MLK and BHO

Rick Perlstein:

I’ll just come out and say it: the juxtaposition of MLK and BHO makes me supremely uncomfortable. King WANTED to piss people off. He was glad to be non-accommodationist. Yes, once he planted his flag for a goal–say open housing in Chicago–he certainly participated in the normal give and take of politics. But his next move, always, was to articulate radical dissatisfaction with that accommodation, and figure out a way to radically challenge people some more. Chicago was his greatest (and first real) disappointment. It was immediately followed by his most radical act: calling America the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. When that resulted in his ostracization from Establishment circles, his next move was…to organize to flood the capital for a general strike of the poor, “to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street, and say, ‘We are here; we are poor; we don’t have any money; you have made us this way; you keep us down this way; and we’ve come to stay unless you do something about it,'” because “the lives, the incomes, the well-being, of poor people everywhere in America are plundered by our economic system.”

The speech

I hope Charlie Pierce is right:

The president’s second inaugural address was as clear a statement of progressive principles as a president has given since LBJ got up there and shoved the Voting Rights Act and the words “We shall overcome” right up old Richard Russell’s ass in 1965. I will grant you that it was draped early on in some completely predictable boilerplate about “outworn programs” and about how we shouldn’t think “all society’s ills” can be cured through government action. But that was only a little deke to get Brokaw looking the other way. The president then went top-shelf on his audience.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword (Ed. Note: Lincolnosity!), we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together. Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune … we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.

The speech was a bold refutation of almost everything the Republican party has stood for over the past 40 years. It was a loud — and, for this president, damned near derisive — denouncement of all the mindless, reactionary bunkum that the Republicans have come to stand for in 2013; you could hear the sound of the punch he landed on the subject of global warming halfway to Annapolis. But the meat of the speech was a brave assertion of the power of government, not as an alien entity, but as an instrument of the collective will and desires of a self-governing people.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.


Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm. That is our generation’s task, to make these works, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.


We are not free because we are individuals, the president told them, daring them to hold two ideas in their heads at a time without their brains leaking out of their ears. We are free because, as individuals we work together in the creative act of self-government to produce a viable political commonwealth in which that freedom can thrive and prosper, and the primary instrument of that commonwealth is the government we devise out of it. That government must be allowed to function. That government must be allowed to operate for this freedom to be generally achieved.


Progress does not compel us to settle century’s long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time. For now, decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.

We will wait and see, of course, what happens once the scaffolding and the bunting comes down, bearing in mind always the scriptural caution about faith without works being dead. But, for an afternoon, anyway, a Democratic president reclaimed the language of freedom from those for whom it means merely lower taxes and more guns. He reclaimed government as a manifestation of a country’s aspirations, and not as an anchor on its progress. And he refuted, with precision and neatly camouflaged contempt, many of the most destructive ideas that have poisoned out politics for nearly four decades now. He did nothing less than redefine patriotism in a progressive way. That is already bothering  all of the right people. This, I tell you, is what gives me hope.

Clues

Digby:

I will say this: Inaugural speeches are often legacy speeches and based on this speech I’m going to guess that whatever his policies actually were and are, he told us today that he would like to be remembered by most people as a progressive president, not a centrist technocrat. Certainly, it won’t be centrists or the conservatives who bestow it on him — positive legacies are sustained by the members of your own party and ideology. If he wants to be in the liberal pantheon beyond the obvious (and very real) accomplishment of becoming the first African American president and some movement on gay rights, the second term will have to be different from the first. From the sound of today’s address, it would seem that he wants it to be. And if that’s true, progressives have some leverage.

The remains of the (gun appreciation) day

Gun lovers have a habit of seizing on the rare instances where having a gun does actually protect you (as opposed to it being used against you or going off from mishandling) that I was going to compile my own list to balance things out, but since Gawker already did it, I might as well point you to their “Gun Appreciation Day” casualties:

Yesterday was deemed a day to appreciate your guns in America, and boy did we. Five people were shot at gun shows in North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana. These were not, however, the only instances of gun violence yesterday.

As happens everyday, numerous people were either injured or killed by guns on “Gun Appreciation Day,” be it on purpose or accidentally. Spanning Alaska to Florida, here are those people:

  • A 14-year-old suburban Atlanta boy shot and killed his 15-year-old brother while playing with their mother’s handgun.
  • A 26 year old was shot and killed while driving in San Francisco.
  • A man was found dead from a gunshot wound in his home in Kansas City, Kansas.
  • A woman in an El Paso County, Texas shooting range was hit in the knee by a bullet that ricocheted off a trash can.
  • Two women were shot to death in a Dallas-area home.
  • Two women were injured after someone opened fire at a crowded soccer field in Las Vegas.
  • A 15-year-old girl was shot while sleeping in her bed when her Anchorage home was shot at.
  • A 7-year-old boy in Tallahassee shot a 5 year old with a gun he found in a 22-year-old relative’s room.
  • A Huntsville woman shot her boyfriend after the two had an argument.
  • A 23-year-old man died after being accidentally shot in a Greshman, Oregon home.
  • A Cleveland father has been charged in connection with the death of his 6-year-old daughter from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
  • One man was shot in Elyria, Ohio, just west of Cleveland, early Saturday morning.
  • A man was found shot dead in a parking lot in Greenville County, South Carolina.
  • Two people were shot and killed outside an inn in Hampton, Virginia.
  • At least 10 people were shot in Chicago, at least two were fatal.
  • A Colorado Springs man was driven to the hospital with a gunshot wound.
  • A Jackson, Mississippi police officer was shot while responding to a disturbance call.
  • One man was shot at a Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Jackson.
  • Two men and one woman were shot at a home in Oakland.
  • An 11-year-old boy was shot in an Oklahoma City apartment complex.
  • Police in Richmond, Virginia are looking for three men who shot another man in his thirties.
  • Police believe gang violence is to blame for the shooting death of one man in Santa Ana, California.
  • An early morning shooting in Tuscaloosa injured two teenagers.

Oh, and here’s another one: Father shoots wife and then himself at daughter’s 16th birthday party.

So remember, kids: Guns don’t always keep you safe. Sometimes they’re the very things that hurt you!

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