Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. says, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

What might Dr. King say to us today?

In the wake of the holiday that honors him, I’ve been wondering “what might Dr. King say to us today?” The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a man whom many of us consider a moral beacon for the ages. His life ended more than fifty years ago, but we value moral beacons because their guidance transcends their own times.

We certainly could use a moral beacon right now. We’ve just lived through a year of historic tumult and upheaval. The pandemic has disrupted our lives on every imaginable level. We lived through a long summer of mass popular demonstrations against systemic racism. An incredibly divisive political season has so far crescendoed (at the time of this writing) into the spectacle of a thank-God-failed insurrection/coup d’état.

What might Dr. King say about all of this? It’s impossible (unless you believe in séances) to ask him directly. But some of the things he wrote and said point us toward his probable reading of some of today’s major recent events. If I tried to address all of today’s issues with his thoughts, this would be a very long post. Instead, I’ll focus on two top headlines of today.

What might Dr. King say about the insurrection at the Capitol?

Dr. King loved his country. Even though he opposed white supremacists in positions of power, he still could write, “the goal of America is freedom.” In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963) he cited “the American dream,” and the goal of “bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”

The white supremacist mob that stormed the Capitol would have looked all too familiar to him. Their (literal and spiritual) parents and grandparents created the Jim Crow South where he focused his resistance work. Of their racist laws, he wrote, “All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.”

As seen from directly above, an angry crowd of Trump supporters beat a Capitol Police officer who has fallen on his face on the Capitol steps.
The insurrectionists attacked this police officer with a crutch, a night stick, fists, and assorted poles—including a pole attached to an American flag. (WUSA9)

He also would have condemned their violence. King decried “hate filled policemen [who] curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters,” but his whole life was devoted to nonviolence. He would have unequivocally decried assaults such as the one pictured above.

Violence brings only temporary victories; violence, by creating many more social problems than it solves, never brings permanent peace,” he wrote. Moreover, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”

What might Dr. King say about the impact of the pandemic?

I think he would have been most outraged by the stark, enduring, inequalities the pandemic laid bare. The scourge of poverty, and the systemic racism he sought to dismantle all his life, roared into vivid prominence when COVID-19 pervaded the nation.

This chart, based on data from the American Community Survey of county public health departments, shows that rates of infection were much higher for Latinos and Blacks in San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Alameda Counties, and the death rate for Black people was almost double that of any other group. Latinos came in second.
This chart captures a snapshot of data from May 5, 2020 that demonstrates the uneven impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on different racial groups (Todd Trumbull/San Francisco Chronicle)

Unequal access to health care, environmental pollution in poor neighborhoods, and inadequate access to healthy nutrition in “food deserts” had already afflicted communities of color with higher rates of diseases and health conditions that made residents of these communities more vulnerable to the disease and its most virulent manifestations.

In this case, we don’t have to ask, “what might Dr. King say?” because we know he said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We know he advocated for “the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.

In 2020, we outgassed a lot of platitudes about the value of “essential workers,” many of whom are Black, Latinx, or Asian. But although they can’t work remotely and therefore court death each day they go to work, they often still don’t have adequate health coverage, and they weren’t in the earliest cohort of vaccine recipients, even though they were supposed to be near the front of the line.

A hallmark of capitalist systems is tiers of access, a hierarchy of who gets how much, of what quality, and when. As King put it, capitalism “has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.” In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, he said, “There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.”

What might Dr. King say about where we go from here?

I think he’s left us plenty of guidance on that question, too. “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” he warned. He also said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight,” he wrote from the Birmingham jail.

A Navajo Nation food bank.
Native Americans of the Navajo Nation people, pick up supplies from a food bank. It was set up at the Navajo Nation town of Casamero Lake in New Mexico on May 20, 2020. (Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images and ABC News)

On a different occasion, he warned, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

Let’s not be too late. After all, “The time is always right, to do what’s right.”

IMAGE and QUOTATIONS CREDITS:

IMAGES: Many thanks to WUSA 9, for the horrifying photo of the police officer being beaten by the insurrectionist mob at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. I’m grateful to graphic artist Todd Trumbull of the San Francisco Chronicle for the “Racial Disparities in COVID-19” chart from May 5, 2020. I also want to thank Mark Ralston of AFP via Getty Images and ABC News, for the May 20, 2020 photo of the relief station in the Navajo Nation. Many thanks also to Gecko & Fly, for the header image.

