and of course, it’s chilling to think what the distribution of wealth was when he made that indictment compared to what it is now. It is much more skewed now than it was then and it was bad then.

So, you really get a sense of King’s power. I would only caution that we not assume that he undertook these issues of poverty only late in his career. It was part of his message all along. Certainly, if you look at Nobel Prize lecture in 1964, he says, we are — the world is seeing the widest liberation in human history, not just in the United States but around the world.

And we cannot lose this opportunity to apply its nonviolent power to the triple scourge of race, war, and poverty, what he called violence of the flesh and violence of the spirit. This was a very, very broad vision early on. It’s only at the end of his career that he’s making witness on that because he sees his time limited and he wants to leave that witness.

He made a wonderful quote when he was arguing with his staff about doing the Poor People’s Campaign and most of them didn’t want to do it. He quoted something saying, ‘At times, you must finish with what you have, even if it’s only a little.’

BILL MOYERS: You remind that the famous March on Washington five years earlier in 1963 wasn’t called the March on Washington. It was a march for jobs–

JAMES CONE: Jobs and freedom.

BILL MOYERS: –and freedom. Which goes back to his early concern, as you say.

JAMES CONE: Actually, you know, King grew up, he was a child during the Depression and he saw relief lines, even as a young man, and he was disturbed about that. He came from a middle-class family, but he was disturbed about it then. And even when he got ready to go the Crozer Theological Seminary out of Morehouse, when they asked him why he wanted to go into ministry, he connected it with helping people, helping them deal with hurt and pain.

So, it’s not new for King. King has always been concerned about that. I think it becomes sharp for him at the end because he’s accomplished civil rights, and the voting rights, and now he sees that it’s still, he sees the cities burning.

BILL MOYERS: Right.

JAMES CONE: And he wants to provide an alternative to riots.

BILL MOYERS: I want to play you an excerpt of the speech he delivered, one year to the day before he was killed, at Riverside Church here in New York City.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives, and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

BILL MOYERS: A radical revolution of values.

TAYLOR BRANCH: The revolution in values is to see people first, to see Lazarus at the gate and not pass them by. So, I think the revolution in values is Christian and it’s democratic, but it starts with people. They have equal souls and equal votes and we are very stubborn, human nature, about denying that and wanting to see anything but.

BILL MOYERS: Was it theological?

JAMES CONE: Oh, yes. Because people are created in the image of God. If you’re created in the image of God, you can’t treat people like things. If we are interconnected with each other, we can’t treat each other like things. If America is concerned with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, you can’t have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness if you’re treating others as things.

BILL MOYERS: So, what was the turning point that moved him from an understanding of what you’re talking about to an actual agenda of trying to achieve it?

TAYLOR BRANCH: Well, I think part of it is a natural progression. If you are totally invisible, you’re not even up to the level of a thing yet. The bus boycott, the sit-ins, the freedom rides, getting the right to vote, if you’re not a citizen, you’re not even up to the table where you can start dealing with these issues.

To me, Martin Luther King saw race as the gateway. If you can deal with race and the fundamental denial of common humanity through race, then it opens up possibilities which I think happened in history.

And finally, toward the end of his career, he said, we have an opportunity. Now that we are learning, at least the beginnings of treating each other as equal citizens to really tackle what he called the eternal scourge of racism, poverty, and war.

JAMES CONE: His fight against poverty was multiracial. He wasn’t just focused with black people. Well, you can’t get that multiracial fight against poverty unless first black people are regarded as persons. So, civil rights, that earlier part, is, as Taylor was saying, black people coming to the table. So, after they get to the table, if you’re going to deal with poverty, it spreads across races. So, King was concerned about a multiracial movement against poverty because that’s what the Poor People’s Campaign was about.

BILL MOYERS: So, that would help us understand the colorblindness of that Economic and Social Bill of Rights that he and the Poor People’s Campaign developed in the first, early part of 1968.

“The right of every employable citizen to a decent job, the right of every citizen to a minimum income, the right of a decent house and the free choice of neighborhood, the right to an adequate education, the right to participate in a decision-making process, the right to the full benefits of modern science in health care.” Quite a statement.

TAYLOR BRANCH: And he had a workshop, one of the more remarkable events that never made any news and is not preserved in history, in which he had representatives of Indian tribes, Appalachian white coal miners–

JAMES CONE: That’s right.

TAYLOR BRANCH: –Latinos of every different stripe. He had to do hurry-up education on how to tell a Chicano from the Mexicans. His rule was if they are poor, have them here. And half his staff was revolting against that, saying, “We are a black movement.”

BILL MOYERS: Why? Because they felt it would dilute the impact of–

TAYLOR BRANCH: It would diminish the unfinished agenda for black folks. It would diminish their expertise. Hosea Williams, who was a lovely rascal –

JAMES CONE: That’s right. That’s right. He was strongly against it.

TAYLOR BRANCH: He said, “You’re taking my budget and giving it away to Indians and Mexicans. You can’t do that.”

JAMES CONE: That’s right. Yeah.

TAYLOR BRANCH: But he had this incredible conclave there of people who didn’t know each other. And everything and he said, “If we can’t agree together that there’s a poverty and a common approach that’s bigger than race, then we should stop now.”

But by the end of this thing, he had them all together and the rival Indian tribes were settling differences, and the Chicanos said, “Okay, well, we’re going to let the Indians go first because they were here first,” you know and deferring.

JAMES CONE: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.

TAYLOR BRANCH: It was a remarkable event.

BILL MOYERS: He was growing more impatient in the last few months and more radical. Let’s listen to what he told those workers we were talking about in Memphis.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: Never forget that freedom is not something that is voluntarily given by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed. If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it. And you know what? You may have to escalate the struggle a bit. If they keep refusing and they will not recognize the union, and will not decree further check-off for the collection of dues, I’ll tell you what you ought to do, and you’re together here enough to do it. In a few days you ought to get together and just have a general work stoppage in the city of Memphis.

BILL MOYERS: That was a genuine call to the barricades.

JAMES CONE: Yes, it was. And but you can’t do that without that inner freedom that he’s talking about, which is the freedom that empowers you to stop the work. It is the freedom inside that makes you do that. And for King, everybody has to claim that freedom. It’s not a gift. Freedom is something that you have to demand from others, but you cannot demand it from others unless you have it internally yourself. And that’s a kind of inner freedom.

BILL MOYERS: In what sense was he free?

JAMES CONE: Well, King was free because death did not stop him. That is, the fear of death did not keep him from doing his actions for freedom. See, if the fear can stop you, then you are not free. So, freedom from fear was crucial. And throughout the South, having grown up there, I know what that fear is like.

And what is the most amazing thing for me is how King could inspire ordinary black people by the masses, like in Memphis, to march when white people have intimidated them for centuries. What King taught was that inner freedom that makes you confront the oppressor, even if it means risking your life. So the freedom from fear is the necessary freedom to get to civil rights, to get the jobs, to get work against poverty, even though the odds may be against you. And for black people, the odds were against them.

BILL MOYERS: But here’s the unfortunate thing. As you write about it, after his assassination, riots broke out across Memphis. And even though he acknowledged that, quote, “Riot is the language of the unheard,” didn’t this outbreak of violence in some way begin the end of the movement?

TAYLOR BRANCH: This is a very, very profound and difficult topic and I would have to say that it had already begun before. Nonviolence was already not popular. It had already become passé. Some of the most hostile language toward nonviolence came from the Left, people saying that nonviolence is kind of Sunday school and outmoded now.

And that we want to adopt the language of violence.

And King’s answer to that was, “Nonviolence is a leadership doctrine. If we abandon nonviolence, it’s not that we’re stepping up to demand the right to be just violent, just like first-class white people. We’re stepping back from a leadership doctrine in the United States.” And that’s what America including especially white America, does not understand.

One of the few speeches, by the way, in which a white leader acknowledged that was Johnson.

Before he said, “We shall overcome,” he said “so it was at Appomattox, so it was at Concord, so it was at Selma last week, when fate and destiny met in the same moment.”

