Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy
In every history text book in every classroom, these men are revered as immaculate demigods. To utter a single disparaging comment towards them would be social suicide.
The accomplishments of these men cannot be negated. They were all great Americans who influenced the zeitgeist of their time. And unfortunately, they all succumbed to an untimely death.
However, we must remember that our heroes are still human, enslaved to their moral weaknesses. While our history teachers recall the significance these men had in history, constructive criticism is absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately our society places an undeserving reverence for the non-living. We all know the adage:”Don’t speak ill of the dead”. This cultural tendency becomes more apparent when a particular individual is assassinated. He/s earns the badge of matyrdom and joins the pantheon of apostles and saints, singing in the heavenly kingdom.
However, we need to analyze the shortcomings of our beloved martyrs, so we can learn from their mistakes. Humanity can only move forward through constructive criticism.
Martin Luther King
King was one of the most influential figures in the 1960s Civil Rights movement. His fiery yet inspirational rhetoric and charismatic personality motivated American Blacks to fight against the systematic racial oppression they endured in their own country.
Some of us are aware of MLK’s shortcoming. His unfaithfulness and colorful sex life, along with allegations of plagiarism of his doctoral dissertation are among the few.
It’s hilarious how the political right also promotes King’s sacred cow status. Some conservatives claim Martin Luther King was a Republican.
Au Contaire! King was a radical socialist, even to the left of the likes of Bernie Sanders! He was a staunch proponent of affirmative action and racial quotas. He even proposed reparations for Blacks.
I will dedicated another blog post towards my views on affirmative action and reparations. Long story short, I’m against them. I think those policies give preferential treatment to certain minority groups and will only exacerbate racial tensions in this country. These policies will only open a big can of worms that will never be closed.
I have nothing against Martin Luther King as a civil rights icon. However, we should be able to analyze and critique proposals our beloved historical figures promoted.
Our 16th president is hailed as the ‘Great Emancipator ‘. In 1860, Lincoln ran for the presidency on an anti-slavery platform, to the ire of Southern aristocrats. Although he is lauded by American Blacks for his convictions and advocacy of freedom, Lincoln was also guilty of numerous human rights violations.
Long before Guantanamo, there was Camp Douglas. Located in Chicago, this was a concentration camp where Confederate POWs were held, consuming spoiled meat and deprived of basic sanitation. Malaria and other diseases were rampant and if the prisoners didn’t die from them, they were almost guaranteed to meet the angel of Death in the winter, as lack of shelter lead to hypothermia.
Lincoln wasn’t exactly the progressively -minded egalitarian whom we perceive him to be. He scorned the idea that Blacks were of the same dignity as Whites. He even advocated relocating Blacks slaves to Africa in order to keep the US ‘pure’ and white.
Your history teacher may not tell you this, but Lincoln was not the ‘Great Emancipator’ we know and love. Ever heard of Gen.David Hunter?
Hunter led his Union troops to victory in South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. After regaining control of those states, he granted freedom to the slaves living in those respective regions. However due to his own ego, Lincoln reversed Hunter’s proclamation. While Lincoln did eventually issue the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it is evident his arrogance came before human rights.
During his term, Lincoln undermined the freedom of the press. He enforced censorship and had his critics deported. He also did not hesitate to suspend habeas corpus.
Obama is currently being branded as a dictator for the healthcare mandate in the Affordable Care Act.. Yet somehow, Abraham Lincoln gets a free pass?
John F Kennedy
Hailing from a prominent Irish-American clan from Massachusetts, JFK rose to become the first Roman Catholic president (although he probably wasn’t the best adherent to Theology of the Body). He was intelligent and dynamic. Plus he had enough game to make Bill Clinton look like a homosexual!
Although he only served for two years before being assassinated by a communist-sympathizer, Kennedy’s term was impactful during the Cold War, an ill-conceived proxy battle between two superpowers wagging their dicks.
Kennedy was a belligerent war hawk who would have been considered a ‘neocon’ in today’s political climate. His Bay of Pigs invasion was a terrible idea that ended in failure. However, to his credit, Kennedy’s refusal to increase American presence in Vietnam deserves praise, compared to his successor, Lyndon B Johnson.
Although he is often portrayed as a proponent of Civil Rights, Kennedy was not as instrumental, as he could only afford to pay lip service to the movement. He was actually more concerned with securing votes for the 1964 elections from Southern Democrats, a pro-segregation lot who later allied themselves with the Republican Party via Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Let’s not forget, Kennedy was, above all, a politician.
I mentioned this point in another post and I’ll reiterate it again. Our society’s promotion of saints and heroes is absurd. At the end of the day, whether you are high-ranking politician, a social activist, a religious cleric, or a shitkicker from Kansas, we are all human. We are all subjected to our moral weaknesses and cultural standards of the era we are living in.
No one deserves to be venerated. Not one person. Not even Jesus. Or Chuck Norris
However, we should not dismiss the achievements of notable personalities, because of their sexual promiscuity, racism or inflated egos. While we shouldn’t worship them, we can still be inspired by their feats.