Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Justice Is What Love Looks Like In Public"

What a difference a day or two--and a pen in Trump's tiny hand--makes! We've witnessed non-violent protests across the nation in support of Standing Rock and US Green Card holders as well as protests against various Trump cabinet nominees and executive orders. Photos of a local #NoDAPL event we attended are posted below the following article, a lecture about a man who knew a lot about non-violent protests, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In celebration of Black History Month, we're looking at the Political Revolution through the eyes of African Americans. First up, Dr. Cornel West speaks on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

"Justice Is What Love Looks Like In Public."
words and photos by Cindy A. Matthews

Dr. Cornel West spoke to a packed ballroom at Bowling Green State University with an estimated 1500+ in attendance. The noted author, scholar, lecturer, and former surrogate for both the Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein presidential campaigns, held the audience's undivided attention for two and a half hours. His insights on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. challenged previously held misconceptions of King as "tame, domesticated." Instead, Dr. West informed us: "Don't view him [King] as a static icon in a museum--he's a wave in an ocean."

It is often forgotten that in spite of King being seen by most white Americans as a proponent of non-violent protest and an ordained Baptist minister, he was labeled by the FBI as one of the most dangerous men in America. But why? Dr. West thinks it's because King was a "love warrior" and never forgot his true mission in life was to break through our materialistic society's indifference to evil. King never stopped seeking justice for those who were oppressed and to expose evil for what it was.

"Justice is what love looks like in public," Dr. West said, noting, "What kind of human will we choose to be?"

By resisting "deodorized discourse," King made people feel "unnerved, unsettled, uncomfortable." He is still seen as a threat to our commercialized society which wants to feel good at all costs and never uncomfortable. Dr. West in MLK's tradition challenged us to see through the "American lie" that people are "self-made."

"Did you give birth to yourself?" Dr. West joked, but turning serious he remarked how we are all molded and shaped by bigger things about us--our family, society, culture. Without piety and humility, we assume we are greater than we are and can act with impunity, something Drs. King and West do not see in their Christian tradition of human beings being instilled with love.

Dr. West admitted every tradition has its blind spots, but they are a starting place for us "to try again and fail better" next time. There is "fascism in every tradition," as fundamentalists exist in the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths, for example, and we must always be aware of their influence. Dr. King was an "organic intellectual" and "artist" who used his ideas to empower others. This came from his "prophetic faith" in the radical visions of Isaiah and Amos. King knew he would suffer for his outspokenness: "This is the price we must bear for the freedom of our people."

The U.S. government saw the danger in Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of how militarism, commercialism and racism were sucking the energy out of our democracy. King saw the connection between militarism and poverty, and he spoke out against the travesty of the Vietnam War. He sought "justice for righteousness" and used Matthew 25 as his measure of what makes a great human being. But decades later America still has a market culture which bases the worth of human beings on their "brand." Our heroes flaunt their upward mobility with their flashiness and their "biggest brand" mentality.

"Peacocks strut because they can't fly!" West taunted, adding, "Let the phones be smart!"

"What are you doing for your brothers and sisters?" is the question King would have asked in our era of "sell-outs" who demonstrate little integrity according to West. "Superficial spectacle" cannot replace "soul to soul" communication. The oligarchs don't want groups singing in harmony because they touch the soul and go beyond the pursuit of fleeting pleasure. The soul is about "sharing, sweetness, kindness and generosity." Our task is to remain tender in the midst of our market-driven culture by practicing "spiritual warfare." We can't live through the lives of the rich and famous. We need to seek justice--not revenge. Our motto should be according to Dr. West: "I don't have a minute to hate--I will seek justice."

 West urged us to stay on the "love train" or "justice train." Power without compassion crushes the weak, but Martin Luther King Jr. whispers, "Interrupt the cycle of hatred, oppression and exploitation." King's dream was not the American dream but rooted in it. It is a dream from one who has dealt with the debilitating effects of Jim Crow for decades. The "pretty words" on our sacred documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written by slave owners and those who condoned slavery. Dr. West says we must "critique the worse to bring out the best."

Martin Luther King Jr. was committed to the cross of Christ--to unconditional love. It's why he was organizing the poor and downtrodden sanitation workers of Memphis, Tennessee, when he was shot and killed. King spoke frankly. "We must come to terms with poverty," is what King was saying, according to Dr. West who also pointed out how King stated no democracy can survive with escalating poverty, militarism, racism and xenophobia. 

