ABOUT A MOST DANGEROUS MAN
by Mary Zepernick
Cape Cod Times, 1-14-00
During the 1920's, F.B.I Director J.Edgar
Hoover reportedly called
Jane Addams "the most dangerous woman in America." She had been lauded as
long as she focused on settlement house work, but Addams didn't remain in
In 1915 she chaired the International Congress
of Women at The
Hague, a gathering of some 1400 women from warring and neutral nations.
Four years later she was elected the first president of the Women's
International League for Peace & Freedom, working with women in other
countries to make connections among war, racism and poverty. In 1931 Jane
Addams became the first U.S. woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
On January 15 two years earlier, another future
laureate was born. In significant ways Martin Luther King, Jr's journey
paralleled that most dangerous woman's, including his relationship with
Hoover. According to Taylor Branch in "Parting the Waters: America in the
King Years, 1954-63," in the late 1950's "Hoover's antogonism (was)
subdued, as civil rights threatened no imminent divisions within the FBI's
Early in the Kennedy administration, however,
Hoover wrote a memo
"demanding to know why the FBI had not thoroughly investigated the
troublemaker King." The civil rights leader was making increasingly
dangerous connections, declaring that "True compassion is more than
flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces
beggars needs restructuring."
Dr. King's questioning of society's economic
policies were rooted in his childhood. Branch describes his earliest
recorded memories in Depression-era Atlanta as breadlines, with two-thirds
of Black men unemployed. In "My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr.,"
Coretta Scott King quotes her husband as saying "I could never be a
Communist. My father is a thorough-going capitalist, but I could not be
that either. I think a society based on making all the money you can and
ignoring people's needs is wrong. I don't want to own a lot of things."
Dr. King observed in his "I Have a
Dream" speech (reference
http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/Docs/march.html ) that "the Negro
lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of
material prosperity." These ideas are dangerous indeed to the FBI's
privileged constituency--what author bell hooks calls the white
supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.
And what of today? In the midst of
"free market" triumphalism and
this country's vaunted economic boom, that lonely island remains all too
populated. Is there any question what Dr. King would say to the growing
inaccessibility of health care, housing and liveable wages that still
disproportionately affects African-Americans and other people of color?
By 1967, King had become a vocal opponent of
the war in Vietnam,
making dangerous connections between domestic racism and imperialism
abroad. One year before his murder, he gave his "Beyond Vietnam" speech at
New York's Riverside Church, calling the United States "the greatest
purveyor of violence in the world today" and declaring that "Our only hope
lies in our ability to go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring
eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism."
I expect Martin Luther King, Jr., would have
been in Seattle during
the WTO meetings, denouncing those who would make the world safe for
multinational corporations. He would surely decry the corporate usurpation
of our self-governance and cheer the thousands of non-violent demonstrators
and the WTO delegates from the so-called Third World who were emboldened to
reject a phony consensus.
In early April 1968, with plans underway for
the Poor People's
Campaign to converge on Washington, Dr. King went to Memphis to support the
demands of striking garbage workers. Two months before he had delivered a
sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church that later served as his eulogy.
"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum
major, say that I was a
drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum
major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not
matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and
luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a
committed life behind."
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil,
it multiplies it. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not
murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.... Returning violence
for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already
devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Martin Luther
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