A Memorial Commentary on the April 4, 2018 Anniversary of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassination
Ladies and Gentlemen, I write to you today from Atlanta, Georgia, USA, birthplace and national shrine of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968), clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, Nobel Prize Laureate, and martyr to the cause of justice.
I write to call your attention to the land where one man made the word ‘‘justice’’ a living reality, where one man’s relentless and indomitable pursuit of “justice” for his people, and for people everywhere, changed history through non-violent protest inspired by an oratory filled with inspired thought and hopes.
I write to welcome you to the land where one’s man’s vision changed a nation’s identity, conscience, and heritage of slavery and abuse of African-Americans, and of all people living in bondage across the world seeking opportunity, screaming for dignity, begging for relief.
It was here, more than 50 years ago, in Atlanta, Georgia, and in a thousand other places across the land, from Alabama to Chicago, from Washington D.C. to California, a deep, resonant, baritone voice of a Black man electrified the air with words of such magnitude, of such righteousness, of such eloquence, of such truth, they crushed historic roots of oppression lifting the human spirit to new levels of possibility.
It was here, in Atlanta, Georgia, a Black man refused to be silenced, denying fear, injury, and pain, and threats, dangers, and risks to life. It was here, and across the land, hundreds of thousands harkened to King’s inspiring words, joining in protests at costs to their safety, health, and life.
The task before King, and for countless others taking the cause of “justice” in those tumultuous years, was to undo a history of oppression, and to build a future founded on laws guaranteeing justice, equality, and liberty, regardless of race, creed, color, gender or any social-identity marker.
This, then, is the pressing challenge of life in our global age, as nations withdraw from social responsibilities, and dismiss ideals promised by government, and guaranteed by universal human rights and accepted moral codes.
Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in memorial celebration of the tragic assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., we gather to share ideas, to seek wisdom, to pursue inspiration, and to bond in common purpose, in honor of Reverend King’s legacy.
Let me, however, be clear in my message to you:
I do not write to tell you the profound changes inspired by King and others who followed his ways in the 1960s, are sufficient. Nor do I write to tell you we must be content with the many broken political barriers, proud of social advances, and with patient remaining challenges.
I write today to tell you King’s words are enshrined in stone to remind us the struggle for justice will always continue. I write to you today to tell you the fierce and exhausting struggle beginning in the Land of King 50 years ago, has not ended, and will continue for generations to come.
I write today to tell you the roots of hate, ignorance, and evil endure, nurtured by the protective veils of government corruption, cronyism, greed, and religious prejudices sanctioned by dogma and custom. I call upon you today to join King’s call to justice, now more than 50 years old as it still echoes throughout our global age.
Listen! Can you hear the cries of the masses around the world leading lives of desperation, lives devoid of hope, lives existing from moment to moment, each breath lacking reflexive assurance the next breath will bring solace to an aching body, and a troubled mind?
Events in recent months regarding the betrayal of our government’s Justice and National Security Agency and staff and offices raise serious questions about the sources of Reverend King’s assassination. It is said, Reverend King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, with a rifle bullet fired by James Earl Ray at 6:01 on April 4, 1968. An assassination by one demented mine? A conspiracy?
Today’s DC scandals leave open the question of a larger conspiracy assassination; we now know government offices, agencies, and people have engaged in criminal acts by politicizing and weaponizing FISA and FISA court procedures. Government, media, and related interests ridicule the term “conspiracy” and its advocates, denying any possibility. Yet, today, “conspiracy” has acquired acceptability as DC scandals reveal sanctioned legal and criminal violations.
There was, at the time of Reverend King’s growing leadership and widespread popularity, an extensive fear among the highest offices of our land that Reverend King’s words would spark massive protests for social reform of legal and civil rights, especially among African American populations doomed to prejudiced fixed roles and opportunities.
It is well known, and inescapably criminal, that J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, and one of the most destructive individuals in his time, sought to stop Reverend King’s influence by threatening him with exposure of extra-marital affairs, and urging Reverend King to commit suicide. Hoover was fearful the civil rights movement would challenge the status quo. In Reverend King’s words and influences, Hoover saw a dreaded communistic advocacy, a government phobia which continues today, guiding USA foreign policy for decades.
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, feared the civil rights’ movement and investigated the allegations of communist infiltration. When no evidence emerged to support this, the FBI used the incidental details caught on tape over the next five years in attempts to force King out of his leadership position in the COINTELPRO program.
Hoover was also furious over Reverend King’s efforts to stop the war in Vietnam. Reverend King’s efforts later proved prescient as the war’s tolls upon Vietnam and USA society, doomed the USA with endless guilt at the carnage it had rendered on an Asian people, and the consequences for American troops killed and injured.
Tragically, the massive moral response to USA war crimes led to later militaristic efforts to re-position the USA as the world political, economic, and military leader (see Project for a New American Century – PNAC). In every extreme are sown the seeds of the opposite. Guilt, humiliation, shame, brought welcome compensatory efforts to assert military power and might.
The question of Reverend King’s assassination remains open to debate. Today, the FBI building in Washington, DC, is named after J. Edgar Hoover. A gradually expanding national monument and shrine is being built in Atlanta, Georgia, close to Reverend King’s home and church, to honor Reverend King. The monument is insufficient given Reverend King’s legacy and impact. We must insure his words will be present in every classroom across the land because they go beyond protests, anti-war and civil rights protests. “They are timeless!”
Slavery, and its brutal legacy, sullied and stained by inadequate USA peace and justice efforts, continue. Reverend King’s words and actions challenged the comfort zones of those in power at local, national, and international levels. Their efforts after saturating Black areas with illegal drugs, and imposing prison terms on offenders with even slight amounts of illegal substance, were unable to halt the rising tide of freedom and justice Reverend King’s word inspired. Was the “War on Drugs” really a war on black people? Many believe so!
Today, we are engaged in a global struggle for justice. There are victims of war and violence. There are victims of labor, gender, and child exploitation. There are victims of oppression, there are victims denied freedom. All victims yearn for recognition, support, and justice. All victims are you, for there is no other! This was the message in King’s words.
Answering King’s call, and the call of billions of others living amid injustice, will not be easy! Heeding King’s call will add burdens to conscience, press discomforting responsibilities upon daily rounds, and risk threat to security.
In answering the call, your life will not be the same. You will be required to face harsh realities; you will be singled out for abuse from reactionary forces whose accepted inhumanity and dehumanization keeps them locked in hate. Your life itself will be at risk. Yes, your efforts will bring you threats and surveillance. Courage is necessary.
What will not be at risk, however, is your personal integrity, your dignity, your identity, and your position of gratitude, respect, and admiration in the heart and minds of those you help.
Pursuit of justice is not for the faint of heart. You can expect condemnation, ridicule, insult, entrapment, and defamation; costs are high, but rewards are more than gold or silver; rewards come in knowing in our brief time on earth, you have done something to advance the cause of “justice.”
As Reverend King would, in my humble opinion, say today:
Brethren, I share with you now the words spoken before in a distant land, by a humble man, a carpenter and fisherman, who understood the evils of violence and hatred, anticipating in them, his own death by blood- stained hands:
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. AMEN
Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu. He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. His TMS articles may be accessed HERE and he can be reached at email@example.com.