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Dr. King Spanks Obama: Part 2

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At the 23rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday Celebration in San Francisco attendees were asked to answer the question, "What would Dr. King want to say to Barack Obama?" But Dr. King actually provides the best answers to this question in his last book, "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" For example, in chapter 3 he states:

"The Washington Post has calculated that we spend $332,000 for each enemy we kill. It challenges the imagination to contemplate what lives could transform if we were to cease killing. The security we profess to seek in foreign adventures we will lose in our decaying cities. The bombs in Vietnam explode at home; they destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [1]

But this is data from 1967. Has anyone performed more recent calculations with regard to Iraq, Gaza or Afghanistan? With his great interest in "transparency", perhaps Barack Obama has already posted these statistics on his Web site. How many American jobs does it cost to kill one "enemy" in Iraq? How many American homes does is cost to kill one "enemy" in Afghanistan? Has anyone checked? I haven't yet. But this does promise to be a very interesting study in terms of -- "free trade".

Meanwhile, I must confess to a recent error in suggesting Obama's commitments lie outside the democratic process. [2] While it is true that Obama's choices don't seem to align with the interests of most Americans (or any other life form), this does not indicate he is operating outside the democratic process. Such misinterpretations are quite understandable, and as outlined below I appear to be in good company. After all, we're constantly taught to believe that we live in a democratic society -- and to some extent we certainly do. The problem is that more than 99-percent of the US population is deliberately excluded from active daily participation in the democratic process.

"Through two centuries, a continuous indoctrination of Americans has separated people according to mythically superior and inferior qualities while a democratic spirit of equality was evoked as the national ideal." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [1]

Though typically aimed at racial segregation, most of Dr. King's observations also extend to the more general problems of economic and political segregation. King’s ultimate goal was racial equality to be achieved through the eradication of global poverty. His obvious ability to organize the masses in this regard, his suggestion of a Basic Income Guarantee and his vocal opposition to the Vietnam war seem the most likely reasons Dr. King was assassinated by his own government. He connected the dots between war and poverty and he was able to effectively organize the masses against both -- so they shot him. [3]

What does this tell us about our democratic system? What does this tell us about our government's agenda? What does this tell us about Dr. King’s approach to "democracy" versus Barack Obama's? Peace activist Cindy Sheehan suggests Obama is "a sell-out in opposition to King's legacy, not a fulfillment":

"Besides filling his cabinet with militarists and members of the white establishment, he has selected very few persons of color. His support for a trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street shows that he has sold out himself, and the nation's poor to be a tool of the bankers. Obama's devotion to war ('I am not against war, I am against dumb wars') is not only demonstrated by his words, but by his actions, as well. While pledging to withdraw 'combat troops' from Iraq, he also promises to dramatically increase troop level in Afghanistan and also increase overall troop levels by almost 100,000 warm bodies. Obama recognizes Israel's right to 'defend' itself by bombing the prisoners of Gaza." [4]

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Regarding Obama's first 100 days in office, John Pilger concurs:

"Many Americans also believed he was the heir to Martin Luther King’s legacy of anti-colonialism. Yet if Obama had a theme at all, apart from the vacuous 'Change you can believe in', it was the renewal of America as a dominant, avaricious bully. 'We will be the most powerful,' he often declared... In his first 100 days, Obama has excused torture, opposed habeas corpus and demanded more secret government. He has kept Bush’s gulag intact and at least 17,000 prisoners beyond the reach of justice. On 24 April, his lawyers won an appeal that ruled Guantanamo Bay prisoners were not 'persons', and therefore had no right not to be tortured... All over the world, America’s violent assault on innocent people, directly or by agents, has been stepped up... In Pakistan, the number of civilians killed by US missiles called drones has more than doubled since Obama took office... In Afghanistan, the US 'strategy' of killing Pashtun tribespeople (the 'Taliban') has been extended... Perhaps the biggest lie is Obama’s announcement that the US is leaving Iraq... According to unabashed US army planners, as many as 70,000 troops will remain 'for the next 15 to 20 years'..." [5]

As a result, Pilger says a growing number of Americans believe they have been "suckered" -- especially as the nation’s economy has been entrusted to the same fraudsters who destroyed it. Sheehan describes Obama as a "sell-out", and geniuses like me suggest that he's committed to forces "outside the democratic process". But Americans have been suckered for much longer that a mere 100 days. It's actually been more like 230 years. If we think of democracy as a distribution of decision-making power, we see that the democratic process is alive and well in the United States and that Barack Obama tends to operate well within its boundaries. But the democratic process in the US is also monstrously skewed in favor of wealth derived from the passive ownership of capital.

So, as Noam Chomsky suggests, most Americans are passive spectators ("ignorant and meddlesome outsiders") in the democratic process. [6] It's no coincidence that those same people are also the most active daily participants in the economic process of generating wealth -- for somebody else. The passive claimants of all that wealth are the owners of capital -- and it's no coincidence that those people (less than 1-percent of the US population) also happen to be the most active daily participants in the democratic process. Moreover, the interests of workers and the interests of passive ownership are directly opposed. [7] After more than 200 years "Americans" are finally beginning to see that something is terribly wrong with this picture. [8] But it's not a new problem. This is actually a manufacturer's defect.

The United States was not founded on the principle that "all people are created equal". It was founded on the principle that "all MEN are created equal". The term "men" denoted white male property owners. The term "property" denoted land and slaves. Much like a factory recall, the American Civil War eventually replaced slavery with capitalism as a new and improved way for passive ownership to siphon wealth and income away from the active participants (workers) who produce it. Black slaves were literally tossed to the wolves as the exploitation of labor was extended to every human being who was not an owner of capital.

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Meanwhile, the right to vote in the US is controlled at both the state and federal levels, and its history is replete with legislation intended to discriminate against certain (especially ethnic) groups. But in general, only white male property owners (about 10 to 16 percent of the US population) had the right to vote at the time the US Constitution was written. By the beginning of the Civil War, the property-ownership requirement had finally been dropped, and most white male citizens could vote. Women and Native Americans achieved the right to vote in the 1920s, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally guaranteed blacks the right to vote in the United States without racial discrimination. [9] [10]

But the right to vote in no way guarantees either the right or the opportunity for active daily participation in the democratic process. As Dr. King laments, the laws have changed, but the democratic process hasn't improved at all. In fact, the exclusive control of US democracy has shrunk from 10- to 16-percent of the population in 1787 to less than half of a percent today. So despite our many historic struggles for the right to vote, our democratic process is now more heavily skewed than ever before in favor of property ownership and wealth accumulation. The decisions that most deeply affect our daily lives are being made for us by others. According to Dr. King, "someone or some system has already made these decisions for me, and I am reduced to an animal". [1] David Chandler's "L-Curve" is the best graphic representation I've found for illustrating the aggressive assault on US democracy: [8]

"The horizontal spike [on the curve] has the votes. The vertical spike [on the curve] has the money. Who wins, when it comes to electoral politics? Who has influence? Whose interests are being represented in Washington? Can democracy meaningfully exist where the distribution of wealth, and thus the distribution of power, is this concentrated? We recently went through an economic boom where people on the horizontal spike showed little if any improvement in their condition while those in the vertical spike showed huge gains. Can this be considered "prosperity"? Do we really want to gear up our national policies to repeat this performance?" [8]

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David Kendall lives in WA and is concerned about the future of our world.

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