President Obama gave an eloquent speech at the Martin Luther King Memorial Dedication, but he shrank King to suit his own purposes.

He focused on the convenient King—the “I Have a Dream” King—and he touched on King’s commitment to economic justice. But he omitted the pastor’s role in opposing militarism and imperialism. He minimized King, the champion of peace, and he not only didn’t mention that King envisioned a world beyond nationalism; Obama actually used the occasion to extol America’s greatness.

In his focus on the civil rights movement, Obama graciously saluted “all those men and women who through countless acts of quiet heroism helped bring about changes few thought were even possible.”

Obama did note that King strove not just for “civil and political equality but also economic justice.” And Obama rightly used the occasion to point out the poverty, “rising inequality, and stagnant wages” that are with us today.

Obama made fleeting mention of King’s opposition to the Vietnam War, but he gave no clue about Dr. King’s reasons for opposing that war, which King delineated at his historic speech, “A Time to Break Silence,” at Riverside Church in New York City one year before he was assassinated. It was in that speech that King denounced “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.”

It was in that speech that King said: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

It was in that speech that King called the United States the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

It was in that speech that King said U.S. military interventions abroad were often conducted to protect “investment accounts” in the United States.

It was in that speech that King called for a “revolution of values” that would reject all wars.

It was in that speech that King urged us to move beyond patriotism and nationalism: "If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."

In fact, that last remark is one of the 14 quotations that are inscribed at the very King Memorial where Obama was speaking.

But instead of at least nodding to this profound call by Dr. King, Obama enlisted King in a patriotic sing-along. He hailed King as being “so quintessentially American—because for the hardships we’ve endured, for all our sometimes-tragic history, ours is a story of optimism and achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth. And this is why the rest of the world still looks to us to lead.”

Martin Luther King Jr. renounced American exceptionalism.

It was poor form, to say the least, for Obama to exalt it at the dedication of the King Memorial.


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It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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