By Matthew Rothschild on January 21, 2013

The coincidence of Barack Obama's second inaugural coming, as it does, on Martin Luther King's birthday, invites reflection.

Yes, we've come a long way on race relations since 1968. I, like many people over 50, never thought I'd see the day that a black man would become President.

We have matured as a nation, at least on the surface, on the issue of race, though you don't have to dig deep to find it: in the Republican Party, in our resegregated schools, in our income and wealth disparities.

But Martin Luther King was concerned not only with fighting racial injustice. In the last five years of his life, he set out to attack poverty and to confront what he called the "giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism."

He understood the linkages among them. He grasped the injustice of capitalism. And he, deep in his bones, was committed to nonviolence.

Still today, capitalism and militarism reign.

And President Obama has not done much to curb the excesses of capitalism, and done nothing but expand the reach of militarism with drone warfare.

Of all the judgments that a Martin Luther King might make of our current President, that one, I'm afraid would be the most harsh.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Banning Semi-Automatic Weapons Is Not Enough."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

The Koch brothers get their money's worth in gift to United Negro College Fund.

A fun event ridiculed reactionaries and upheld women's reproductive rights.

By Jenni Dye

Is thinking that I should be paid the same as a man if I do the same work a radical, anti-...

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).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter