Civil Rights

If Martin Luther King Were Alive Today, He'd Be Just Like Me


You know all those articles that purport to say what George Orwell would believe if he were alive today, in which Orwell turns out to have had a change of heart on every significant subject where the author disagrees with him? You can do that to Martin Luther King too:

War? Sure, what the hell, I'll be pro-war. Anything else you'd like me to change my mind about? Segregation, maybe?

If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, would he understand why the United States is at war?

Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel, posed that question at today's Pentagon commemoration of King's legacy.

In the final year of his life, King became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Johnson told a packed auditorium. However, he added, today's wars are not out of line with the iconic Nobel Peace Prize winner's teachings.

"I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation's military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack," he said….

Johnson said today's service members might wonder whether the mission they serve is consistent with King's message and beliefs. In King's last speech in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968—the night before he died—King evoked the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, Johnson noted….King drew a parallel between those who passed by the man on the road and those in Memphis who at the time hesitated to help striking sanitation workers because they feared for their own jobs.

Johnson said King criticized those who are compassionate by proxy, noting the civil rights leader told the audience in Memphis that night, "The question is not, 'If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?' The question is, 'If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?'"

Johnson compared today's troops to the Samaritan, who chose to help instead of taking an easier path.

"I draw the parallel to our own servicemen and women deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, away from the comfort of conventional jobs, their families and their homes," Johnson said.

Yes, he's referring to the same Martin Luther King who once said this:

If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war. A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment. A world war—God forbid!—will leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony of a human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death.

Now, I suppose it is theoretically possible that if Martin Luther King were alive today he would support Washington's wars, in the same sense that it is theoretically possible that Ronald Reagan would be a celebrity spokesman for the Workers World Party. People change! It could happen! Maybe he'd have a personality-changing concussion or something! And hey, Reagan probably told a parable at some point that a socialist could use for his own ends…

Come on, people. You want to argue for the merits of a war, either argue forthrightly against King's clear views on the subject or have the good taste to leave him out of the discussion altogether.

Bonus video: King on Vietnam:

NEXT: The Green Hornet

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  1. Wow, and I thought the Loughner commentary was cheap politics.

    1. THAT’s what I wanted to say! Thanks, Joe!

      1. crap, beat me to it.

  2. at today’s Pentagon commemoration of King’s legacy


    My brain skidded to a halt right there. That is…so….weird. And such a non sequitur.

    Wooo….man. I need to sit down and rest a while after that.

  3. I admire Dr. King, and happen to believe in the justifiabilty, in geopolitical terms, of the US involvements in both Vietnam in the ’60s and in the Middle East today, however ham-handedly and ultimately destructively both may have been managed.

    But all that aside — I don’t see any way in hell that someone who morally opposed the Vietnam War could find our current involvement in the Middle East acceptable. If there’s anyone out there who does, please explain.

    1. Ask John Kerry

    2. The Vietnamese weren’t members of a billion person religion that was starting fights all over the world for decades.

      1. But they were commies. Domino theory!

      2. Nope. They were anti-imperialists.

        Originally armed by the CIA, to fight against a then-current enemy. Sound familiar?

      3. The Vietnamese weren’t were members of a billion person religion command/control system that was starting fights all over the world for decades.

  4. Well, as the Defense Department’s general counsel, let me take that question…

    1. His name’s really “Jeh”? Did his mother get interrupted halfway through writing his name on the birth certificate?

      1. It was “Meh” but for some reason he had it changed.

      2. It’s an alias obviously. Jeh C.= Jesse and Johnson = Jackson. John, Jack. Jesus, who knows jack about John? And John’s son and Jack’s son go to the same school.

  5. It’s also pretty clear that Martin Luther King would advocate invading Iran. And nuking North Korea.

    1. Exactly. Why stop at the two wars? Maybe Jeh C. Johnson can explain how much MLK loved rendition and suspending civil liberties at home as part of being a good samaritan. I heard MLK give a parable about the government wiretapping without a warrant in order to help sanitation workers.

  6. “I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that I’m a total fucking tool.”


  7. This sort of crap has a long history. Take a look at some of the books produced during and shortly after our involvement in The War to End All War (TM)–more than few writers claimed that Jesus Christ Hisself would have been proud to shoulder a rifle in the fight against the Hun.

  8. What would (historical)Jesus do?

    1. Jesus would accuse Loughner of being a symbol of everything wrong with the Tea Party, obviously

      1. I believe this is correct.

      2. Well, that’s because Jesus would never use a Glock.

        1. I have it on god authority that he’s a Smith and Wesson man.

          1. Heresy. Everyone knows Jesus would use a 1911, and only a Colt.

            1. But he had it on God authority…ya see what he did there?

            2. Pussies, all. Sawed off 12 gauge – slugs.

              Bow down before me, bitches – amen.

