Today - 4 April - is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's monumental speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church: Vietnam, A Time to Break the Silence.
When I first encountered this speech years ago I was struck by Dr. King's compassionate anger and his great honesty. This was a speech that channeled Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth (1961), and of course the Third World upsurge which Dr. King mentions in the speech. He was influenced by his journey to Ghana in 1957 and to India in 1959 and by many of the internationalists who surrounded him. His strong position against the US war against Vietnam was condemned a few days later by the New York Times in an editorial called 'Dr. King's Error'.
My essay on his speech, written with the greatest admiration for this courageous act, is at Alternet. You can read it here.
A few months after this speech, Dr. King said - 'Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars'. He meant 1968. In 2017 it is so dark that even the stars are shy of the sky.
See the original pictures here.
Donald Trump has released the draft of his budget. As expected, there are giveaways to the rich, there is an expanded military outlay and there is a desiccated social sector. In the current issue of Frontline, I go over the budget in some modest detail - looking mainly at the way in which Trump has abandoned, as expected, his promises to the 'forgotten Americans'.
What I was most interested in while reading the draft budget is how Trump - like other right-wing men of his ilk - builds up the claim that he will address the problem of economic sovereignty, but then whips around to inflame resentments around cultural sovereignty. As I write in this report,
- Trump’s preface [to the Budget] points not only to the increase in defence spending but also to the building of the wall on the Mexican-U.S. border, to the increase of funds for Homeland Security, and to the increase of funds for the police. If economic sovereignty cannot easily be produced, then cultural sovereignty can be afforded to the population. Attacks on those who “do not belong”—illegal immigrants, terrorists, job stealers—become central to the message of the Trump administration. The id to Trump’s ego is Iowa Representative Steve King, who went on television news programmes to tout an unreconstructed racist message. “You cannot rebuild your civilisation with somebody else’s babies,” he said, referring to immigration. “You’ve got to keep your birth rate up and you need to teach your children your values.” No other civilisation, King said, had contributed anything worth studying. “Western civilisation” alone is to be championed. It is sufficient. Such messages of cultural superiority tickle the fancy of a population that will once more be forgotten when it comes to economic policy.
You can read the rest of the report here.
Hard to parse the news from Syria of terrible civilian casualties - victims of bombing here and reports of the use of gas there. The death toll is now well above 600,000.
I went on the Real News on Friday to talk about the Trump administration's stated policy that 'Assad Must Go' is not the precondition for political talks. This has actually been the US policy since September 2015, when the Russians intervened in Syria. What lies under the new Trump position is not so much a new position on Assad, but a more sinister attitude against Iran. The association of Iran with terrorism is central to the view of US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. Rumbles against Iran in the Trump administration are common. Keep an ear open for these noises. A longer version of this video interview will appear in the next Frontline.
You can watch the 13 minute conversation here.