Tuesday, January 22, 2008

MLK, Jr. Redux

"Lien phat lo trung thap vi can

The lotus, blooming in the furnace, does not lose its freshness"

Ngo An, 11th c. CE Vietnamese Zen Monk,
as quoted in Thich Nhat Hanh. Vietnam: Lotus in
a Sea of Fire. Hill & Wang. New York: 1967

It's the day after the holiday, and the week after his birthday. Most of us remembered and perhaps honored King's life yesterday, and have returned to our affairs. Jane R, Girl Reporter, sans pareil et sans reproche, among other things, at Acts of Hope, has posted King's famous Riverside Church sermon of April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was assassinated. As a student of the History of U S Foreign Relations and sometime university Instructor in "Twentieth Century America", I was pleasantly surprised to see the accuracy and depth of King's knowledge in early 1967. It should be a "must-read", together with "I Have A Dream" and "Letter From Birmingham Jail". Go to Acts Of Hope for the speech; the wise will linger to savor one of the best blogs anywhere on any topic, IMRVHO (In My Rarely Very Humble Opinion.)

Precisely a year after this sermon, in the early evening, in Memphis, King was assassinated. As some one, Sadie Baker, I think, noted, the troops were called out to America's cities to "maintain order"; some of those troops being Black combat veterans just back home from Vietnam.

I know this not from personal experience, even at second-hand; I was barely aware that Dr. King had been killed for some days, for, just past midnight on that April 4th Pacific time, I had walked across the tarmac to a Cathay Pacific chartered Boeing 707, Honolulu at about 0330 local time, some night covered speck in the Pacific--Wake or Guam, seized in the Nineteenth century as coaling and refurbishing stations for the thrust of U S power to China-- after another eight hours flight, then another eight to arrive just after Noon the same day I left, though some 24 hours had passed: Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam.

Those who fly know the experience of "Airport Land": being a little isolated and one or two steps away from the ordinary flow of life; this was airport land "at its finest". Everything was prepared for us, to move us from where we were to where we were going, with no outside interference. For several days it seemed as if the outside world didn't exist. For 392 days, to be more precise. And yet more precise: every day since 4 April 68, though I still am learning what this means to my life, with more help than I am able to tell.

King's sermon to Clergy and Laity Concerned at the Riverside Church brings me back to mourn that lost opportunity he spoke of, six years before the war ended, the opportunity to be the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. Losing it then, I joined those throughout the world who question the truth of that line that ends our National Anthem, because they are people of color, or poor, or female, or gay, or live somewhere else besides "the Land of the Big PX" (think shopping mall). And to mourn the present he hoped we might avoid: more war, blood, treasure, and good will squandered by callous fools.

After seven years of this horror of an administration, in the midst of a Presidential campaign, in the midst of a war (did you remember that?), some may ask "Where did this begin? What happened to us?" as King did, and urged us to do, in 1967. It did not begin with Dubya, however much he exemplifies our national nightmare, nor even with Reagan. So many no longer know history, even our own (Why should they?) perhaps we can no longer fix a specific time. No matter. I believe this leads us to think our wounds and our faults as a nation are more superficial than they are in reality. I remember the anguish of another patriot,

"they have treated the wound of
my people carelessly,
saying, 'Peace, peace.'
when there is no peace"

Jeremiah 8:11 (NRSV)

May Godde have mercy on them and us


susan s. said...

Hi, Johnieb. I found The Dear MadPriest's admonition to come and read, so here I am. I am adding you to my friends list so I won't miss anything! So far, I think you're doing more than ok!

June Butler said...

I was pleasantly surprised to see the accuracy and depth of King's knowledge in early 1967.

Johnie, we should not be surprised. MLK was a prophet. Many of the words in his fine speeches are prophetic in the manner of Jeremiah and the prophets of old.

So far, you're doing right well with your blog.

Missy said...

Very nicely done.
I agree with Mimi--MLK jr was a prophet. His speech the night before he died sounded like he was predicting his own death.
LOVE the swan header--is it your photo?

Lindy said...

I am happy you have a blog JohnieB. I came over just to be supportive but stayed and read all your posts just because they were so good. I'll be back.

Your pals,

Rowan and Lindy

Jane R said...

You are too kind, dear Johnie B.

But more importantly, you are blogging for our edification and reminding us of the prophets in our midst. Thank you.

P.S. Best to Miz Annie Papagena Scarlett Whatever-That-Cat's-Calling-Herself-This-Week. (Are you sure she is a spook and not a Multiple?) Miss Maya Pavlova would send her very best if she werent' sound asleep. I daren't disturb her.

johnieb said...

You're welcome. I hesitated to try a French phrase, but hey.

Miss Scarlett (for now) denies being a spook, but don't they all? She says she leaves such matters to her Case Officer. I think she's delusional, but how is it possible to be certain? She just got her evening brushing and looks Ab Fab, but is dozing in front of the heater.

And a Woof! to Rowan and his human the wonderful Lindy, and Missy--today I hoped to "see" ya here and lo! (No lie, G I!)

Some of you Experienced hands know how to make this thing write other languages, right--a number code or something? I would like to spell Ngo An's line correctly. Where's the Go Nha button (it looks like this ~ over a vowel)? :-)

johnieb said...

Oops, sorry, Missy; no, it was in a batch forwarded to me by my friend AZ. Perhaps I should post some more of my favorites?

I like this one for a header, though; it's very peaceful to me: the light on the water, the still birds facing one another.

Anonymous said...

Awesome! You have a blog! WELCOME!

I have a feeling this will be a topnotch blog.

susan s. said...

So, when did you change your address, Dear JohnieB? I had made a bookmark earlier today(or will it be yesterday for you?) and then went back just now and it couldn't be found! But being the savvy person I am, I just went to Mimi's and clicked on one of your comments, went to your info and clicked on your blog name. It makes me feel so smart! Thanks for that.

johnieb said...

Oops! I've been working to do it, as I think I mentioned--to bring the title and URL into congruence. Is this gonna screw too many people up? Should I change it back (if I can remember how.)


I'm glad you're clever.

Doorman-Priest said...

Its an awesome piece of history - and not just for Americans.

pj said...

Johnieb, why not pop by MP's and leave a comment somewhere saying that you changed your URL?

But now that I have found you again... well done! You ought to keep writing.

johnieb said...


I did, and sent him a private message; isn't it available there?

Off to check, thankee.

klady said...

I've been trying to take some long, quiet time to read these the last couple days but keep getting interrupted. I need more time. I am struck by what I've been reading lately in our local newspaper about a young soldier who was injured by a truck bomb in Iraq in 2006, came home to heal, chose to go back, and now has just been killed. It has all made me nearly speechless on war. But maybe I'll comment someday if I get my head together (or some plausible semblance thereof).

Anyway, congratulations on your blog debut. I'm glad I at least I've waited to get the link right. Keep on writing!

klady said...

oh and wanted to add, while it doesn't have a Vietnamese dictionary there are language forums at http://forum.wordreference.com/
where someone might translate for you
and here is a dictionary at http://www.nomfoundation.org/nomdb/lookup.php