              1. C’mon, son – let’s stop comparing dick length with the flock – it’s bedtime.

              2. You can’t be Jesus, because we all know it would only be the best for him.

                1. You can’t be Jesus, because we all know it would only be the best for him.

                  Why would he need a small concealable weapon? With those robes, he could hide a much bigger gun, one that shows he’s from a kingdm of gold.

              3. Have we met?

                1. Yes way, we’ve met and knock it off with that silly Jamaican accent, mahn.

          2. Jesus was a whip man. John 2:15.

      3. What a fool.

  9. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day all colors and flavors will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. Well, I dreamed of Dr. Pepper Cherry. It has a dash of cherry flavor mixed with the same great 23 flavors you love, living together in harmony. Trust me, I’m a Doctor.

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1/13/2011

    [cue Dr. Jesus]

    1. Is there any doubt at all? In a world where a former Soviet premier can do commercials for pizza, well, anything is possible.

      1. Authoritarians are frequent frontmen for pizza: little caesar, godfather, papa john, pizza the hut, etc. This is hardly surprising.

        1. This is a curious truth you’ve uncovered. I must think on it.

        2. Chuck E. Cheese is a fascist. Yeah, I said it, but it’s true. Most people don’t know, but he has a swastika carved into his fur under that hat.

          1. I believe this is correct. Here are two compelling pieces of evidence: (1) the “E” stands for “Einsatzgruppen”; and (2) if you watch the character dance closely, you’ll notice that he’s doing that jig that the allied propagandists faked up.

        3. So maybe my idea of naming a pizza chain “Mussolini’s” wasn’t so crazy after all.

          1. As long as you can deliver on time, it could be golden.

          2. Mussolini sounds like more of a pasta dish.

          3. “Musselini’s Seafood Pizza”

        4. I’m pondering this. Over pizza.


      2. In a world where a former Soviet premier can do commercials for pizza, well, anything is possible.

        Why didn’t he do a commercial for booze? I’d trust a Russian’s opinion on that a lot more than pizza.

        Semi-related to my above comment: when I flew out of Riga airport in 2002, they had liters of duty-free Stolichnaya for $5. Even though I didn’t drink at the time, I bought one anyway. Because I knew if I ever started drinking again, it would be worth it.

    2. FTW. I would love to watch computer-generated Dr. King say that in a commercial. To use Homer Simpson’s word, it would be sacrilicious.

      1. That’s an excellent word.

  10. You know what? Have some balls. Instead of trying to speak for a dead guy who can’t tell you what an asshole you are, why not put words into the mouth of someone who is alive? Like, say, the Dalai Lama? “I know that the Dalai Lama would favor the U.S. invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    1. If Pro Libertate were alive today, he would whole-heartedly agree with you.

      1. I can’t argue with that.

    2. Well, if he were alive, we could ask the Dalai Lama’s close friend, Jesse Helms.

    3. How about using their own damn words for a change. I’m tired of referring authority on a subject to dead people. Are there no intellectuals left?

      1. We’re talking about the Pentagon here, and a lawyer to boot.

      2. Ezra Klein

        Thomas L Friedman

        Paul Krugman

        1. I repeat my question. Are there no intellectuals left?

          1. There are, but we are too collectively dumb to hear them.

          2. Yes, we have no intellectuals.

  11. Regardless, next Monday, we’re all Marty King for a day.

    1. You be me for awhile, and I’ll be you.

      1. It’s a date.

      2. Don’t tell a soul…

  12. King and his views get abuse more by the left and some within the black community than any other people.

  13. I remember some Lincoln scholar referring to this as the “Lincoln Would Hate Formula One, But He’d Love Nascar” school of historiography.

    I want to know what Gandhi would think of my iPad.

  14. “If Martin Luther King Were Alive Today, He’d Be Just Like Me”

    And as Einstein might have said: “Bullshit!”

    1. And as Einstein did say: “Stierschei?e!”

  15. Since King’s “anti-war” was pure leftist politics then, today he’d probably be playing politics with this war as well…searching for relavance in a movement that had passed him by.

    1. searching for relavance in a movement that had passed him by.

      And then turned in reverse, thanks to us!

  16. You know all those articles that purport to say what George Orwell would believe if he were alive today, in which Orwell turns out to have had a change of heart on every significant subject where the author disagrees with him?

