Eresh Omar Jamal
IN a historic 1999 civil lawsuit of the King family against the US government, 12 jurors in the Shelby County Court in Tennessee reached a unanimous verdict on December 8, 1999, after about an hour of deliberations, that Dr Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. When asked whether the jury found “others including governmental agencies” to be “parties to this conspiracy,” the jury answered, “yes”.
In a press conference after the verdict, human rights lawyer William Pepper who represented the King family in the famous case, said, “Because he took on those forces, powerful economic forces that dominated politics in this land, they killed him…This nation has not faced the problems that Martin Luther King, Jr died trying to face and confront. They still exist today, the forces of evil, the powerful economic forces that dominate the government of this land and make money on war and deprive the poor of what is their right, their birthright. They still abound and they rule.” For anyone interested in doing deeper research into this conspiracy, I highly encourage you to read the book The Plot to Kill King by William Pepper.
One such powerful figure who particularly despised King was J Edgar Hoover who headed the FBI for decades. On a memo about King receiving the St Francis peace medal from the Catholic Church, Hoover wrote, “This is disgusting.” And later, after hearing about King's meeting with the pope, he said that: “I am amazed that the Pope gave an audience to such a degenerate.” Amazingly, the FBI headquarters is named after Hoover to this day.
Not surprisingly then, one CNN article described how the FBI characterised King as the “most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country” in one of its memos after King gave his legendary 1963 speech at the March on Washington. It also described how a meeting was convened involving department heads, to “explore how best to carry on our [FBI] investigation [of King] to produce the desired results without embarrassment to the Bureau.” This included a smear campaign against King and an infamous “suicide letter” sent to King by the FBI disguised as an anonymous letter from a fellow black rights activist.
The letter, almost hypnotic, was written in repetitive language “including five instances of the phrase 'You are done' (and one of 'you are finished'), six instances of the word 'evil', six of the word 'fraud', five of 'abnormal',” etc., which, taken together, would immediately be identified by experts as a case of psychological warfare against King. That the FBI went to such lengths itself shows how truly dangerous King was to the powerful shadowy quarters that influence(d) world events. All because he dared to dream, a truly beautiful dream.
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous,” warned King, “than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” And how right he was—as future proved past. King vehemently spoke out against inequality and discrimination. But, he also strongly opposed the Vietnam War. He said, “No one who has any concern for the integrity of life of America today can ignore the present war,” referring to the Vietnam War. Today, however, one can just as easily replace Vietnam with a whole host of other countries—Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc.
All of which were made possible using various “humanitarian” reasons that the public supported—showing how right King was to warn of the inevitable dangers that are brought about by “ignorance” and “stupidity”. This is because King was one of those rare figures who could see things from a much broader perspective than most can or are willing to. King said, “The triple Evils of poverty, racism and militarism are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the Beloved Community. When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils.”
Unfortunately, the wisdom of what he meant has by and large been forgotten. Those who today oppose one evil seem to not see how it is connected with the others—not realising the foolishness behind such thinking. Therefore, the anti-war movement that the world witnessed during King's days has now all but evaporated. We now have wars to eradicate “racism”, “militarism” and “poverty”, which to the utter shock of people never end up removing them, repeatedly.
King also warned, “Don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policemen of the whole world…I can hear God saying to America: 'You're too arrogant'.” Ironically, it was his warning that proved messianic—as we take one glimpse at the devastation caused by American wars as it continues to act like the “world's policeman”.
The last instance of King's incredible vision of the future, to the great detriment of the world and humankind, concerned his own fate. In his final speech, King said, “I don't know what will happen now, we've got some difficult days ahead. But it don't [sic] really matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountain top…Like anybody I would like to live a long life…but I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he has allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
Perhaps it was his knowledge of what was to come that drove King to work so tirelessly, enthusiastically and with so much energy and focus, towards his dream of the promised land. And although we have not yet gotten there with him, maybe someday we will, as long as we, too, dare to dream what he dreamed, a most beautiful dream.
Eresh Omar Jamal is a member of the editorial team at The Daily Star. His Twitter handle is: @EreshOmarJamal