October 17, 2010
Cross-posted at Good As You.
By Jeremy Hooper
We were up all night, kept awake by the noise from the rolling around going on inside of Martin Luther King Jr’s grave. So that gave us time to think about a few more things that are super annoying about the National Organization For Marriage’s offensive decision to lift and co-opt MLK’s “Give Us The Ballot” speech for their current war against same-sex marriages in Minnesota:
1) Whereas NOM has never met a pro-equality court that they wouldn’t decry (or work to oust the judges), King’s 1957 speech was all about the court’s needed role in delivering justice. It was delivered on the anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education for a reason:
“Three years ago the Supreme Court of this nation rendered in simple, eloquent, and unequivocal language a decision which will long be stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. For all men of goodwill, this May seventeenth decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of human captivity. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of disinherited people throughout the world who had dared only to dream of freedom.”
2) Those who wished to use the legislature to delay Brown‘s court-backed justice were rightly, roundly criticized:
“Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification.’”
3) King encouraged the legislative and executive branch to learn from the courts, not to write them off as bodies filled with “activist judges” or undermine them with constitutional alterations:
“So far, only the judicial branch of the government has evinced this quality of leadership. If the executive and legislative branches of the government were as concerned about the protection of our citizenship rights as the federal courts have been, then the transition from a segregated to an integrated society would be infinitely smoother.”
4) Hypocritical far-right rhetoric was called out for what it was (/is):
“The Republicans have betrayed it by capitulating to the blatant hypocrisy of right wing, reactionary northerners. These men so often have a high blood pressure of words and an anemia of deeds.”
5) Self-appointed guardians of the so-called status quo were chastised for treating civil rights as if they were a temporal fad:
“We come humbly to say to the men in the forefront of our government that the civil rights issue is not an Ephemeral, evanescent domestic issue that can be kicked about by reactionary guardians of the status quo”
6) Principled leaders were asked to stop seeing the fight as a two-sided, equally-merited national conversation, and to instead realize that there are some matters that deserve a subjective push forward:
“There is a dire need today for a liberalism which is truly liberal. What we are witnessing today in so many northern communities is a sort of quasi-liberalism which is based on the principle of looking sympathetically at all sides. It is a liberalism so bent on seeing all sides, that it fails to become committed to either side. It is a liberalism that is so objectively analytical that it is not subjectively committed. It is a liberalism which is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. (All right) We call for a liberalism from the North which will be thoroughly committed to the ideal of racial justice and will not be deterred by the propaganda and subtle words of those who say: “Slow up for a while; you’re pushing too fast.”
7) Those who demonstrated an even more overheated resistance to minority rights were called out and condemned, with fallacy and fear again rising to the surface of obviousness:
“These persons gain prominence and power by the dissemination of false ideas and by deliberately appealing to the deepest hate responses within the human mind.”
8) Openly gay Bayard Rustin was one of three organizers of the speech and related march.
9) Whereas NOM is all about limitation, the “Give Us The Ballot” speech’s resounding theme involved integrity, encouraging “new meaning into the veins of civilization,” and expanding a “new dimension of love”:
“Keep going today. (Yes sir) Keep moving amid every obstacle. (Yes sir) Keep moving amid every mountain of opposition. (Yes sir, Yeah) If you will do that with dignity (Say it), when the history books are written in the future, the historians will have to look back and say, “There lived a great people. (Yes sir, Yes) A people with ‘fleecy locks and black complexion,’ but a people who injected new meaning into the veins of civilization (Yes); a people which stood up with dignity and honor and saved Western civilization in her darkest hour (Yes); a people that gave new integrity and a new dimension of love to our civilization.”
10) NOM is persecuted not. They can try to flip the historical script all they want — as long as the side that does know slighting keeps pushing forward, the words will inevitably line up the way they’re supposed to. They always do.