John W. Eyster: Martin Luther King Jr. fought for people, not just citizens
The first editorial I read today focused on our national MLK holiday today was the Washington Post's “Martin Luther King Jr. and the catalyst of change.” I urge you to read it.
The editorial provides information and perspective on the leadership MLK gave the movement toward EQUALITY for ALL PERSONS in our nation as envisioned by our foundational documents. The editorial reminds us that our principle of EQUALITY for ALL PERSONS has resulted in violence.
“Martin Luther King Jr. preached nonviolence, practiced it and led a great movement guided by its principles. Yet surely he knew, as did most of his followers, that what they were doing would lead to violence. One need only look at the old black-and-white photos of civil rights protests, at the hatred, scorn and, perhaps most important, fear on the faces of some of the white people there to confront the demonstrators to understand how such simple acts as sitting down in a bus or entering a restaurant, seeking the right to vote or go to a better school, could lead to the worst sorts of violence — a bitter truth that followed King to the day of his death.”
The editorial offers an interpretation of the benefits of the violence, “Yet out of that violence came new understanding of a sort: People who had been all but invisible to much of the United States came to be seen through the newspapers and television as individual human beings : women and children being firehosed; war veterans returning home to be subjected to all the humiliations and restrictions of the time (or to be murdered, like Medgar Evers); polite young men trying to get a sandwich at a lunch counter; a dignified woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus; the children killed by a bomb in a Birmingham church. For many Americans, this marked the first time they had come face to face, or had allowed themselves to come face to face, with the cruelty of racial separation and oppression, a century after the official end of slavery.”
The editorial accurately states, “The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was seen by some as a radical and a troublemaker.” If you review the very interesting feature with 9 pictures with captions in today's Washington Post, “9 surprising facts about MLK,” you may be surprised to learn that US Attorney General Robert Kennedy, President Kennedy's brother, ordered the FBI to wiretap MLK. The order was issued weeks before JFK was assassinated. There are various facts about MLK which many – perhaps most of us – do not know. Review it. Which event reported was MOST surprising or alarming to YOU?
There is some truth in the editorial's assertion that MLK had considerable faith in America. I would assert it would be MORE ACCURATE to assert that MLK's considerable faith was the God of Jesus of Nazareth whom he joined Christians in claiming to be the messiah/Christ. Having taught “American Government & Politics” for decades, I do NOT see that WE THE PEOPLE of the US and most of our elected leaders have moved to fulfill the vision of EQUALITY for ALL PERSONS with enthusiasm and commitment. I would assert that it has been the CONSCIENTIOUS COMMITTED ADVOCACY combined with actual demonstrations which has moved us step-by-step – usually VERY SMALL STEPS – toward EQUALITY for ALL PERSONS!
The truth today is that there are major gaps in the vision of EQUALITY which is a primary principle of our American political culture explicitly stated by our DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (Signed, 1776) and our US CONSTITUTION (Ratified, 1789) with greater specification in the Fourteenth Amendment (Ratified, 1868). As an American citizen, I am continuing to pray that our legislatures, executives and courts will fulfill the promise of the Fourteenth Amendment providing that no state can deny any PERSON EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS! Text, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The reader needs to pay attention to the careful wording of this provision of the 14th Amendment. Note the statement about the privileges and immunities of CITIZENS. Note the fact that the “equal protection of the laws” is a protection for ALL PERSONS! Yes, whether or not a citizen! I would urge the reader to go back to read the BILL OF RIGHTS – the first 10 amendments to our US Constitution (Ratified, December 15, 1791) – which, our Supreme Court, has ruled applies to ALL PERSONS – whether or not a US citizen. If you want to delve into this subject, I recommend Professor David Cole's “Are Foreign Nationals Entitled to the Same Constitutional Rights As Citizens.” Dr. Cole a highly esteemed Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center.
EQUALITY has so many dimensions, including not only racial and ethnic, but also economic and opportunity, educational and religious, sexual orientation and gender! In fact, next Thursday, 1/23 when our Rock County Board meets at the courthouse at 6 pm, it will be discussing and voting on a resolution to provide full benefits to same-sex couples (domestic partners under WI State law) to employees of Rock County. I shall be there to advocate for the PASSAGE of that Resolution. What is YOUR comment? I plan to discuss this very significant issue and the Same-sex benefits resolution tomorrow in my WE THE PEOPLE blog.
One of the major emphases as we observe MLK DAY today is the enlistment of persons throughout the nation for VOLUNTEER SERVICE. I encourage you to read the official website for MLK DAY. If you are interested to find a LOCAL VOLUNTEER SERVICE opportunity, use the heading, “SERVE” to link for “ALL FOR GOOD.” Or you can use this link to go directly to “ALL FOR GOOD.
Best wishes for a meaningful, involved and inspiring MARTIN LUTHER KING JR DAY!
John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor of political science at UW-Whitewater and an advocate for Project Citizen, a model curriculum for democracy/civics education in Wisconsin high schools. John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.