    Are you talking about Christopher Hitchens?

    Anyway Orwell’s book “Why i Write” comes off to me like an Englishman’s fascist manifesto. I say “Englishman’s” simply because Orwell does not seem very fond of the German variety. Of course one would expect a nationalist from one county not to like a nationalist movement of another country….it is the nature of nationalism.

    1. What part of Why I Write strikes you as fascist?

      And it seems to me like more of an essay than a book.


        be sure to hit continue as you read it.

        This Essay is in the book “Why I Write”

        1. The Essay you linked to, “The Lion and the Unicorn”, didn’t seem particularly fascist to me. Democratic socialist, yes, but not fascist.

          1. What’s the difference?

            1. Does anybody remember the episode of Batman: the Animated Series called “The Lion and the Unicorn”? It was pretty badass, even though it had Red Claw in it.

            2. A few million dead bodies?

  17. mlk jumped the shark about 1967

    1. In Raaaaaaaaaaashah, shark jump YOU!

  18. “it is the nature of nationalism.
    reply to this ”

    oh to be a globo citizen where we make shit up.

    1. Your abuse of the English language inspires a Loughner-level of rage in me.

  19. Not all wars are equal, and I don’t believe a man to be wiser because he died too young.

  20. If Martin Luther King were around today, he would be drooling and staggering, and his only policy position would be “Braaaaaaaaaaains….” because MLK is dead.

    1. That makes no sense. If he were alive today it would either mean:

      1. He was resurrected.
      2. He never died.

      So he might be drooling and staggering due to age, but he’d hardly be calling out for brains unless he was suffering dementia.

      Now, if he were undead you might have a point; but undead is not alive.

      1. Read TallDave’s post closely and you’ll get it.

        Oh, and “Braiiiins”

        1. Why do you eat brains?

          For the paaaiiiiinnnnnnnnn…..

  21. If MLK were alive today I can say without a doubt that he would be horrified at the recent 4-Loko ban.

    I had a dream…*gurgle, gurgle*…WOOO!

  22. If MLK were alive today, he would:
    a) have his own reality show in a slot pitted against Sarah Palin’s.
    b) be a roadie for U2.
    c) do regular guest appearances on Fox & Friends
    d)be senior editor at
    e)promote x-treme fighting.
    f)have his own line of gourmet food products.
    g)do infomercials for some house-flipping get-rich-quick sheme.
    h)be six-feet under after dying of natural causes.
    i)none of the above.

    1. j) be a member of P. Diddy’s new band Diddy Dirty Money.


    MLK was a socialist. Libertarian scumbags who want to destroy all social programs and worship the Tea Party have NO RIGHT to invoke him, anymore than the rest of the ulra-right.

    MLK said “There is something wrong with capitalism.”

    Watch the video above.

    MLK’s last days were organizing for the right to employment, and also to enact integration of Chicago neighborhoods.

    It was the segregationists who argued about “private property.”

    Strom Thurmond’s pro-segreation party was called “State’s Rights.” Sounds like something Reagan or Ron Paul would join.

    Stop lying!

    1. You’re scaring me “Caleb”. The inflamed rhetoric that you employ has thinking that you might go nutzoid and start killing babies and congresspeople.

      Someone reach out and help “Caleb”, please. Let us move away from this hate speech to a place of civility and understanding.

    2. Nobody ever said the guy was perfect.

    3. Oh man, I wish I hadn’t clicked on that blog link.

      Neo-socialists are such retards.

      1. In Raaaaaaaaashah, blog link click on YOU!

      2. And he’s a ginger. That makes him a ubertard.

        1. He looks like a ginger Weird Al. Hilarious.

      3. Oh man, I clicked through it, too. I wanted to quote something retarded, but the whole thing is retarded.

        Easier click-through here

        Yeah dude, capitalism done shot the nine-year-old girl. Please stay in Cleveland or some other place beyond saving.

    4. MLK was a socialist.

      Just like you, right?

    5. So what you’re saying is that were you to right a short biography such as one for an encyclopedia, you would refer to him as a socialist agitator who in his spare time dabbled in civil rights. gotcha.

      1. write, write, write, I know.

    6. Caleb Maupin|1.13.11 @ 9:03PM|#
      “MLK’s last days were organizing for the right to employment…”

      What is this “right to employment” you fantasize?

    7. There’s nothing wrong with free-enterprise — at least, nothing wrong that would keep it from being the optimum way to run an economy/society. On the other hand, there’s a lot wrong with crony-capitalism/mercantilism. I wish Dr. King had lived long enough to make clear whether he was actually criticizing true capitalism, or the ersatz, corrupted thing called “capitalism,” which seems to be the modus operandi in imperialistic nations (and many other places around the world).

