Hijacking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy

On the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, some, including a Pentagon official, are invoking his name to try to drum up support for US wars abroad.

King’s dream was a dream so powerful, it eventually came true and its impact was so strong, it fractured the foundation of a society.

So it is no surprise then that the name of this American hero is invoked for various reasons. But once in a while, that legacy gets hijacked.

First there was Glenn Beck in a rally on the mall, on August 28th – the same date at the same location King gave his “I have a Dream” speech.

Selling a conservative talk show hosts message was one thing. Now his name is being used to drum up support for US wars

In a speech given last week, Dr. Jeh Johnson, an attorney at the Pentagon, “I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our Nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.”

That’s funny because in addition to leading the civil rights movement, King was one of the most outspoken critics of not only the Vietnam War, but of war in general.The use of MLK’S name to try to gain support for violence is outrageous to many people.

I think he’s trying to misquote Martin Luther King and put him inside a war that he would have been against,” said Rev. William Jarvis Johnson, Pastor at the New Prospect Family Praise and Worship Center in Washington, DC. “I think Dr. King would have marched with many of us from the very beginning on the needlessness of us going over there.It wasn’t about weapons of Mass destruction, it was about oil. Let’s be real.”

Walter Fauntroy knew Dr. King personally and said, “His message was simply this: either we learn to live together and brothers as sisters on this planet or we will perish together as fools.”

In Washington, DC, a city where the struggle for civil rights lives on, many who took part in the MLK Peace Walk said there is a vast difference between honoring history and revising it.

Mark Rudd, the author of "Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen" said the legacy of MLK is one of peace, activism and the rights of all, but has since been abused by many and reduced to “I have a dream” and racial integration.

There is so much more to what King was talking about. There was labor organizing, for example, on the economic rights of the poor. There was peace. He in 1967, exactly one year before he died, came out against the war in Vietnam,” Rudd explained. “I believe that the War in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq are wars of aggression and Dr. King would have opposed them.”

He argued the Vietnam War was a war of aggression and occupation, one he opposed and King opposed, just as King would oppose such conflicts today. MLK stood for peace and non-violent activism to support the rights of those oppressed by multiple groups. He was more than a symbol for racial integration in America.

In today’s America there is a general feeling that change cannot happen, but that is wrong, argued Rudd. Like the movements lead by MLK, change can take place today by learning from the movements of the past.