So, he was putting a nonviolent black movement not only in the heart of American patriotism, but in the vanguard heart of American patriotism.

BILL MOYERS: But do you admit that nonviolence ultimately didn’t work? That it couldn’t change America?

TAYLOR BRANCH: No.

JAMES CONE: No. It did change America.

TAYLOR BRANCH: It did change America.

JAMES CONE: It changed it radically for me. I grew up in Arkansas and I know what fear is. What the movement did, nonviolence did, was to take the terror out of the South. And for the first time, you can not only go to hotels, but you can go all over the South without much fear of harm. That is a major achievement.

BILL MOYERS: Certainly I recognize that.

TAYLOR BRANCH: The white South was the poorest region of the country when it was segregated. It was totally preoccupied in this terror.

It was not fit for professional sports, even, until nonviolence lifted it out of segregation and white Southern politicians were no longer stigmatized. So, you get Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and all these people elected president. And they’re all standing on the shoulders of a nonviolent black movement. Whether they realize it or acknowledge it or not. That’s the reason that our blinkered memory of this period is such a handicap for us today.

BILL MOYERS: Granted, but nonviolence did not bring about the economic restructuring that King hoped for. So that today he could make the same speeches about inequality, poverty, work that he made 45 years ago.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Poverty is probably the toughest issue. You’re talking about how much nonviolence? Maybe two or three years?

And for the time that it was active and that it matured into what is the movement. Movement is a word we use often, but don’t reflect on what it means.

It was the watch word of politics. People were moved and literally moved history. But in a very, very short time. Now, the watch word of politics is spin. You know, nothing’s going anywhere and nobody’s moving.

BILL MOYERS: Not since Martin Luther King has inequality been on the table the way it was at the Occupy briefly appeared on the scene. And I wondered watching Occupy from here if a Martin Luther King had risen to embody that movement, would they have carried us further toward the changes that King and others wanted?

JAMES CONE: It may would have. I’m not sure. But, you know, getting rid of poverty, redistribution of wealth is not as easy as getting the right to vote. The right to vote doesn’t cost anything. But redistribution of wealth takes across class lines. That costs a lot. And people will fight you in order to prevent that from happening. And I don’t know what it would take in order to make that happen.

TAYLOR BRANCH: It’s also not a simple formula. Dr. King never said we were going to give up freedom to have redistribution imposed on us. He never advocated something like that. It is a hard intellectual, spiritual challenge to figure out, “How do you preserve freedom and address poverty?” I don’t think Occupy got that far yet. It didn’t take that much responsibility.

It was just kind of a sign of protest and not a developed sense of responsibility the way, even the sit-ins were taking lessons from Rosa Parks.

JAMES CONE: Yes. That’s right. The sit-ins disrupted society. The freedom riots disrupted things. Occupy Wall Street didn’t disrupt much of anything. They just camped down there and they were not grassroots in quite the same way the Southern movement was during the time of King.

BILL MOYERS: King was identifying with labor and workers and felt that unions were an essential part of the civil rights struggle.

I have this speech from 1961, when he told delegates of AFL-CIO convention, “Our needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for the children, and respect in the community.” He felt this radical structuring that you talk about could not come without labor. And today, 45 years later, unions are largely impotent, smallest percentage of the workforce. So, what’s happened to labor today?

TAYLOR BRANCH: Labor has fallen in disfavor and fallen into, in some respects, an intellectual vacuum. Because people take for granted the right that we give capital to organize in form of corporations. Every corporation is a public charter.

It is a creation of our people. It is a legal entity that we create. And the notion that people on the other end need some sort of vehicle in a global economy in order to make their rights effective ought to be an easy idea at least to begin a conversation with. But we’re so frightened that anything — I guess we’re beholden to corporations in the way that people in the early movement felt that they were beholden to segregation, that their place in the order was threatened.

If you start messing around with this thing, your whole place might go. That’s how they marshaled a lot of Southerners who were not in sympathy with segregation into not being for doing anything about it. And, so, right now, you know, I think that we’re hostage to our fears and don’t really understand how we need to think about economics.