QUOTES: Many of these resources supplied overlapping quotes, while others offered new insights. For a deep dive into the wisdom and sayings of Dr. King, I appreciate Christian Animal Ethics, The African Studies Center of the University of Pennsylvania (complete text of Letter from a Birmingham Jail), Gecko & Fly, Food for the Hungry, In These Times, and Common Dreams.

Several signs promote a growing push to defund and demilitarize the police.

Ripe for protests

We were ripe for protests. We should have seen them coming. Some of us undoubtedly did.

The COVID-19 pandemic stripped all the systemic problems and weaknesses in our racist, inequitable society bare. They stare us in the face every day of our transformed lives. Every news cycle, the horrors pile up.

Cascades of catastrophe

An ever-changing number of states show uncontrolled spread of COVID. We’ve recorded more than five million cases of COVID in the USA. And more than 160,000 deaths. By the time this post goes live, there will be more. Of course—inevitably—Black, brown, and non-gender-conforming groups and communities take the hardest hit. Always.

Here’s a New York Times graph showing gains and losses in the Gross Domestic Product  (GDP) since the late 1940s. The deepest drops seem to have been around 2-3%, but in the second quarter of 2020 it dropped 9.5%, which looks really dramatic on the chart—a far deeper plunge than in any of the previous years shown.
From the New York Times

Approximately 16.4 million people currently face unemployment in the US. Our GDP dropped off the bottom of the chart in the second quarter. It’s officially a recession, but Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson recently called for us to “call it what it is,” a Pandemic Depression. His arguments are compelling.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans are staring homelessness in the face, as short-term pandemic aid from the Federal Government runs out. Thanks to Senate inactivity, nothing is there to replace it.

If past is prelude, protests were inevitable

Oh, yes, we were ripe for protests. At crisis points like the one we’re in, people always take to the streets. A recent National Geographic article surveyed earlier protests in the USA, but you don’t have to stop at our borders. Just look at the unrest that swept several continents in 1848. Driven by civil unrest, famine, and accumulated outrage, these uprisings toppled governments and transformed many parts of the world—including the USA.

Archaeologists uncover shallow graves in Peru where child sacrifices were buried by the Chimú people e 500 years ago.
Courtesy of National Geographic

Crisis breeds desperate measures. Five hundred years ago, a climate crisis drove the Chimú people of Peru (the empire that preceded the Inca) to sacrifice hundreds of their own children.

We haven’t gone that far, but some of us do seem willing to send them, their teachers, and other school personnel back into classrooms with less-than-ideal safeguards. Was anyone surprised to see the North Paulding High School close after only a week?

In this now-infamous photo, 15-year-old Hannah Waters captured a crowded hallway at North Paulding High School in Georgia, where no one was social distancing and almost no one was wearing masks.
Photo by Hannah Waters, via AP and The Washington Post

Yes, it’s getting more violent. That was predictable, too.

When I started the First Amendment series, I had protests in mind. I thought it was important to remember that the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Dr. Martin Luther King called riots “the language of the unheard” in a 1966 interview with Mike Wallace on the TV show 60 Minutes. He explained how people can be pushed to violence, yet steadfastly argued for nonviolent protest. Unfortunately, many today have grown impatient.

Back at the start of the summer, the protests were mostly peaceful—except when exacerbated by forceful curfew enforcement, or a minority of agitators. Lately, however, we’ve seen a troubling uptick in violence.

Why the violence? Why now? It may be deepening desperation, sparked by the worsening death toll and unemployment picture. Perhaps it’s growing disillusionment, after a summer of protests that have sparked conversation—but no real action in response to people’s deepening needs. And it might be a partial reaction to the clear disregard by police and some authorities for the arguments protesters make.

We’re still ripe for protests. And I fear we’ll continue to be a powder keg till inequalities are ameliorated, help is delivered, and the pandemic abates.

In other words, don’t hold your breath. It’s not nearly over.

IMAGE CREDITS:

I deeply appreciate the New York Times for providing a graphic demonstration of the Second-Quarter 2020 drop in the US Gross Domestic Product, as compared with previous decades. Many thanks to National Geographic for the photo of the archaeological excavation of child-sacrifice graves in Peru. All respect to Hannah Waters, the brave 15-year-old who blew the whistle on her alma mater, North Paulding High School, with thanks to the AP and the Washington Post for making her photo available. Finally, I want to thank You Tube and 60 Minutes, for the historic Mike Wallace interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This post wouldn’t be the same without you!