The challenge we face today is how to instill empathy. We've had a "rude awakening" under Trump, but perhaps it will awaken empathy for our brothers and sisters, West hopes, "shattering the sleepwalking, hardened hearts" who scapegoat the poor, Muslims, Jews, Palestinians, Latinos, Native Americans and others. Because "When you love folks, you wanna do something," he emphasized.

Catastrophe lyrically expressed is the Blues according to West. Martin Luther King Jr. "was a Blues man with a Christian twist." Dr. West states that we can learn from Blues people and prevent ourselves from falling into the pit. The question is, "Do we have what it takes, America?"

MLK stated, "I'd rather be dead than afraid." Dr. West challenged us to feel King's hope at the deepest level and do something with our lives to make the world a better place before "the worms get you."

After his talk, Dr. West took questions from the audience on a wide variety of subjects. He admonished us to "Lift every voice," as every voice is unique as a fingerprint and deserves to be heard. He encouraged us not to echo our culture of "joyless pursuit of pleasure" but be original, practicing love and justice, not hate and revenge.  "Go to where the people are. Do what you can with what you got."
"Love people because they are worthy, not because they'll love you back," West reminded us. The "diversity of our commonality" means our white and black history and cultures are intertwined in America. Cognizant of how we are linked together, we must treat each other fairly because, "Truths sooner or later have to be dealt with," and "The post-fact world is a lie!"

"Artists are the vanguard of the species," Dr. West stated. Creation is finding your own voice. Individuals possessing empathy and the imagination to glimpse a better world, and are willing to share it, are crucial to our society. We must conceive an alternative existence in the midst of a horrible one, remembering that social movements don't start at the top with elites but at the bottom with grassroots catalysts.

"Don't allow anything to dampen your call for justice!" he cried.


 From the recent Women's March in Ann Arbor, Michigan, an example of a call for justice expressed in a peaceful manner in the streets of mainstream America.

And now another example...

This Is What Democracy Looks Like!

Photos of a small town protest in front of a Big Oil corporation
by A. J. Matthews. "Non-Alternative Facts" supplied by C. A. Matthews.

With the wind, slush and damp, it was well below freezing. However, the protestors came out in numbers to make some noise in support of the Standing Rock Sioux in front of the Marathon Petroleum Building in downtown Findlay, Ohio. Marathon Petroleum is one of the Dakota Access (Bakken) Pipeline  investors along with Enbridge. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-02/enbridge-marathon-agree-to-buy-2-billion-bakken-pipeline-stake

 There were an estimated 60 to 70 participants at the height of the #NoDAPL protest.  We received honks and plenty of thumbs up, along with a couple of pro-Trump people whose sign demonstrated some interesting "alternative facts" "Oil Built Findlay." In actuality, Findlay was  a natural gas and glass manufacturing center and never an actual "oil town." It was originally built as a supply fort during the War of 1812 by the US Army on its march to Detroit, and not by Marathon Petroleum currently headquartered there as the sign implied. They came along in the 20th century.

How could these Trump supporters get their historical facts so confused? Public education defunded by Republican-held state and local governments? Fox News?
It was nice to see the young and the old, students and retirees alike standing up for Standing Rock. Findlay is a river town that has suffered its fair share of flooding in recent years, so area residents understand "water is life." (There's that pesky climate change fact rearing its ugly head again, as too much water can bring destruction as well.) They know we need to transition to a green energy system in order to keep Findlay above the flood plain, and they support the water protectors fighting to keep the water supply clean and safe for millions of other Americans.  
You never know who you'll meet at a small town protest... Maybe an alternative media journalist or two? If these ordinary folks can withstand the frigid cold to stand in solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock, anyone can. So, get out of your comfort zone and speak out today. Let's honor Dr. King's legacy of advocating for a more compassionate society and a better world for all humankind.


  1. These are strange, febrile days, when the very fabric of our society seems to be under attack. What was once familiar is under threat, and the old way of doing things may not work. There are dark days ahead, I fear. =(

    1. But we are not without hope--we have love in our hearts and a sense of justice in our words. Let us keep Dr. King's example before us and endeavor to do likewise and never give up.


Please feel free to share your thoughts with us. Just one rule: Be polite. This means no profanity or cursing. No shaming or hate speech. No threats or silliness. This is a family friendly blog. Thank you.