BILL MOYERS: A year before his death, this time he was speaking in California at Stanford University, he said, “In the North, schools are more segregated today than they were in 1954, when the Supreme Court’s decision on desegregation was rendered. Economically, the Negro is worse off today than he was 15 and 20 years ago.

“And, so, the unemployment rate among whites at one time was about the same as the unemployment rate among Negroes. But today, the unemployment rate among Negroes is twice that of whites. And the average income of the Negro is today 50% less than whites.” Now, Taylor and James, he could practically say the same thing today, 45 years later.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Absolutely.

JAMES CONE: Absolutely.

TAYLOR BRANCH: And when he did it, though, he could also say to American white people, “You tend to think of black people as hopelessly caught up in the rear. The way you should look at this is that the things that are happening to black people, unless you make common cause, are going to happen to you, too.”

The poverty rates, the divorce rates in families that were decried among black people now, the white society has long since passed. The notion that higher education is primarily harder for men, which is now afflicting white society. Most of our college graduates are females. That’s been true in black society for years.

And it has had effects in the culture. So, Dr. King said black folks are a headlight of the problems we need to deal with. And white people too often just see them as something that needs to be left behind and out of mind.

BILL MOYERS: So, what would liberation theology say today about what Taylor just described?

JAMES CONE: Well, you know, liberation theology came into being largely because mainstream theology had not spoken to that gap. So, it was in the late ’60s, early ’70s, throughout the ’80s, all the way up to the present day that liberation theology has its meaning primarily in seeing Jesus as one in solidarity with the poor to get them out of poverty.

So, in actual fact, what I see King as, is a precursor to liberation theology. I see King actually making liberation theology, particularly on the American scene, as real and true. And I think if he were here today, he would be trying to bridge this gap between the rich and the poor.

He focused on black people but it was always multiracial for King.

TAYLOR BRANCH: To connect it to what Jim just said, I think that an awful lot of people today are fearful of the basic economic structure and it keeps them from thinking and rattling and getting together to address these problems. He said that King conquered his fear. I say it took him a while to do it, but he certainly did it.

JAMES CONE: Yeah. Yeah.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Fannie Lou Hamer conquered her fear. Everything that she did, including testifying as an unpolished woman before the Democratic Convention, she did when she was homeless. She had been evicted from her plantation. But she had gotten rid of her fear and had a vision that would empower and make productive whole generations of people who racism had denied, you know.

So, we have an awful lot of productive people in the society today who are productive and educated and have talent because the movement helped people conquer their fear. But we’re now at another stage.

Now it’s hitting us and I think everybody is afraid to deal with these issues in the way that the movement dealt with them, which was, “I’m going to let loose of my fear. I’m not going to worry about my savings and my wealth and whether my kids are going to get into Harvard. I’m going deal with the basic issues of how we can cope with these things together.”

BILL MOYERS: Given the absence of a movement today, given the power of money, corporations, and the structure, what do you think Martin Luther King would say to those in power today?

JAMES CONE: I think he would say something about, “You — this society cannot survive with the huge gap between the one percent and the 99 percent. When you have that kind of gap, then you destroy the possibility of genuine human community and showing how we are interconnected together.

TAYLOR BRANCH: I pretty much agree with that. I think he would have to be saying, “Don’t give into pride and thinking that it is solely your genius that’s creating all these billions that you’re sitting on. You are reaping the interconnectedness that we have.

“And that interconnectedness is precious. And it is political. And that can vanish. And so, you need to look beyond that.” We only have two hopes: enlightenment, which comes from really wrestling and conquering your pride and appealing to the young, quite frankly; and catastrophe. That’s the only other hard teacher that we would have, which is that we’re going to ride this system into a catastrophe. And then we will wake up and say, “Why didn’t we do it before? Why didn’t we listen to Martin Luther King?”

BILL MOYERS: Taylor Branch and James Cone, thank you very much for being with me and for your thoughts and ideas.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Thank you.

