Dangerous Talk Blog

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Unfrozen Caveman Ideology

Thoughts About Martin Luther King and Other People

I meant to write this more than a week ago, as Martin Luther King Day approached. But as so often happens, life intervened. So here it is, anyway….

As the Cold War came to a close, some of us – me in particular -- were pretty darned slow to concede the Soviet empire was indeed collapsing. I kept looking for some Anitoly Golitsyn-style conspiracy theory trap to be sprung on the West, but it never came. I realized the truth probably eight or nine years after the rest of the world because I was stuck in the Cold War ideological ice age. I refused to jettison my long-held assumptions about the Soviet state.

Coming to this belated conclusion, I began examining other assumptions I had made about government under the Cold War. Most remained true, but I realized a few of my assumptions were false.

For example, during the 1980s and 1990s I thought Anitoly Golitsyn and James Angleton (former CIA counterintelligence director) were heroes struggling heroically against a KGB-compromised CIA; I later came to know that Angleton was a paranoid monster who inhumanely treated the brave Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko with years of torture.

Another guy I assumed was almost all bad during the Cold War was Martin Luther King. This was pretty easy because King had openly allied himself with a couple of Communist Party members, had personal adultery issues, and his political agenda was to federalize a lot of things that shouldn’t be federalized. This is not to say I ever took any effort to criticize anything MLK ever did. He was so far down on the list of important issues for me that he didn’t even register. I really didn’t care, in part because I was three when he was killed. Like the Kennedy assassination, tales of King always give me MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over). I’ve written thousands of articles for publication since I became a professional journalist after graduating from college in 1987, and don’t recall writing anything about him. But I did have this vaguely negative overall view of him.

In the 1960s – long before my age of majority – it was gospel among John Birch Society members that Martin Luther King was a bad guy. The Birchers rightly pointed out that if the federal government can go into a private restaurant and tell them how to treat certain customers (i.e., not to segregate blacks and whites), then they would eventually be able to go into that restaurant and tell them what kind of food to serve. The proliferation of “transfat” bans among state and local governments and smoking bans ignited by federal lawsuits against tobacco companies are sufficient to prove the truth of the Birchers’ fears. Private property isn’t private any more.

Just about every thing has been federalized, and it all began in the name of racial justice. Probably some of the blame can be laid upon the grave of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Despite his considerable shortcomings, I have still come to believe Martin Luther King was mostly on the side of personal liberties. He was mostly a good guy. King fought primarily against state discrimination: Jim Crow laws against blacks voting, intimidation, sham “back of the bus” state transportation laws, and the like. Other than George Wallace, who could or would argue with that?

King was anti-war in Vietnam, even if he made some impolitic remarks about U.S. troops and their behavior in Vietnam. That’s good.

I get the feeling that if he were alive today, he’d be protesting in favor of those detainees who are being unconstitutionally denied a trial that our 6th amendment guarantees them. I get the feeling he’d be opposing NSA wiretapping, and not just because J. Edgar Hoover tapped his phone. Even if not on every issue, we’d be allies on the most important issues.

Even King’s association with Stalinist Communists wouldn’t count much against him in our brave new world, so dominated by Republican Trotskyites running the White House. The out-of-power Stalinists are on “our” side these days, even if it is only because they want to be the ones torturing and bombing and oppressing people.

Somewhere in hell right now, Leon Trotsky has a sneering smile that he has won his final victory over Josef Stalin.

And, maybe, King is looking down from heaven, glad that he got the big life-and-death issues right, even if he didn’t get some of the other issues quite right.

The lesson I’ve taken from this is a personal resolution not to get taken into the unfrozen caveman ideology trap again.

One of those traps I’ve seen other people around me fall into is that there’s a difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, that the Democrats will always be worse for freedom. That hasn’t been proven true with recent administrations.

I’m not going to assume Republicans are better than Democrats because they want smaller government, when the truth is that quite often they don’t want smaller government. More often than not, they want bigger government than the Democrats. One of my younger brothers likes to say that “the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is that the Republicans talk about smaller government,” putting the emphasis on the word “talk.” He’s right. Talk is the only difference. Democrats “talk” about ending the war. Those are the only differences.

Let the ice melt.


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