[Marxism] No Way to Honor Dr. King

anas abdelrahim shackup70 at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 28 03:56:13 MDT 2011

corporate America is damn good at turning pathos into bathos. the ceremonies are a perfect burlesque of everything King stands for. 

From: Joseph Catron <jncatron at gmail.com>
To: Anas <shackup70 at yahoo.com>
Sent: Sunday, August 28, 2011 11:32 AM
Subject: [Marxism] No Way to Honor Dr. King

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Published on Friday, August 26, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
No Way to Honor Dr. King
by Medea Benjamin

The ceremonies for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in
Washington DC were kicked off on August 24 at an event billed as
Honoring Global Leaders for Peace. But some of those honored are a far
cry from King’s beloved community of the poor and oppressed. The
tribute to peacemakers, organized by the MLK National Memorial
Foundation, was mostly a night applauding warmakers, corporate
profiteers and co-opted musicians.

The night started out with great promise when MC Andrea Mitchell
mentioned Dr. King’s brilliant anti-war speech Beyond Vietnam as a key
to understanding the real Dr. King. And sure, there were a few
wonderful moments—a song by Stevie Wonder, a speech about nonviolence
by the South African Ambassador and a quick appearance by Jesse
Jackson in which he managed to spit out a call to “study war no more.”

But most of the evening’s speakers and guests of honor had little to
do with peacemaking. One of the dignitaries thanked at the start of
the program was Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, representing a
country that uses $3 billion a year in precious U.S. tax dollars to
commit war crimes against Palestinians.

Then came a parade of representatives of corporations that want to
cleanse their image by being associated with Dr. King. The first was
General Motors VP Eric Peterson. His company took billions from
government coffers to keep it afloat, then showed its “generosity” by
donating $10 million of our tax dollars to the memorial. Mr. Peterson
gave a speech paying tribute to the company’s first black board
member, Rev. Leon Sullivan. Peterson claimed that the Sullivan
Principles, principles that established a social responsibility code
for companies working in South Africa, helped abolish apartheid. The
truth is that the Sullivan Principles ended up being a cover for U.S.
corporations—like General Motors–to continue doing business in racist
South Africa instead of respecting the international divestment

Up next was Guy Vikers, president of the Tommy Hilfiger Corporate
Foundation. Although the group Sweatshop Watch fingered Hilfiger for
mistreating workers and inducted the company into its Hall of Shame,
Hilfiger’s $6 million gift to the memorial bought it a piece of the
King legacy.

Next on the corporate sponsor list was Myrtle Potter of Medco Health
Solutions. Medco is a $60 billion “pharmaceutical management” company
that fought against healthcare reform and was recently forced to pay
the U.S. government $155 million to settle fraud charges. Other
corporate benefactors to the memorial include union-busting Verizon,
war profiteering General Electric and sweatshop king Wal-Mart.

After the line-up of corporate shills came U.S. trade rep Ron Kirk.
One wonders how on earth a man who pushes free trade policies that
destroy workers’ right and promote a race to the bottom was deemed a
peacemaker. King’s commitment to workers—remember his support of the
sanitation workers?—was in total opposition to Ron Kirk’s
pro-corporate stance.

But the queen bee of the evening was former Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright. She dismissed King’s call that morality to be the
guiding light of our international relations as nice, but far from the
complex real world where we have enemies we have to confront. This is
the same “practical” diplomat whose claim to shame in the eyes of true
peacemakers was her support of such stringent sanctions against Iraq
that over 500,000 children under 5 were killed. When asked about the
morality of this policy on national TV, Albright calmly asserted that
“the price was worth it” in the fight against Saddam Hussein.

Ms. Albright was awarded a model-size version of the King Memorial,
presented by the controversial Chinese artist himself, Lei Yixin.
Uninvited was the group that had spearheaded a campaign pressing the
Foundation to choose an African-American artist, and use American
granite and American workers. Instead the Foundation tried to save
some money with a Chinese artist who used Chinese materials and
Chinese workers. The human rights abusing Chinese government,
delighted by the association with Dr. King, sweetened the deal with a
$25 million donation. And despite written promises that the Foundation
would use local stonemasons to assemble the memorial, Chinese laborers
were used. The Washington area local of the Bricklayers and Allied
Craftsworkers union claims the workers were not paid fairly, and their
pay was withheld until they returned to China.

After the speeches and Stevie Wonder’s song, the mic was turned over
to an Israeli musician Idan Raichel, an avid supporter of the Israeli
Army and someone who has publicly expressed approval of Israel’s 2009
invasion of Gaza. One wonders how much the Israel government gave to
the Foundation to get a plum spot in the tribute to peace.

But don’t ask the King family how they feel about their fathers’
opening tribute being sold off to the highest bidder. The family
demands royalties for use of the King name—even from the Memorial—and
so far have received about a million dollars. Cambridge University
historian David Garrow, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of
King, said that King would have been “absolutely scandalized by the
profiteering behavior of his children.”

Today’s great global peacemakers, the true followers of Dr. King, were
neither seen nor evoked. No mention of Burma’s struggling opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi or the nonviolent protagonists of the Arab
Spring or the environmentalists opposing a proposed tar sands pipeline
from Canada to Texas who were arrested at the White House on the very
day of the tribute. No mention of the U.S. peace groups trying—for 10
years now—to stop the horrifying Bush/Obama wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan and the drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed so many

Dr. King, whose life was spent preaching unconditional love and
nonviolent redemptive good, continues to inspire people the world over
who are helping to shape his vision of an “arc of the moral universe”
that is long but bends toward justice. Gandhi, King, Mandela—there are
precious few whose legacies resonate with those who are risking their
lives today, in a nonviolent fashion, to eliminate the evils of
racism, poverty, militarism and environmental destruction. King’s
tribute to global peacemakers should have reached out to them as the
legitimate heirs of the King legacy, not the monied interests who
helped pay for the piece of carved granite that bears his image.

Medea Benjamin (medea at globalexchange.org) is cofounder of Global
Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace
(www.codepinkalert.org). She is author of Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A
Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart.

"Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure
mægen lytlað."

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