Happy MLK Day: Hope and Challenges

MLK Day has always been a special day for me.  It comes around my birthday every year, a day off from the normalcy of school, job, whatever.  It is a day to celebrate the cause of Human Rights, the cause Martin Luther King Jr fought courageously for.  To realize that one can fight while acknowledging the humanity of one’s opponents and respecting it.  To seek to transform, through love and struggle, even the coldest hearts.

In many traditions, from martial arts to esoteric spiritual schools, emphasis is placed on lineages.  And MLK’s legacy is part of quite a lineage, threading its way back through Gandhi and Thoreau.  We become a part of that lineage when we make equality and justice our goal and loving nonviolence our method.

In that spirit I’d like to share some inspiration with you.  Small pieces of light, laughter and insight that taken together lift up and break through the thick and oily clouds in the news each day.

Let’s start with a laugh from Bob Harris:

All over the world, wars and languages and cultures may divide us, but humanity still seems united by one powerful force — teenagers get a big kick out of sand hooters.

It’s stuff like this that makes me think humanity almost has a shot.

And move on to some insight from Sara Robinson (emphasis mine):

But reality has tugged hard on the parameters of that narrow window over the past few years. 9/11, Iraq, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, $100-a-barrel oil, and the US becoming the biggest debtor nation in history — over the years, readers became increasingly impatient with daily papers and network news shows full of corporate-approved happy-talk that so blatantly paved over horrific truths, ignored bread-and-butter issues that affected their lives, and allowed people who committed vast and undeniable crimes against the common good to fade into obscurity unscathed. Well-paid “journalists” forgot their mandate to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable: now ensconced warmly among the comfortable themselves, they were not much inclined to afflict anyone.

And, although most editors and publishers are still struggling to make the connection, this is why both newspapers and broadcast news operations everywhere are in a world of financial hurt. Their willful inattention to the hard realities of life in 21st century America have rendered them almost totally irrelevant to the average reader or viewer. The view out of their pinched and narrow Overton window doesn’t include most of the people who used to be their audience. Left out of the view, and presented with media that described a world they didn’t recognize — and resolutely refused to acknowledge anything about world they were actually living in — the audience finally got fed up, and drifted away.

At the same time, another force — in the form of a million sweatshirt-and-sock-clad bloggers — rose up to provide the outside push. We were here to tell it as we saw it, from perches so far outside that window that we were simply invisible to the powers that be. Depsite our obscurity (or, more likely, because of it) it turned out that the nation we were describing, and the language we described it in, looked and sounded a hell of a lot more like the one our middle- and working-class readers were living in, too. As the blogosphere has grown over the past six years, becoming profitable and credible and even — in a few corners, anyway, respectable — the corporate media finally learned (with much bitching and moaning) that they couldn’t keep ignoring the people who didn’t live in their nice suburbs and send their kids to private schools, because they were America, too.

Gandhi told us way back in the day how this long strange trip would go. First they ignored us. Then, they made fun of us. Then, very briefly, they fought us. And now, when we see serious media outlets doing real investigations of Ron Paul’s writings and Mike Huckabee’s friends — and when people are finally getting on the air and calling Pat Buchanan out, to his face, for what he is — I don’t think it’s too optimistic to read that as a signal that we might just win this thing after all.

Slowly but surely we are growing stronger with every battle.  I can’t find the post, but I remember reading on dailykos after the CT election in which progressive forces one the primary to lose the general, that we had come out on top.  I recall the same message of hope after Howard Dean’s election crashed and burned under the weight of a media dogpile.  And you know what?  They were right.  We’ve grown fiercer, more effective, more demanding, and more aware.  And we continue to grow.  Come what may in 2008, come what may in the many battles we are fighting now, our political power is on the rise.

We are speaking the fearless discourse of justice, and we are beginning to have an impact.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day.

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