Monday, July 24, 2006

Love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Scott Lemieux has a simply fantastic post today:
See, to generalize there are two kinds of groups who oppose progressive social change. First, you have outright reactionaries. Then you have people--JFK liberals, let's call them--who wish the world was a better place, and nominally support long as it doesn't affect them in any way, and they don't have to do anything, or make any difficult political choices....

The struggle for civil rights is all "I have a dream" while the Scottsboro Boys and Little Rock and Dynamite Hill and Selma sort of get written out of the picture--you'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar, you know! Proponents of the countermobilization myth like to think that political changes just sort of happen, that there's a natural, unidirectional progress that will inevitably push things in the right direction if the victims of injustice will just be quiet and not press rights claims too loudly until each and every state in the union is no longer offended by what courts in other states might do. But there's nothing natural or inevitable about social change; it's the result of conflicts, many of which involve largely incommensurable positions, and these changes will be strongly opposed by the people threatened by them no matter which institution goes first.
It's amazing to me that somehow the entire civil rights struggle in the United States has been reduced to "non-violence" and "Martin Luther King", when there's so very much more - including a hell of a lot of violence - to the story. And yet the American narrative has incorporated this myth that America changed because of King's sweet reason (this story really begins and ends in 1961 with King's dream) and not, say, because of Medgar Ever's militancy, or the Black Panthers, or any number of actors who played their role.

(For the record, I'm no fan of the Panthers. Read some of their autobiographies if you think they're swell and want to be disillusioned.)

This is all even more ridiculous considering how one-sided the body count in the 1960s was. I'm sure the occasional Jim Crow-loving cracker got killed by an angry black man, but our side lost every one of the great leaders - the Kennedys, Evers, King, Malcolm X - whatever you thought of all these men, they were inspirational and visionary leaders (the only part of Scott's post I disagree with is the characterization of JFK) and they all met the assassin's bullet. The only loss on the other side was Wallace, and he survived.

Anyway, read the whole thing.

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