21 January 2008

The Best Written Document of the Last 50 Years (Again)

I posted this last year for the MLK holiday (which, though I appreciate Dr. King's work, I still don't think our government should have added another national holiday in his honor). I'm posting it again.

(in a few years I'll have to change this post to the best written document of the last 75 years)

Nothing else compares to that letter written from a Birmingham jail, in pencil, on scrap paper.

(but I think this holiday trivializes rather than honors Rev. King's legacy)

Here's one small key passage

It is true that they have been rather disciplined in their public handling of the demonstrators. In this sense they have been rather publicly "nonviolent". But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the last few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Maybe Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather publicly nonviolent, as Chief Pritchett was in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of flagrant racial injustice. T. S. Eliot has said that there is no greater treason than to do the right deed for the wrong reason.

It's hard to fathom writing this from jail, without reference materials, or in this day and age, google, and getting it into a comprehensive and comprehensible whole, and yet that's what he managed to do.

Also it contains one of my favorite author's notes

------- *AUTHOR'S NOTE: This response to a published statement by eight fellow clergymen from Alabama (Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter, Bishop Joseph A. Durick, Rabbi Hilton L. Grafman, Bishop Paul Hardin, Bishop Holan B. Harmon, the Reverend George M. Murray. the Reverend Edward V. Ramage and the Reverend Earl Stallings) was composed under somewhat constricting circumstance. Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly Negro trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to. leave me. Although the text remains in substance unaltered, I have indulged in the author's prerogative of polishing it for publication. -------
Here's a link to the letter by those eight clergy for which Rev. King was responding.

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