Maybe it was the umpteenth “F Bush” tag that seen in the subway station. Or maybe it was President Bush’s interview on Sixty Minutes last night. But recent news about the war, troop deployments and civil rights has infused us with feeling like we're in the 21st Century version of the Wonder Years. This is not the Sixties, but it seems like today’s commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. has gotten some of us in that Sixties kind of mood.
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards invoked the era and legacy of Dr. King at Riverside Church yesterday—from the same pulpit where King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech—by asking 1,200 parishioners to oppose the Bush Administration’s decision to increase troop deployments to Iraq. The audience, including Senators Hilary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, was reminded of King’s protest to the Vietnam War as Edwards declared, “Silence is betrayal, and I believe it is a betrayal not to speak out against the escalation of the war in Iraq.”
This message is relevant to New York City in more ways than one, especially with last week’s settlement between the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Department of Defense. The lawsuit, brought on the behalf of six New York City high school students, will change how the Department of Defense uses the information from its extensive military recruiting database, which many critics claim to be a primary tool for the overaggressive recruitment tactics targeting students of color in neighborhoods and schools across the city.
Yes, this is not the Sixties, but there seems to be enough news these days to make today’s commemoration more exceptional than those in the past. While a draft is unlikely and the streets are without riots, the current state of affairs invigorates Dr. King’s message, and is probably more powerful and creative than your favorite anti-Bush tag.
Photograph of (from left) Martin Luther King III, Elizabeth Edwards, former Senator John Edwards, the Rev. James A. Forbes Jr. and others by Kathy Willens/AP; they were participating in the "Realizing the Dream," Martin Luther King Day commemoration at Riverside Church