With a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its backdrop, this quote from Dr. King reads, "If we are to have peace on earth . . . our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."

Freedom of religion

Monday’s post was partially inspired by a column I saw in the newspaper. Today’s post is, too. Same issue of the Kansas City Star, actually. But this one originated in The Times of IsraelSorry to say, it has a pretty dark tone. I’m talking about freedom of religion.

Yes, I mean the clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that goes, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 

This illustrated quote from Thomas Jefferson uses a portrait of him, alongside his words, "The constitutional freedom of religion is the most unalienable and sacred of all human rights."

But I’m also talking about more than that. The need for–and the attacks against–individuals’ freedom of religion is a worldwide issue. And 2019 was a challenging year for those who support the ideabecause it was a pretty scary time to assemble for worship.

Fire in the holy places

I could approach this topic of attacks on places of worship from several directionsWarterrorismhate crimesshootingsbombingsarson (whether intentional or negligent) . . . Some took worshipers’ lives. Some “only” took historic buildingsholy books, or other sacred objects.

But all took peace of mind. All took traditions and cherished ways of being. And all scarred people’s lives.

St. Mary Baptist Church was the first of three historically black churches burned near Opelousas, Louisiana by an arsonist now charged with hate crimes. (photo by Natalie Obregon/NBC News).
St. Mary Baptist Church was the first of three historically black churches burned near Opelousas, Louisiana by an arsonist now charged with hate crimes. (photo by Natalie Obregon/NBC News).
Firefighters eye the smoldering remains of the Adas Israel Congregation's 118-year-old synagogue, which went up in flames this year. Although not the result of a hate crime, it was an example of irresponsible behavior that resulted in devastating loss. (Photo from MPR/Dan Kraker, via Jewish Telegraphic Agency).
Firefighters eye the smoldering remains of the Adas Israel Congregation’s 118-year-old synagogue, which went up in flames this year. Although not the result of a hate crime, it was an example of irresponsible behavior that resulted in devastating loss. (Photo from MPR/Dan Kraker, via Jewish Telegraphic Agency).
Assailants burned statues and holy books in a southern Sindh Province Hindu temple. The brazen attack sparked censure from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan on his Twitter feed. Police officials promised an independent investigation, while the advisor to a local Hindu council demanded greater security for Hindu temples. (Photo from Imran Khan/Times of India).
Assailants burned statues and holy books in a southern Sindh Province Hindu temple. The brazen attack sparked censure from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan on his Twitter feed. Police officials promised an independent investigation, while the advisor to a local Hindu council demanded greater security for Hindu temples. (Photo from Imran Khan/Times of India).
With a bonfire in the background, this quote from boxing coach Cus D'Amato says, "Fear is like fire. It can cook for you. it can teat your house. Or it can burn you down."
Without respect for others, we all live in peril from that third kind of fire.

Bullets, Bombs, and other Explosives

It isn’t only fire that’s been a threat to holy places this year. Even more destructive to the lives of worshipers is violent intent. People have fired hundreds of rounds, or lobbed bombs and grenades into sacred spaces. Into peaceful crowds of people just practicing their faith

It’s hard for me to grapple with the depth of dysfunction and twisted logic that makes such an act seem rational to anyone. But the evidence that it can be rationalized was overwhelming this year.

A soldier stares at the destruction of a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Philippines. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives during Mass last January (photo from WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines Via AP/Times of Israel)
A soldier stares at the destruction of a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Philippines. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives during Mass last January (photo from WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines Via AP/Times of Israel)
In a possible retaliation for the cathedral bombing, two Muslim scholars died and four others suffered injuries in a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga. (Photo from Armed Forces of Philippines via AP/Al Jazeera)
In a possible retaliation for the cathedral bombing, two Muslim scholars died and four others suffered injuries in a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga. (Photo from Armed Forces of Philippines via AP/Al Jazeera)
Mourners outside the Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a white supremacist gunned down 40 people on March 15 (Photo from Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA)
Mourners outside the Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a white supremacist gunned down 40 people on March 15 (Photo from Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA)
Bombs went off on Easter Sunday during services in several locations in Sri Lanka. Here's what was left of the sanctuary at St. Sebastian's Church, where 104 people died. (Photo from AP/Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of Israel)
Bombs went off on Easter Sunday during services in several locations in Sri Lanka. Here’s what was left of the sanctuary at St. Sebastian’s Church, where 104 people died. (Photo from AP/Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of Israel)
On the final day of Passover, a gunman opened fire on congregants at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue (California). This picture shows a makeshift memorial set up across the street. (Photo from AP/Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel).
On the final day of Passover, a gunman opened fire on congregants at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue (California). This picture shows a makeshift memorial set up across the street. (Photo from AP/Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel).

