I have a lot to talk about

d5e81d8f642ce63634e689903d613712I mean, just off the top of my head:

  • The escape room I went to in Indianapolis on Saturday, which was insanely awesome even though we didn’t get out;
  • The pants-shitting terror that ensued while dropping my son off at my parents’ for the day and happening to check Twitter at the exact minute everyone in Hawai’i got the “You’re about to die!” message on their phones;
  • The subsequent boneshaking rage at the discovery that the thing supposedly in charge of the country did not even bother to interrupt its round of golf while that was happening;
  • The ongoing success of the “draw each day” initiative, which is only four days old but, hey, I haven’t quit yet!;
  • The outstanding stupidity of my day at work today, which featured three different sales that were closed and then cancelled within half an hour;
  • The economy’s about to crash, by the way– ask how I know;
  • The fact that I’ve begun two different writing projects this week and am pretty happy with the development of both so far;
  • My annual “Shut the fuck up about Martin Luther King, white people; you’d have hated him” post;
  • Begging for reviews from the person using Kindle Unlimited to work through a couple of my books this week;
  • Whatever the hell else happened to cross my mind.

Instead of doing any of those things, I’m going to go to bed early, because I feel like hell.  This is about all I can manage in terms of coherent thought right now.  So pretend I wrote as many of those posts as you like and feel free to respond to whatever you think they might have said below.

REBLOG: In which I gently suggest something to white people

Wrote this two years ago. Still true.

Welcome to infinitefreetime dot com

Take a look at these two pictures.

JESSE JACKSON EATONVILLEal-sharptonWhat do you think of these two guys?  Go ahead, jot down a few thoughts.

Okay.

I hate to break it to you, but you just told yourself more or less exactly what you’d think of Martin Luther King Jr. if he were still alive, or (having just had his 86th birthday, after all) if he’d been allowed to live a normal human lifespan and was no longer with us.

Yes.  Really.

No, he wasn’t different.  Look at the things white people were saying about Martin Luther King Jr. when he was alive.  People say the exact same things about Jackson and Sharpton.  Word for goddamn word.

Publicity hound?  Outside agitator?  Stuck his nose in where it didn’t belong?  Communist?  White people said all that shit about King, and white people say all that shit about Jackson and Sharpton now.  (Okay, Al Sharpton to my…

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#REVIEW: AND THE WALLS CAME TUMBLING DOWN, by Ralph Abernathy

Dr.-Martin-Luther-King-Jr.-and-Rev.-Ralph-Abernathy.jpgYou may not be aware of who Rev. Ralph David Abernathy is, but I guarantee you know his face.  Why?  He’s the guy standing just behind or just to the side of Martin Luther King, Jr. in every picture of Martin Luther King ever taken.  In many ways he was as influential to the civil rights movement as King was– he was even the guy who brought King in as the visible face of the movement during the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was what made MLK a national figure– but because he was so often quite literally the guy behind the guy he’s not nearly as well known.

I just finished his autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, a book I have owned for a while and really should have read a long, long time ago.  It’s one of the more interesting autobiographies I’ve ever read.  For example, here is the cover blurb:

The detail Mr. Abernathy offers about his life with Martin Luther King Jr. is enlightening and helps us understand what a remarkable man King was. 

You catch that?  It’s Abernathy’s book, about Abernathy, but even the blurb on the cover is about King.  So the book needs to be read on a few different levels: one, as an autobiography, two, as a biography of an entirely different person, and three, as a history of the Civil Rights movement, and specifically the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition, which King was President of and which Abernathy took over (at King’s explicit direction) after King was killed.

The ultimate result is a book that is most successful at item 3, I think, and, oddly, is weakest at item 1.  Abernathy discusses his early life carefully enough, I suppose, and you get a good picture of what growing up in Alabama in the thirties must have been like, although he’s careful to note that he was more privileged than most.  Once the SCLC enters the picture, though, any mention of Abernathy’s family or private life (or even his pastorship outside the SCLC) disappears.  The births of three of his four children go unmentioned, for example, and while his wife Juanita is present throughout the book she’s mostly there, along with Coretta Scott King, as a provider of home-cooked meals.

The book functions best, as I said, as a history of the major struggles of the SCLC, with one major caveat:  Abernathy, and it hurts me to say this because of who he was, was apparently a bit of a pompous ass.  There are a number of other important figures throughout the movement who Abernathy clearly loathed, and some, such as Stokely Carmichael, endure abuse virtually every time they are mentioned. Jesse Jackson has an entire chapter that, other than the final page, is wholly dedicated to how egotistical he was.  He treats the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee like it was overrun with Black Panthers from day one, which is manifestly untrue, yet neglects to mention the actual beginning of the black power movement, which he was present for.  Most amazingly, Abernathy managed to write an entire chapter about the March on Washington without mentioning Bayard Rustin.

There would not have been a March on Washington without Bayard Rustin, and his omission is shocking.  I can only assume that Abernathy disapproved of Rustin being openly gay, because otherwise he should have popped up way more often.  With Carmichael and Jackson, the differences were more clearly personal.

