Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Strange and Surreal

Trey Smith

Last year, as part of the annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, one of President Obama’s top advisors paid a visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church of Dr. Martin Luther King. The advisor, Valerie Jarrett, received a standing ovation from the assembled congregation when she shared the story of how Pres. Obama was responsible for the killing of an unarmed Osama bin Laden as members of his family looked on. I share this strange and surreal scene from Ebenezer Church, where the largely African American congregation endorsed the killing of another human being – while in church – because I think it captures the vast historical and moral distance between two distinct periods: the period of the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Dr.King emerged as the symbolic leader of the civil rights wing of the ongoing Black liberation movement and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964; and the era of Barack Obama, launched with his ascendancy to the highest political office in the country and the winning of the Nobel Prize in 2008. Two periods and two awards that, when linked, serve as yet another confirmation of the moral decline of liberalism among white and black people over the last four decades.
~ from The Descent: From Dr. King to Barack Obama by Ajamu Baraka ~
While Baraka's entire column is worth reading, I was really struck by this opening paragraph. I agree that it is "strange and surreal" that people gathered together to commemorate an unarmed man -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- who was struck down by an assassin's bullet would applaud a president who directed the killing of another unarmed a church, no less.

I am certainly NOT suggesting that the legacies of King and bin Laden are the same. I am NOT suggesting that they stood for the same things. King was an advocate of nonviolence and bin Laden stood for the opposite. Still, they each were murdered in cold blood. This is why it's strange that one murder is remembered with sorrow, while the other is met with elation.

For me, the fact that we have these two disparate reactions for basically the same crime underscores the moral decline in this nation. We have become a people who deplore the actions of others, while rationalizing acceptance for the same kinds of actions by OUR leaders. If your guy wiretaps, it's dead wrong, but if my guy does it, long live freedom!!

This dynamic intersects with the thought of Laozi and Zhuangzi. If you adjudge an action to be wrong or improper, then it doesn't matter who commits the transgression. It is just as wrong or improper if you do it as opposed to someone else. When we make the distinction that what we do is right and honorable on its face, but others who do the same damn thing are wrong as wrong can be, we turn our backs on the law of nature -- Tao -- which plays no favorites.

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