MLK: When Peace Becomes Obnoxious

If peace means… I don’t want it.

MLK 1956
Per the Smithsonian: 2008-2128, Photographer- Addison N. Scurlock, 1883-1964, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. at Howard University, December 1956, from 4″ x 5″ silver gelatin on cellouse acetate bw film
When Peace Becomes Obnoxious was a sermon delivered on 18 March 1956 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Martin Luther King, Jr. This is roughly the second half.

“In a very profound passage which has been often misunderstood, Jesus utters this: He says, ‘Think not that I am come to bring peace. I come not to bring peace but a sword.’ Certainly, He is not saying that He comes not to bring peace in the higher sense. What He is saying is: ‘I come not to bring this peace of escapism, this peace that fails to confront the real issues of life, the peace that makes for stagnant complacency.’

“Then He says, ‘I come to bring a sword’ not a physical sword. Whenever I come, a conflict is precipitated between the old and the new, between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. I come to declare war over injustice. I come to declare war on evil. Peace is not merely the absence of some negative force—war, tension, confusion, but it is the presence of some positive force—justice, goodwill, the power of the kingdom of God.

Peace, peace, when there is no peace

“I had a long talk with a man the other day about this bus situation [the Montgomery boycott]. He discussed the peace being destroyed in the community, the destroying of good race relations. I agree that it is more tension now. But peace is not merely the absence of this tension, but the presence of justice. And even if we didn’t have this tension, we still wouldn’t have positive peace. Yes, it is true that if the Negro accepts his place, accepts exploitation and injustice, there will be peace. But it would be a peace boiled down to stagnant complacency, deadening passivity, and if peace means this, I don’t want peace.

1) If peace means accepting second-class citizenship, I don’t want it.
2) If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it.
3) If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace.
4) If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated, and segregated, I don’t want peace. So in a passive, non-violent manner, we must revolt against this peace.

“Jesus says in substance, I will not be content until justice, goodwill, brotherhood, love, yes, the Kingdom of God are established upon the earth. This is real peace–a peace embodied with the presence of positive good. The inner peace that comes as a result of doing God’s will.”

Part of the problem

My blogger buddy Thom Wade wrote this some months ago, after George Floyd’s death: “It is frustrating to watch fellow white people constantly appeal to MLK while using the very arguments used to condemn him to condemn protesters today. I remember how some folks responded to non-violent protests just a few years ago. It was not good enough. Some people in my own friend and family sphere posted disdain for athletes peacefully kneeling. No form of protest was appropriate or good enough.

“When MLK was marching peacefully, he was met with gas and beatings. He was ultimately murdered. And you are going to complain NOW? When you would not listen before? When no protest was good enough for you? You are part of the problem. Crying out for peace when peace was not good enough over the past several years? I look at this city and my heart breaks. Mainly because people want to decry the results of their unwillingness to face the problem.”

All Hallows Eve

I shaved my beard and a mustache, Susan and a couple of her friends made me up, with a dress from a second-hand store, a wig and shoes from somewhere, and we went to the party, she as “Sid”, and me as “Shirley”.

The odd thing about Halloween, as I think back on it, is that I have almost no recollection of the costumes I wore while trick-or-treating as a child. I’m sure I went, mostly in my grandmother’s neighborhood, but as to what I wore, it’s a total blank. It doesn’t help that most of the photos from my childhood were lost, so I have no cues. And I pretty much gave up the gig by the time I was a teenager, though I may have been called upon to take my baby sister, who was (and still is!) five years younger than I.

I may have donned a costume once or twice in college, but it was in my mid-twenties when I really began dressing up.

One year I wore a Frankenstein mask and a seersucker suit; really stylin’. Another time, I had a skeleton mask with a wizard’s hat and my college graduation gown; there’s a great picture somewhere of me leaning on a car reading the Daily News Sunday funnies in this outfit.

But my all-time favorite outfit was one planned by my girlfriend at the time, Susan, when I was 25. I shaved my beard and a mustache, Susan and a couple of her friends made me up, with a dress from a second-hand store, a wig and shoes from somewhere, and we went to the party, she as “Sid”, and me as “Shirley”.

The outfit, along with my affected high-pitched voice actually fooled people; no one knew who I was, though they were confused as to what I was dressed up as. It wasn’t until later in the evening, when my “five o’clock shadow” started to appear, that people started figuring things out.
Sid and Shirley

I don’t dress up now, but the daughter does. I enjoy the holiday more vicariously now.
***
Samurai Frog’s Halloween posts over the years. Mucho posts.
For Thom Wade, Halloween lasts at least four weeks. My favorite post: The Top 10 Horror Themes in movies
An Open Letter to Pumpkin-Flavored Seasonal Treats
A recipe for candy corn.
Reader Wil on traditions.
And since nothing says Halloween to me like Mussorgsky, LISTEN to Night On Bald Mountain

I Could Say I’m Tea’d Off…

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!

…but it’s more that I’m just confounded.

Thom Wade has conveniently linked to a couple of ads for a guy named Rick Barber, who’s running for Congress in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. In the June 1 Republican primary, he got enough votes to force a July 13 runoff. (Expensive runoffs – a good reason for Instant Runoff Voting.)

In the “Gather Your Armies” piece, Barber complains to the “Founding Fathers” that IRS taxation and the health care bill are equivalent to ire they must have felt over the “tea tax” that led to the Boston Tea Party. The tiny difference? It was not the tax, per se, that was the source of the ultimate rebellion; it was that the tax, and other activities, were imposed by the British without colonists’ say-so. The rallying cry wasn’t “no taxation”; it was “no taxation without representation.” Representation such as from the very Congress for which Rick Barber, ironically, is running. Now, if he were living in Washington, DC, he might actually have a point, since the district has no voting member of Congress.

In the “Slavery” video, “Abraham Lincoln” confirms that taxes used to pay people welfare is the same thing as people taken from their homeland often treated cruelly, and forced to work for no pay. Barber’s video is particularly mortifying because there is still REAL slavery in the world.

The “Slavery” piece also features a gentleman singing the fourth and final verse of The Star-Spangled Banner, a stanza I’ve memorized since I was 10, or earlier. The notion of “conquer[ing if] we must, when our cause it is just” I suppose I would find more palatable if the country had not participated in recent wars of dubious justification.

So as I read The Declaration of Independence again this year, as I do every July 4, I must be mindful of those who would distort the intention of the document. Specifically, “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness” gets thrown around a great deal. But remember the very next sentence: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.”

How far is it from this type of rhetoric to the Sovereignty shootings of police officers in Arkansas last week? A stretch, perhaps, or maybe not.

So when you’re eating your blueberry and strawberry shortcake with whipped cream, check out the founding document.