WHY MLK Jr. was targeted for assassination

MLK’s activism took a turn from… “his campaign for civil rights in the American South — to a much more radical one aimed at the war in Vietnam and poverty.”

mlk targetedLast year, around the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, there was an understandable restatement of the facts surrounding the event. And the obvious question addressed who killed MLK.

This TIME magazine article is typical: What We Know About Why James Earl Ray Killed Martin Luther King Jr. “Fifty years later, some questions linger about why exactly the civil rights leader was targeted and whether the shooter acted alone.”

I have no doubt WHY he was targeted: he didn’t “stay in his lane.” The Intercept noted that his activism took a turn from… “his campaign for civil rights in the American South — to a much more radical one aimed at the war in Vietnam and poverty.” As long as the issue involved castigating those Southern white people, all was well with the liberal establishment.

But Martin had the audacity to, first privately, then publicly denounce the war, and by extension Lyndon Johnson, the President who had signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

King “labeled the war an ‘enemy of the poor,’ saying that its budget was draining anti-poverty programs; he also pointed out that it was hypocritical for him to preach nonviolence to activists at home, while watching his government reject that principle abroad. But ultimately his stance came from personal moral conviction and his devoted Christian beliefs.”

Sadly, a half century, the issues have not really changed. A recent article in Common Dreams written by by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis – who I saw recently – and Lindsay Koshgarian addresses this.

The title is “Trump Wants to Give 62 Cents of Every Dollar to the Military. That’s Immoral.” Correctly, it notes: “A budget shows our values more clearly than any tweet, campaign speech, or political slogan.”

Standing against that type of immorality got Dr. King killed. He died exactly one year after his speech at Riverside Church in New York City opposing the war in Indochina.

“James Earl Ray, a career criminal who had briefly served in the U.S. Army, shot the advocate of non-violent resistance. Ray was spotted at the scene and, almost immediately after the killing, his fingerprints were found on the gun. Those prints were already among the FBI’s records for wanted individuals.

But just as Mick Jagger sang about who killed the Kennedys, America’s indifference may have slain the civil rights leader. And it may do so to ourselves.

Thanksgiving 2018 and JFK assassination

Governor Scott Walker was an enemy of labor and particularly teachers.

JFK Thanksgiving Day proclamation 1963
JFK Thanksgiving Day proclamation 1963
When I went out with a woman named Susan in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she always had a particular blessing at Thanksgiving. She invoked the memory of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was assassinated on 22 November 1963.

I’ve linked the two events in my mind so much. When the anniversary and the holiday actually happen on the same day, which took place in 1984, 1990, 2001, 2007, 2012, takes place in 2018, and won’t happen again until 2029, it seems…correct.

Maybe because my daughter was studying world religions recently, but it’s like – stay with me here – the principle of Yin and Yang, that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. The pain of loss and disruption and uncertainty is somehow paired with the joy of thanks and hope and renewal.

Anyway, here are some things I’m thankful for:

* Kindness, as exemplified by custodian Carolyn Collins’ Closet of Kindness

* The truth tellers: Especially Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and, for more current info, A Closer Look – Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Also The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, which has found its own voice.

* Some of the election results, including All 19 Black Women Running for Judge in a Texas Race Won

Zach Wahls was elected as a State Senator for Iowa’s Senate District 37

Would it be ungenerous to be thankful that certain people lost? Probably, but I am. I’m only human.

Governor Scott Walker appears to have been defeated by just enough to not get a recount, a policy he himself enacted. He was an enemy of labor and particularly teachers. As Borowitz wrote: Unskilled Wisconsin man unable to keep a job.

Notorious Vote Thief and Incompetent Gubernatorial Candidate Kris Kobach Loses. As Kansas Secretary of State, he “built his career on voter suppression, whipping up nativist fervor by claiming that a large number of noncitizens are casting ballots. (They aren’t.)”

Democrat unseats Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County [CA] House district – “Rohrabacher’s friendliness to people with links to Russia has become more controversial.”

Rowan County, Kentucky’s Kim Davis, the clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses for gay couples, loses to Democrat.

Author of North Dakota Voter ID Law Targeting Native Americans Loses His Seat–To A Native American – Randy Boehning, a GOP state representative, was unseated by Democrat Ruth Anna Buffalo

On a more positive note, I’m thankful to Gus and Mary and Jack and Adriana and Becky and others who visit my blog almost every day; those bloggers I’ve been following, including, but not limited to, Arthur, Chas, Jaquandor, and Chuck.

I’m thankful for my library friends; my church friends, in particular, the choir; my hearts friends – next game is March 9!

I’m thankful for my old friends such as Uthaclena, who dragged me to a ball game; Karen; and notably Carol, who went to visit my sister after her accident.

I’m thankful for my in-laws (REALLY!), sister Marcia, and niece Alex; my niece Rebecca, who took great care of her mom; sister Leslie, and all those other folks, especially Leilani, who treated her.

I’m thankful for my daughter, who always teaches me something new; and my wife who tolerates me.