Can’t we make it stop?

Are you exhausted by the carnage yet? We’ve only made it to the end of April 2019, with our latter set of photos above. There’s been lots of violence since then, but I think we all more than get the point

There are dangerous people out there. They have guns, bombs, grenades, and flames–and they’re not afraid to use themDon’t seem the least bit ashamed to attack innocent people in worship services, although any such act is shameful and cowardly. They don’t care if a place has historic significance, or if it means something to others, although that attitude is invariably brutish and self-serving. Nothing within themselves seems to hold them back, and no security system will stop them all. 

But we can and must do better than this

We must support broader access to mental health care and social services–not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it can help defuse the human hatred that sets off all-too-literal bombs. Keep pushing back till commonsense curbs put access to deadly weapons of mass destruction out of unauthorized reach. Strive for greater educational and economic opportunity for all, since we know that inequity breeds resentment and hatred. Stay alert for problems festering in our midst, and fearlessly call them out.

Freedom of religion isn’t only an American concept. It’s a basic universal human right (see Article 18)If we don’t uphold and defend it as a right for all, then it is secure for none of us.

With a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its backdrop, this quote from Dr. King reads, "If we are to have peace on earth . . . our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."

IMAGE CREDITS: 

Many thanks to AZ Quotes for the wisdom from Thomas Jefferson. I am indebted to NBC News and Natalie Obregon for the photo of St. Mary Baptist Church in Louisiana; to Jewish Telegraphic Agency for the MPR/Dan Kraker photo of the burned remains of Adas Israel Congregation‘s synagogue; and to Imran Khan, via The Times of India for the photo from the temple in Kumb. I’m grateful for the quote about fear and fire by boxing coach Cus D’Amato, from Authentic Traveling with Andrew Scott

Many thanks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Associated Press, via Times of Israel and via Al Jazeera, for the photos of aftermaths from the two Philippine bombings. I’m also grateful to Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA for the photo from New Zealand, and to the AP and Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of India, for the photo from inside the sanctuary of St. Sebastian’s. Thanks also to AP and Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel, for the photo from Poway, CA.

Finally, I deeply appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wisdom, and the image from The Peace Alliance that gives it a dramatic presentation.

Creatively persisting for justice, in faith

The Artdog Quote(s) of the Week

We live in an era when persons of conscience and integrity (and I hope that includes you and me) must stand up for what we value, for public and private virtue, for compassion, and for the rule of law.

It takes strength, but more than that it takes faith

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the staircase. --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We must have faith that even when the odds look long in favor of chaos and corruption, we can make a difference. We can build toward the light. We can call, and call, and call for justice, even in the face of injustice.

It’s an important thing, this standing up, this speaking out, this taking of a moral position. How we act toward others in a time of fear and suspicion is the true measure of our character.

Today, as we remember and honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us also remember and honor and live by the guidance he gave.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Troy Theodore Wruck, via LinkedIn, for the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote image about faith; to Ted Coiné’s @tedcoine Twitter feed for the MLK “arc of the moral universe” quote image; and to the New Mexico Black History Organizing Committee for the quote image for his words about justice and injustice. Many thanks to all!

What caught your eye?

It’s the turn of the year, and I’m hip-deep in reflections on the past year. Among all the other data, I looked at are some metrics for my website. What images did my readers click on most in 2018? Perhaps you’ll be interested, too. Here are this blog’s Top Five most-clicked images of 2018.

