MLK knew what it was like live under government's yoke
by Barbara Anderson


The Salem News
Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I always take time on Martin Luther King's birthday holiday to think about him and his revolution.

This is different from thinking about the race issue, which should have been laid to rest when the majority of American voters chose a black president in 2008.

So there I was on Monday listening to a talk show on the subject of whether this should be a paid federal holiday or not. I can see arguments that the federal government shouldn't have the authority to require businesses to provide their workers with paid holidays and that children should be in school studying the reason for the celebration, rather than staying home.

Still, I figure it's good for our common culture for us to share special days that reflect our history. If we're going to celebrate our founding on July Fourth and our war dead on Memorial Day, then I'm glad we decided to celebrate the civil rights movement on Martin Luther King Day.

As a common culture, we have two things in our nation's history about which to be embarrassed: the breaking of treaties with Indian tribes, and the acceptance of slavery for several decades after our founding and the treatment of black citizens in the South for another century.

Some founding fathers predicted that the new nation would regret allowing slavery, and, of course, it did, not only because of a terrible Civil War, but because of the years of terrible southern racism that followed until Martin Luther King and his supporters marched to push civil rights to the fore.

I probably shouldn't get my history from movies, but sometimes the best understanding of events can come from becoming immersed in these dramas. I don't remember the name of the made-for-TV movie I saw many years ago, I just remember this scene:

The Rev. Martin Luther King and a busload of his followers, black and white, are trapped in a church somewhere in the Deep South. The church is surrounded by men in white robes and hoods, carrying torches; some of them belong to local law enforcement.

The Klan, an ugly combination of ignorance and evil, has its own history of killing blacks and civil rights workers. Imagine being in this position, unable to call the sheriff or state police for help.

In the movie, the Rev. King is on the phone, talking to the president and attorney general in Washington, D.C. The Kennedy brothers are sympathetic, but concerned about losing southern votes, especially Texas, in the next election if they get involved.

The plot may have been a dramatic composite of the various confrontations of those turbulent years. But from what I myself remember of the news back then, it gave a realistic sense of what it was like for MLK and other civil rights activists, and the astonishing courage it took to stand up and be counted.

Because of them, this shameful period in southern history eventually ended, and the United States of America began to heal as one nation, indivisible by race.

This overcoming of a major flaw in our self-image seems worth commemorating once a year, it seems to me. The commemoration might help some people better understand the intense concerns of those of us who fear giving too much power to government. One difference between us and those who criticize us is a lack of imagination on the part of the latter.

They live in a world in which "it can't happen here," where the government can't be "the enemy," won't ever turn on its people. They don't understand why we "gun nuts" want the right to own automatic weapons, not just hunting rifles and a handgun for self-defense against common criminals.

Those of us who pay attention to history know that in other countries the citizens have often needed to be armed against the government, and we can imagine how it would feel to be surrounded by hostile government forces. We recognize that it has happened here, in our own South, during the anti-integration years.

The organization Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership produced a 2009 video showing that gun control began in the U.S. to prevent freed slaves from buying guns. Introducing the video, Ralph Conner from the Congress for Racial Equality in Chicago notes that "by definition, a slave is a person that is disarmed."

As a Florida judge said in 1941, gun control was "never intended to apply to white people."

According to JPFO, the updated 1968 Gun Control Act, which followed the racial riots of that year, was mostly copied from the Nazi gun control laws that kept the Jews disarmed, hence the creation of that modern Jewish defense organization.

Martin Luther King, like Gandhi, believed in peaceful resistance. Both of them, with awesome courage, chose peaceful resistance to governments that were already too powerful.

We are fortunate here in America, in 2011, to have a chance to keep our own government at a safe size; to try to prevent destructive fiscal decisions that will give other, hostile governments an opportunity to control us; and a guarantee of our continued right to be properly armed if things don't work out as we hope.


The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.


Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.


More of Barbara's Columns

Citizens for Limited Taxation    PO Box 1147    Marblehead, MA 01945    508-915-3665