      1. whether he was actually criticizing true capitalism, or the ersatz, corrupted thing called “capitalism,”

        What’s the difference? Or do you expect him to waste his time addressing fantasy versions of capitalism that have never existed, thus freeing them to be perfect in your head?

        1. Of course perfect realizations of ideals have never existed in the world, Tony. But ideals are always valid as GOALS. Those who don’t keep their eyes on the prize are lost. The difference is whether capitalism, the ideal, is the sincere GOAL, or merely just a label, useful as a fig leaf for the usual corrupt power structures, but indicative of nothing substantial. Ideal Christianity never existed either (except, perhaps, for a few years during the life of its namesake). Neither did ideal socialism. Yet clearly Dr. King used both ideals — as he understood them, at least — as guiding lights for himself and his flock. If he compared “real-world” capitalism against ideal Christianity and socialism, then that wasn’t intellectually correct or fair, was it? If he abstracted something he (or another socialist) called “capitalism” from the real-world exemplars, it is likely that “ideal” was inaccurate. So, once again, I say that I am curious as to the basis of King’s poor view of “capitalism.”

    8. You have your conspiracy entirely backwards, Caleb. MLK, an Eisenhower Republican was recruited to spy for the CIA on leftist subversive groups, and he used those rallies and the sympatico rhetoric as a means to do so. When he was outed by a double agent, the Soviets had him killed.

      Socialist, whatever.

    9. From what I saw I thought he was a communist and that was one of the reasons he felt the Vietnam war was wrong. Socialist, communist. All tools IMO.

    10. It was the segregationists who argued about “private property.”

      If I’m reading you right, you’re thus implying that anyone that cares about private property is a segregationist.

      It’s odd that they’re letting you post from jail, Jared.

  24. In Raaaaaaaaaaaaashah, social program destroy YOU!

    1. Stop it, you’re killing me Smirnov

    2. Here, too.

  25. Caleb T. Maupin is a resident Cleveland, OH. He is an activist in Workers World Party and Fight Imperialism – Stand Together.


    1. He also has a tinfoil hat that he wears on every other Thursday because of the CHEMTRAILS!!!

    2. So C. T M. is a brain-dead ignoramus?
      Sorta sounded like that.

    3. Hasn’t Cleveland suffered enough?

      1. Well, since they keep re-electing Dennis Kucinch, apparently not.

  26. WEC Wreckage sucked – now watching UFC on Versus?.

    Yeah, it’s a protest against all the peace, love and understanding this week. I wanna see blood, and guts, and veins in my teeth, and….

    Fucking grappling. HIT each other, for fuck’s sake! Get up and fight like Mexican chicks!

    1. I suppose it’s somehow ironic that the nice young African-American man is getting POUNDED by a Generic White Guy as I post on this thread.

      The Man?, still keepin’ a brother down…

      1. TKO! It’s all over…

  27. I have known that King opposed the war in Vietnam.

    Of course, the Vietnamese did not crash airliners into buildings, nor harbored terrorists who attacked America.

    1. Yeah, but they had plans, man – big plans

    2. Neither did these people.…;mggal=6

      1. I am sure many of those burned to death in Dresden never killed a Jew.

    3. Neither did the Iraqis, nor the Afghanis for that matter.

      1. ….nor the Afghanis for that matter.

        Well a terrorist group based in Afghanistan did, and the Taliban regime refused to shut them down. I would say that qualifies as “harboring terrorists who attacked America”.

        1. Well a terrorist group based in Afghanistan did, and the Taliban regime refused to shut them down. I would say that qualifies as “harboring terrorists who attacked America”.

          While the invasion of Afghanistan was in the planning stages, I read a letter to the Los Angeles Times concerning the antiwar protests, and she had written that she protested the war in Vietnam.

          She had mentioned the Vietnamese never attacked America.

  28. If Martin Luther King Were Alive Today, He’d Be Just Like Me

    That is, not a witch.

  29. Dr. King meant it when he asked, “Can’t we all get along?”

    1. Five hundred years from now, they’re going to talk about how the civil rights movement was born when King was beat up by a bunch of cops on video.

  30. “it is theoretically possible that Ronald Reagan would be a celebrity spokesman for the Workers World Party…”

    Reagan was a union leader, you’ll recall. A Workers World Party connection was at least as theoretically possible as him starring in “Casablanca,” I’d wager.