Finally, I’m thankful to the folks I email or message when I’m feeling down, which includes some of the above.
***
With the closing of Camelot

Robert Kennedy: 50 years post-assassination

There were 13 shots fired, but Sirhan’s gun only held eight bullets.

RFK, 1964
As I’ve mentioned in this blog, I wasn’t a big fan of Robert Kennedy when he ran for President in 1968. Among other things, I didn’t trust him as Attorney General under his brother John and briefly under Lyndon Johnson, mostly over the purported FBI stalking of Martin Luther King Jr.

I didn’t support RFK running for US Senate from New York. But being only 11 in 1964, I didn’t have much of a say in the matter. He won, of course, beating out a perfectly nice moderate Republican named Ken Keating, back in the days when there WERE moderate Republicans.

Still, I was up extremely late watching the results of the California primary on June 4/5, 1968 when Bobby Kennedy declared victory. “On to Chicago!” A short time later, as I was finally getting ready for bed, I heard what turned out to be shots fired, followed by pandemonium.

So many people I knew were devastated by the news of his shooting and eventual death on June 6. As were people I never knew: The busboy who cradled a dying RFK has finally stepped out of the past, for example.

Now, 50 years later, Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son Robert Kennedy Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan. While RFK Jr. can have views I don’t subscribe to – autism from vaccines, e.g. – it seems that, at bare minimum, he and his sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend are correct that Sirhan could not have been the only shooter.

There were 13 shots fired, but Sirhan’s gun only held eight bullets. Sirhan faced RFK, but the fatal shots were to the back of Bobby’s head.

It’s interesting that, while there were many people milling around the Senator, the details get lost in the trauma of the moment. This killing, along with that of his brother Jack, will be fodder for conspiracy theories, quite possibly for the next half century.

50 years ago: the MLK Jr assassination

The Lorraine Motel, where MLK was killed. It is now a civil rights museum.

If I were a believer in conspiracy theories, I would wonder about this coincidence: on April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech against the US involvement in Vietnam, an address that most civil rights leaders opposed because it could threaten his relationship with President Lyndon Johnson. And on April 4, 1968, he was dead.

It was that speech, which I read only after the assassination, that really fueled my own antiwar sentiment, that U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia was imperialistic and that the war diverted resources from domestic programs created to aid the black poor. Further, “we were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

One could note that the struggle in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968 wasn’t the mere bigotry in public accommodations, which prompted the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of 1955/56, but about government injustice that provided sanitation workers, all black men, with substandard wages and unsafe working conditions. And that was the city in which MLK died.

I vividly remember the I AM A MAN signs on the nightly news. The strike began on February 12, but it was King’s presence starting on March 18 that really attracted attention. The labor action didn’t end until April 16, 12 days after MLK’s murder.

I was home when I heard the awful news, and almost immediately my father, the late Les Green, went downtown to try to “keep the peace.” He had been involved with something called the Interracial Center at 45 Carroll Street in Binghamton.

In answer to a Facebook query I posted, someone wrote that my dad “was very involved with the kids who hung out there, talking to them, and a little counseling if needed.” Whatever his role might have been, Binghamton did NOT have any “rioting” that night, as many US cities did in that painful period.

In 1970, I got to go by the Lorraine Motel where MLK was killed. It is now a civil rights museum.

While the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. had an effect on me, his death may have had the greater impact.
***
Fort Wayne, IN tribute to MLK, April 7, 1968

November 22 always means one thing to me: JFK

“The records released so far may not confirm or disprove any of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination.”

I’ve mentioned before the fact that JFK assassination records were scheduled to be released by the National Archives by October 26, 2017. Like most people my age, the killing of JFK in 1963 is among the most recalled events in our then-young lives, maybe the first significant event external to ourselves and our families.

When the current regime announced the impending release of the last documents, I was relieved. To have suppressed them, as rumors suggested, would have only energized the conspiracy theorists.

But then they actually decided to hold back some 200 documents, thousands of pages, for another six months to allow the FBI, CIA, et al to make the case that they should remain under lock and key. The regime cited unspecified “national security concerns,” an argument Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said was “amazing… What possible national security interests are still at risk from an event that happened 54 YEARS AGO?”

I can see where there could be some embarrassment. In fact, we’ve already seen that in the material that’s been released. Lee Harvey Oswald was already on the radar of law enforcement. There had been credible threats on the life of JFK. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI head, was livid about the shooting of Oswald, who was in police custody, by Jack Ruby, as there were credible threats against him.

Pretty much since the Warren Commission Report was excerpted in my local newspaper – I STILL have the black 3-ring binder with the clippings glued to lined school paper – I have wanted to know more. What WAS Oswald doing in Mexico a few months before the shooting?

The Boston Globe noted that the 2,800 records released so far “offer insights into his death that were previously hidden from the public. They help paint a more complete picture of Lee Harvey Oswald and share previously undisclosed details about his background, and they provide color and reaction from the days following Kennedy’s death.

“The records released so far may not confirm or disprove any of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination, but they begin to piece together parts of unknown history and have made some people even more anxious for the remaining documents to be released.” And that includes me.

The JFK Assassination: A Cast of Characters.