Monday, January 21, 2008

Love not power

Do not dishonour Martin Luther King Jr

By Buri Edward

January 20, 2008

Quite often some of our political leaders have been heard to cite Martin Luther King Jr, the great American civil rights movement leader, as their inspiration in calling for and holding demonstrations.

Some have even quoted lines from MLK’s speeches as if they were their own.

Using MLK as a platform for justifying the mess in Kenyan demonstrations is an absolute embarrassment and dishonour to this highly respected man who was a leader, not only of black people but of America and the world.

Love, not power

Inspired by his religious convictions, MLK’s starting point was not to be president; it was to be in a free human being. The quest on Kenya’s centre stage is for the presidency. The spirit evident in the sentiments of the leaders who allude to MLK is that of hatred cooked to an outrageous degree.

If we were to assess MLK, we would put him on the opposite side of the continuum with an outrageous love that made him a target of many critics who thought that he had dug too deeply into his love trench. In one of his expression of love he said “ not let anyone bring you so low as to hate him.”

What our leaders have led us into is a quagmire of hatred. They have deliberately polluted Kenyans with hatred and continue to saturate their minds with tribal animosity; the results are clear.

MLK’s marchers were enlightened on non-violence, not masters of violence.

Having scrutinised the path of violence and its yields, and inspired by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, MLK took a road less travelled and constructed the philosophy of non-violence.

In keeping with his belief in the power of non-violent protest, those who took part in his freedom marches were thoroughly coached in the philosophy of peace that informed MLK’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The marchers even made an official commitment to non-violence.

MLK’s non-violence was not in any way pacifism; he was just using peace as the context in which to make a powerful point.

The coaching was as advanced as equipping the marchers with
the attitude with which to respond when their non-violent spirit encountered violent opposition. These were not only marchers, they were philosophised marchers.

The marchers we’ve seen on Kenyan streets are violent people, many of whom are armed, at the very least with stones. Peace is their enemy. When peace is present, they generate incitement to tamper with it.

At the very best, they use peace not for it’s sake but as a guise, waiting for the right moment to show their true colours, which, going by our flag code, is not white!

To them, an opportunity to go to the streets is an opportunity to “go shopping,” code for a call to thuggery and looting.

He had the church as a fortress

In the current madness, the church has been a target, not a refuge. People who have sought refuge in a church have been the victims of a more cruel death than those in the farms or streets.

What words can we use for people who torch a place of worship?

What name would we give to their sponsors? What words should be used to describe the leaders who affirm their action by playing down the act, or try to pass by it as insignificant? What do we call the leaders who publicly renounce the act but silently laud it?

Somebody help me on this one.

For MLK, the church was a haven since his childhood. His spirituality was nurtured by his service in the Black Church. During his time, acts of burning churches were done by the enemies of freedom, in this case the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

He never used the poor

It is common knowledge that most of the marchers in Nairobi are mobilised from the slum areas. Their economic vulnerability makes them easy prey for shallow promises.

A carrot is dangled before them, luring them into the streets into something they could under normal circumstances not agree to do. The leaders use them as a display of the massive following they claim.

They also use them as potential statistics of injuries and deaths which they can wave at the international media when they clash with the police.

The hypocrisy of these leaders is exposed when they are dispersed by police.

MLK did not retreat into a five-star hotel or hop into a bulletproof limousine while his followers fled on foot for dear life.

He stuck with them and was ready to die with them because he was not different from them; what his non-violent followers embodied he also embodied, what they represented he also represented.

The marchers were not his tools as is happening on the Kenyan scene. He was in authentic solidarity with them.

MLK did not stand for disintegration. He stood for integration.

It is unfortunate, in fact it is truly teary, that leaders who are quoting MLK are fuelling tribal hatred and animosity.

The best they have been seen to do is to stand by, watch and say nothing, meaning that whatever comments they give on the matter are not rooted in any conviction, but it is a public relations gimmick to conceal their affirmation of and mileage from the same.

In reality, they know it is to their political advantage that tribal hatred brews and that our beloved nation continues to be drunk with the blood of innocent people.

Therefore, claiming to find a peer in MLK while being a disintegration machine on the other is a pure contradiction.

Fought for integration

Togetherness was his sincere gospel. He was boldly clear that he dreamt of a time when white people and black people would coexist respectfully, equally and productively.

But truth be told, the possibility of a united Kenya is a nightmare to some of these leaders whose creativity thrives in divisive politics.

The writer is a Nairobi theologian and religious minister.


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