JAMES CONE: Thank you.

http://www.alternet.org/print/civil-liberties/moyers-imagine-if-america-had-adopted-martin-luther-kings-economic-dream

A Values- and Vision-Based Political Dream

by Benjamin Mordecai Ben-Baruch, Tikkun, Winter 2011, December 21 2010

Excerpt

We need leaders and organizers to inspire people and communities to act on their values and hopes. We need help articulating our values and vision of the ideal future. Right-wing successes have been achieved by appealing to peoples’ fears, hatreds and prejudices. But the politics of hope is stronger than politics of fear. Imagining our future based on our highest ideals can mobilize us to overcome the paralysis of fear and hatred.

The politics of hope is not issue oriented, and people who share the same values and vision often disagree on the issues….[people] have been misled into believing that their freedom and empowerment resides in “free markets” and that the government is Big Brother and something to fear. They have become paralyzed by their fears. The irrationality of these fears makes us vulnerable to demagoguery. We need to go beyond issue-oriented politics and the politics of fear to a public discourse focused on articulating our vision for the ideal future and what that future would look like. We need a vision of a society without the injustices of poverty and social inequality. We need a dream…

Most Americans will understand that the kind of America they want to build is quite different from that of the new Conservatives and the neo-liberals.

But we need clarity. We need help articulating our values and vision. We need help exposing the contrary values and vision of the neo-liberals, clericalists, religious Right, and ultra-capitalists. We need to overcome the politics of fear. We need to go beyond issue-oriented politics. (And we need to go way beyond cyclic party and electoral politics.) We need to engage in the revolutionary politics of hope. We need to build a social movement of people inspired and mobilized to act upon hopes and dreams.

Full Text

We need leaders and organizers to inspire people and communities to act on their values and hopes. We need help articulating our values and vision of the ideal future. Right-wing successes have been achieved by appealing to peoples’ fears, hatreds and prejudices. But the politics of hope is stronger than politics of fear. Imagining our future based on our highest ideals can mobilize us to overcome the paralysis of fear and hatred.

The politics of hope is not issue oriented, and people who share the same values and vision often disagree on the issues. For example, people are not inspired by a proposal for a universal single-payer health care system. People are inspired by believing that a future they couldn’t imagine is now possible. Many opponents of “Obamacare,” (the recent health insurance policy reform legislation) value providing health care to all who need it and want a future in which such care is unproblematic. But they have been misled into believing that their freedom and empowerment resides in “free markets” and that the government is Big Brother and something to fear. They have become paralyzed by their fears. The irrationality of these fears makes us vulnerable to demagoguery. We need to go beyond issue-oriented politics and the politics of fear to a public discourse focused on articulating our vision for the ideal future and what that future would look like. We need a vision of a society without the injustices of poverty and social inequality. We need a dream.

Similarly, when we explore Jewish attitudes toward Israel we find a high level of agreement on basic values that is hidden by the nature of discourse. The real difference among most American Jews is the extent to which they believe that Israel, the regional military power, is threatened. We see a polarization between those who fear for Israel’s existence and hence are paralyzed from even dreaming of a better future and those motivated to act on their dreams.

When we establish a politics of hope, a political discourse of values and vision, then most Christians will see that they do not share the values and vision of the “Christian Right.” Most Jews will see that they do not share the values and vision of Israel’s political leadership. Most Americans will understand that the kind of America they want to build is quite different from that of the new Conservatives and the neo-liberals.

But we need clarity. We need help articulating our values and vision. We need help exposing the contrary values and vision of the neo-liberals, clericalists, religious Right, and ultra-capitalists. We need to overcome the politics of fear. We need to go beyond issue-oriented politics. (And we need to go way beyond cyclic party and electoral politics.) We need to engage in the revolutionary politics of hope. We need to build a social movement of people inspired and mobilized to act upon hopes and dreams.

Benjamin Mordecai Ben-Baruch is a former principal in the United Hebrew Schools of Metropolitan Detroit and currently serves on the board of directors of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and also of the Progressive Jewish Voice.

Ben-Baruch, Benjamin. 2011. A Values- and Vision-Based Political Dream. Tikkun 26(1): online exclusive.

http://www.tikkun.org/article.php?story=winter2011ben-baruch