Friday, April 04, 2008

Moral leadership

At Religion Dispatches, Jonathan Walton reflects on Martin Luther King Jr. and suggests that a true moral leader is rarely popular or effective:

"He chose what he regarded as Christian discipleship over racial diplomacy and moral truth over political tact. King essentially decided to no longer be a political bonsai tree pruned in the direction that the white and even black establishments would have him grow. His shift from the language of reform to that of revolution (an American “revolution of values” to be exact), and from civil rights for Southern Negroes to human rights for the oppressed throughout the globe, effectively sabotaged his career as a “Negro leader.” This is what King seemingly desired. Not that he found masochistic pleasure in vexing his civil rights cohorts, aggravating white liberal allies, and seemingly justifying the concocted claims of longtime opponents. But King did realize that a man of moral conscience could not be a consensus leader. Prophets are neither hand-picked by the powerful nor necessarily popular. Like his ancient Hebrew spiritual interlocutors that served as his moral inspiration, King was prepared to lament from outside the city gates of cultural acceptance."

At Common Dreams, Jeff Cohen talks about media portrayal (then and now) of King's last years, "as he campaigned militantly against U.S. foreign and economic policy:"

"While noting in passing that King spoke out against the Vietnam War, mainstream reports today rarely acknowledge that he went way beyond Vietnam to decry U.S. militarism in general: 'I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos,' said King in 1967 speeches on foreign policy, 'without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.'"

The Root also has a lot of good features on this anniversary of King's death.

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