Sunday, April 6, 2008

KING AND COLLECTIVE MEMORY

Ari, one of the non-Rustbelt Intellectuals out there at the Edge of the American West, offers another take on high price that America pays for replacing the radical Martin Luther King, Jr. with a plaster saint.

He puts it well:

Collective memories, ephemeral though they may be, have consequences. Our common understanding of the past helps to shape our behavior in the present. It matters, then, that the MLK of American memory is, as I’ve suggested before, too simple and too safe. It matters that this deracinated MLK is a byproduct of corporate sponsorship. King’s critique of American imperialism, racism, and, most of all, capitalism have all been replaced by cuddly calls for unity, for Christian fellowship, for reconciliation. Those are, to be sure, pleasant memories. But they may forestall discussions of what divided us in the first place; they might stand in the way of King’s goal of social justice for all people.