New article for PolicyMic.
Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, one of the most historic and important events in American history. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in front of over 200,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial at a time where racism, injustice, and war dominated the American landscape.
This anniversary is the perfect time to reflect upon what we millennials can do to place a renewed focus on King’s message.
While none of us were there to witness the march, King’s speech, or the troubles that plagued America at the time, I have the rare opportunity to have a father who was only a few years younger than I am now in 1963, and remembers that era well.
Ever since I was a child, I have had the privilege of hearing stories of what it was like to be alive in such revolutionary and dangerous times. Fairly apolitical but with an inherent eye and curiosity for a sense of justice and right and wrong, my father sympathized with King and other black leaders who called for equal rights. Despite being surrounded by the normal prejudice of the time, my dad’s favorite ball player was Roy Campanella, he was surrounded by minorities during his decades spent fixing cars and owning a repair shop, and simply could not understand why so many could be so cruel to others simply based on their skin color. He believed talent and virtue should be rewarded, regardless of ethnicity.
Times have indeed changed for the better, but in many ways, the problems King addressed have gotten worse. While my father’s generation tried to rectify the sins of the past in terms of race relations and prejudice, the institutionalized racism and violence of so many American institutions continues to haunt us.
In a 1967 sermon given at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, “Why Am I Opposed to the War in Vietnam,” King laid out his reasons for opposing the Vietnam War and U.S. aggression abroad. Most importantly, he said, “I have told the kids in the ghettos that violence won’t solve their problems, but then they ask me, and rightly so; why does the government use massive doses of violence to bring about the change it wants in the world? After this I knew that I could no longer speak against the violence in the ghettos without also speaking against the violence of my own government.”
Over 40 years after the Vietnam War has ended, the U.S. has increased this violence around the world to a level that is almost unimaginable. The national security state apparatus is a $1.2 trillion-a-year entitlement program maintaining a global empire on every continent except Antarctica. Aggressive war, sanctions, coups, and drone strikes are the everyday tools of the U.S. government. The Global War on Terror is now being made permanent. And as I write this, the U.S. is planning another war with air strikes that will likely kill untold thousands.
First and foremost, we must tirelessly oppose this violence as it continues to carve out the rule of law, the Bill of Rights, and any resemblance of constitutional government.
King was monitored and spied on by the FBI. The surveillance state has increased exponentially, and without the proper checks, it threatens to be, like a dystopian novel, an entrenched feature of American society. What better way to honor King than to smash Big Brother?
While private racism has decreased over the decades, government programs have nationalized and institutionalized it. The drug war and gun control laws disproportionately harm poor and minority neighborhoods. The welfare state and central banking have ruined economic mobility, spread poverty, and depressed wages.
Ending these policies alone might be the best thing we could do in this country to improve not just the lives of millenniala, minorities, and the poor, but everyone in society.
What all of the above factors have in common is they are all part of a political system based on the same institutionalized violence King spoke out against. Everything the state does — whether waging war overseas, transferring wealth, or locking up people for victimless crimes — is based on the use or the threat of violence.
Is it any surprise that a means of organizing society and dispensing justice based on this premise has led to these results? Means and ends can never be separated. Violent means lead to destructive ends, no matter how noble the intentions are.
King may have been a bit misguided on economic issues, but he struck at the root of what plagues American, and all, societies: a parasitic political class that rules by fiat and force. Private aggression should always be opposed, but we have to be even more vigilant, as King said, against government violence, both at home and abroad.
I feel that the best way millenniala can honor King’s legacy is to spread the virtues of non-violence and the spontaneous order of civic society, highlight the injustices perpetuated by our government, and make reversing these policies our legacy that we hand to the next generation.