The most popular image of the year on this blog is this one. I first posted this quote image on January 29, 2018.
One of the two second-most-popular images was this all-time classic from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was featured in my post for Martin Luther King Day last year, on January 15.
Tied for second with Dr. King’s quote is another black-and-white image, this one featuring the words of Samuel Gompers, a labor movement pioneer active in the late 19th Century. You saw it here first on September 19, way back in 2016. Still popular two years later.
The next-most-popular image was another quote about the future, this one by Eckhart Tolle, from that same January 29, 2018 post where people found the top image.
This quote from Shanti is illustrated by a picture of a cute little girl of about six, running barefoot through the grass. The quote says, "And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling."
Rounding out the Top Five most popular images of 2018 on this blog is this one, featuring the words of Shanti, and a photo that apparently never fails to charm. This originally appeared in a May 14, 2017 post about the importance of taking children outdoors.

Was your favorite in the top five? Maybe, maybe not–I post a lot of images on this blog. But I hope you found these quote-images interesting, thought provoking, and maybe even inspiring. And THANK YOU very much for reading my blog!

IMAGES: Many thanks, once again, to all the sources where I originally found these quote-images. To QuotesHunter‘s great post of “20 Inspirational Quotes About the Future,” for the first one; to LoveOfLifeQuotes, via Addicted2Success’s “88 Iconic Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes,” for the MLK quote image; for the Samuel Gompers quote to IZQuotes, via Quotesgram. I also deeply appreciate  Double Quotes for the Eckhart Tolle quote image, and The Children and Nature Network’s Facebook page for the Shanti quote-image. You helped make it a great year!

Not insignificant

The Artdog Quote of the Week

As the Geoffrey Owens case has recently dramatized, we are far from perfectly recognizing this profound reality.

But think about it: many of the most supposedly “menial” jobs are among the most important for maintaining public health and safety. Working hard for the good of one’s self, family, and community also has been found likely to be essential to a feeling that one’s life has meaning.

Ask not: “Are you happy?” Ask: “Does your life and work have meaning?” And let no one around you ever be ashamed of working hard.

IMAGE: Many thanks to YFS Magazine for this illustrated quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Important to remember

The Artdog Quote of the Week

This is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and on a week in mid-January when we can use some motivational dreams to guide us into a better future, I could not imagine any quote I love more to combine these thoughts about dreams for the future.

IMAGE: Many thanks to LoveOfLifeQuotes, via Addicted2Success’s “88 Iconic Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes,” for this quote image. And many thanks to Dr. King for an enduring aspiration! Side note from the artist in me: After my Kwanzaa quote-searches and now this one, I really want to know how it is that so many quotes by African Americans are rendered in black-and-white. What is up with that? Don’t the folks who create quote images think persons of color are colorful??

Who needs labor unions?

The Artdog Quote of the Week

On this Labor Day, I wish both relaxation and a moment of thought to all of you. I know that in this country there are many people who think labor unions are the worst thing possible, so for you folks, here’s my trigger warning.

As a teacher who will forever be grateful that my labor union went to bat for me when I was being unfairly treated by an employer, I have a very positive view of the need for labor unions. 

I believe strongly that all human beings who work bring something unique to their work, and that they should be treated fairly, respected–no matter what their job is–and paid a living wage.

I’m a student of history. I know that not all labor unions have been positive influences at all times. Some labor unions have functioned like political machines in a corrupting way. Some labor unions have overreached and been intransigent when perhaps they should have been more flexible. Some have been controlled or heavily influenced by organized crime.

But I also know that labor unions have been deeply involved in helping to empower everyday people so they can take part in creating safer, fairer, and more free and well-paying job situations. My theme this month–a creative look at labor–will explore the positive aspects of the labor movement, and the need to keep on cherishing the right to help create better workplaces for tomorrow.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Wheniscalendars for the Happy Labor Day logo, and to Quotesideas for the image and quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Tied together

The Artdog Quote of the Week

I ran across this quote in a column by Michael Gerson, who quoted one of my favorite modern philosophers:

Our country–indeed, our world–seems riven by factions, divided into mutually hostile camps. Yet I dare to hope that many of us retain enough of our grip on reality to remember this.

Amongst all the shouting and all the fear-mongering, please hold tight to this idea. We are all inescapably “tied in a single garment of destiny”–and thus “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”

Humanity becomes inhumanity when we turn on each other. Let’s not, okay?

IMAGE: Many thanks to Sendable Quotes for this image. And even more thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for saying it in the first place.

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