    (And don’t go waving the Snopes debunking of the Reagan/Casablanca link at me. I’ll concede that the parallel earth where Reagan starred in “Casablanca” may have been more than a few butterfly wing-beats away from ours than many of us grew up believing. But the fact that he was ACTUALLY mentioned as a casting possibility in a REAL, albeit typically disingenuous, contemporary press release — thus putting the idea in people’s minds in the first place — opened up the potential for various circumstances to combine and ultimately to yield that outcome.)

    For the record, I also think that King would have deplored nation building in general, and our current elective wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, (and coming soon, Pakistan?). I think that he, perhaps better than others, would have understood the concept of blowback as the inevitable result of oppressive authoritarian imperial policy.

    1. (and coming soon, Pakistan?)

      Nah, that’s why we keep India around. Time for a good old proxy war! This time with nukes, for added glow-in-the-dark fun.

      1. I’ve heard theories for years from people who think that 9/11 may well have been our own sacrifice in order to have a pretext to invade Afghanistan, the better to have a stabilizing presence in Pakistan, our real, under-the-table concern at the time. For all we know, say the theory authors, Osama always was and still is “our boy,” selflessly taking on the role of global villain that we might be able to defuse the almost-literally ticking nuclear bomb that seems to be modern-day Pakistan. THAT’s where the real regime change needed to be, say they, and the US is still working on it. I just sit back and watch to see whether the evidence confirms or disproves such notions.

        1. You think the US government is that clever? Or stupid, can’t tell which it would be. But you’ve apparently given it a lot of thought.

          Why would we need to keep engagement with Pakistan a secret? And what does Iraq have to do with anything?

          1. I’ve seen official conflict scenarios and response plans that were indeed that clever, even moreso. All the layers of bureaucracy and “checks and balances” in the government tend to impede implementation of clever plans. But if we are to believe that Al Quaeda could come up with clever plans over and over until one finally worked to topple the Twin Towers, then we must also believe that, every now and then, one of the clever plans from inside the resource-rich Pentagon also percolates to the top and get implemented.

            As to why an intervention to contain Pakistan and its nukes needed to be masked behind a “self-defense/righteous retaliation” story, do I really need to explain that to you? Why not go back and look at all the heated dialog that occurred back and forth even WHEN we thought we were in the right to kick ass in Afghanistan? If we had just barged into Pakistan to “make the region safe,” how would that have played?

            Finally, where does Iraq fit into this? 1) Very strategic location for Pakikstan-containment efforts. 2) Control of critical resources. 3) Bush could opportunistically rid himself of Saddam. In other words, “come for the regime change, stay for the strategic location and oil reserves.”

            You don’t have to “give much thought” to any of this, and I am not declaring any of it to be substantiated truth, merely interesting conjecture. This being a public-affairs thread on a public-affairs blog, it would seem an appropriate venue to entertain conjectures of that kind, however briefly and glibly as some do here.

  31. I neglected to add at the end of msg @11:03 pm:

    “Not to mention the need to provide a measured, surgical response to the death and damage caused by any blowback (i.e., an international criminal manhunt for Osama and Al Qaeda operatives, instead of two all-out elective wars entailing massive collateral damage).”

  32. Does this mean we should ask what Ulysses S. Grant would think about race relations today? Cuz that makes as much sense.

    1. Sense? I sense that you are trying to use reason to supress women and minorities. Sense and reason are known tools of the ultra-extreme right-wing death-squadish right.

      1. Your ‘sense’ and ‘reason’ only hold up as vague generalities. When you are forced to use specifics, the ‘logic’ of capitalism breaks down every time it is tried.

        1. What was that about vague generalities again?

  33. If Jeh C. Johnson = Jesse Johnson, then it’s time for Black in America.

  34. If MLK were alive today he’d be clawing at the lid of his coffin.

    1. He would be spinning so fast you could power the entire pentagon.

  35. ive cleaned more relevant stuff off my buttplug than what’s posted here.

    1. Just keep licking, then.

  36. “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today ? my own government” – ML King, 1967

    (in that speech that Jesse linked)

    1. Pay no attention to the half million people being killed in the Cultural Revolution.

      1. ok, the second greatest… at least back then. definitely the first now. either way it’s still not something anyone be proud of.

  37. I am pretty sure King would praise me, a fat, ugly old white dude, for advancing race relations, because of my obsession with big black booty shaking. Building gyrating bridges of understanding and what not…

  38. My now dead father used to try to pull that one on me with my then dead mother.

    1. i dont give a dame

  39. you all some bitches

  40. you are all bitches

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