And then there’s the way he treats MLK, and that for me is both the worst and most interesting parts of the book.  Here’s the thing: Martin Luther King was not the perfect saint that modern media wants him portrayed as.  He was, as I’ve said before, human.  And he was, unfortunately, among many, many other things, the vast majority of them good, a philanderer.

Now: if you’re writing a biography of Martin Luther King Jr., you owe it to him and to your audience to not treat him as an unassailable, perfect person, and I think King himself would agree with that.  An biography of King, at least one intended for grown-ups to read, should deal with the man’s darker side.

But if your book is about you, and you were Martin Luther King’s best friend and constant companion through the most important years of his life, and if you were literally the last human person he touched and saw and tried to speak to before the assassin’s bullet took his life, maybe, just maybe you don’t devote a chunk of the chapter about the night he was killed to the fact that he slept with as many as three different women during the couple of nights before the assassination.  Maybe you leave that detail out.  Maybe you don’t devote several pages to it.  Just maybe.

It comes off kinda fucked up, is what I’m saying.

So, yeah: make no mistake, Ralph Abernathy was a pompous ass and one of the ways he uses this book is to settle some scores, and he occasionally takes some credit for things he wasn’t entirely responsible for, and I can’t help but think that I think some residual jealousy toward King was informing the way he wrote about the last few days of MLK’s life.  But I’m not star-rating Ralph Abernathy, and again, the man is allowed to be human, and the good he did in life far, far outweighs spreading some vitriol around in the autobiography he wrote the year before he died (and, possibly relevantly, after having had at least two minor strokes.)  As a book, AND THE WALLS CAME TUMBLING DOWN is fascinating, and any student of the Civil Rights Movement should have already read it.

Five stars.

In which I gently suggest something to white people

Take a look at these two pictures.

JESSE JACKSON EATONVILLE al-sharptonWhat do you think of these two guys?  Go ahead, jot down a few thoughts.

Okay.

I hate to break it to you, but you just told yourself more or less exactly what you’d think of Martin Luther King Jr. if he were still alive, or (having just had his 86th birthday, after all) if he’d been allowed to live a normal human lifespan and was no longer with us.

Yes.  Really.

No, he wasn’t different.  Look at the things white people were saying about Martin Luther King Jr. when he was alive.  People say the exact same things about Jackson and Sharpton.  Word for goddamn word.

Publicity hound?  Outside agitator?  Stuck his nose in where it didn’t belong?  Communist?  White people said all that shit about King, and white people say all that shit about Jackson and Sharpton now.  (Okay, Al Sharpton to my knowledge has never been accused of Communism.  But Jackson has.)  Do you happen to know what King was doing in Memphis when he was killed?  Supporting a sanitation workers’ strike.  Hardly a national issue, right?  He’s just preening for the cameras.  Just likes the attention.

Same.  Exact.  Shit.

Oh, but <insert ethics thing here>?

King was a notorious womanizer who plagiarized much of his doctoral dissertation.  These assertions are facts; they aren’t even controversial.  Had he not been assassinated, there’s every chance that Coretta would have divorced him eventually.  And he’d have had an extra forty-some-odd years for either the press to dig up more dirt or to make more mistakes in his life, depending on how charitable you feel like being about it.

This is not to denigrate King’s legacy.  That is unassailable– and, in fact, part of the reason King’s legacy is unassailable is precisely because he was killed.  I am trying to point something out that should be obvious: Martin Luther King, Jr. was. a. PERSON.

He was not Jesus.

Hell, Jesus wasn’t even Jesus, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

He was a man, and white people hated him.  Murdered him, in fact.

You are not different by virtue of the fact that you’re alive nearly fifty years after he was shot.  If anything, King was more of a leftist than Jackson and Sharpton are now, and given where his rhetoric and politics were going at the time he was killed, maybe I should have included a third picture up there:

wrightfoxnews

(Went ahead and gave y’all a caption, because I know you don’t know what Jeremiah Wright looks like.)

I’m not sure what in particular got on my last nerve about this year’s MLK Day, but… damn.  Learn something, y’all.  Read some of what this dude had to say– and not just the I Have a Dream speech.  Look at what he had to say about Vietnam; muse on the fact that he was calling America “a sick society” as early as 1963 if not before that.  King was alive in the sixties, and most white people hated him.  If King was still alive in the 2010s, most white people would still hate him.  I hate to break it to y’all, but it’s true.

This is Martin Luther King Jr, white people:

An extended quote:

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support and all the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps, where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go, primarily women, and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the towns and see thousands of thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers. We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the United Buddhist Church. This is a role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolutions impossible but refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that comes from the immense profits of overseas investments. I’m convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.

What do you think this guy would have had to say about the Middle East?  About, really, any aspect of current American foreign policy?  In a country where people think Barack Obama is a socialist?

There’s something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, Be non-violent toward Jim Clark, but will curse and damn you when you say, “Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children.”

Go ahead.  Replace “Vietnamese” with “Muslim.”  And think about how white America would be treating this man if he were still alive.