• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683.


Memorializing Martin Luther King, Jr.


We often visit the monuments and museums along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and each time I am surprised at my heightened emotions when we are there. Maybe it is because the museums are free and some of the memorials grand and inspiring, and I can imagine for a few hours that this country will one day live up to its professed ideals. In the city a few weeks ago, we looked forward to seeing our old favorites and were excited to see for the first time the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

I admired once again the Vietnam War Memorial for its unexpected power, sleekness of design, and economy of space and the Korean War Memorial for its ghostlike and wary soldiers on patrol. But I got goose-bumps and teary eyes at the monument to Abraham Lincoln. There is the president sitting, looking out at us, his face homely and expressive. The structure itself is magnificent, a Greek temple that is a graceful juxtaposition to the flinty hardness of Lincoln’s body. Perhaps it is an unintended irony that the architecture is inspired by Greece, the cradle of democracy but also a country dependent upon the labor of slaves. The irony deepens when we realize that Lincoln and his great general, Grant, with the support of fierce and determined black soldiers, did what the Greeks did not—abolish the scourge of slavery.freedom-budget-300x449

The beauty of the Lincoln Memorial is that if we knew nothing about the president, we still might be moved by this monument to him. Lincoln’s heroic and tragic life only adds to its emotional force. I see not only the fineness of the structure but imagine Lincoln delivering his words at Gettysburg and in his Second Inaugural Address. What modern-day president would stand before Congress and say something like Lincoln did before his second term began: “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war shall soon pass away, yet if God wills it continue till all the wealth piled by two hundred years of bondage shall have been wasted, and each drop of blood drawn by the lash shall have been paid for by one drawn by the sword, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” I envision Lincoln visiting Union troops just across the Potomac River and being so distraught over the death of his son, William, that he had the body exhumed so he could see his boy again.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is about a half-mile from Lincoln’s. My heightened emotions were deflated as soon as we entered the memorial grounds. The picture that came to mind was of a gigantic miniature golf course. A granite “mountain” has been split into three segments. The middle portion has been placed at a distance in front of the other two, and it is from this part that the figure of King has been shaped. The entire edifice is an almost embarrassingly literal interpretation of a sentence from the “I Have a Dream Speech” that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. He said, “With this faith [that his dream for a better America would come true] we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Visitors are to enter the monument through the “mountain of despair” and move toward the “stone of hope.” The image of King is colossal in scale, as if he were some sort of mythical hero like Paul Bunyan or a dictator who has demanded an outsized image of himself, the better to put fear into the hearts of his subjects. I was shocked to see King’s visage as white as the granite out of which it is carved.

King is looking off to the side, not at us. Is he seeing the “promised land,” as in his famous words, uttered less than twenty-four hours before James Earl Ray killed him? Addressing a large crowd in Memphis on April 3, 1968, in support of striking sanitation workers, he said, “We got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…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.” Who knows? We felt no connection to him. This is an icon to bow down before, not the representation of a man with whom you want to join hands in struggle.

On one side of the sculpted rock were the words “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” As many critics noted, these words were taken out of context and painted King as egotistic. What he really said was “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” Criticism was so strong that the government took the unusual step of having the sculptor remove it, which was done in late July of this year. We knew about this controversy when we visited the monument, and this added to our negative feelings about it.

We were left unmoved by the collection of inscriptions on the wall behind the monument. They seemed a hodgepodge, a collection of disconnected thoughts that taken together were much less than the man who said them. Couldn’t there have been photographs showing that King was a leader of the people? Some recordings of his speeches? His actions and his voice imploring us to fight for justice, these are what we need to remember.

I read about the building of the King Memorial after we returned home. Controversy plagued it from the beginning. The King family demanded and received money for the use of their father’s words and image. The sculptor was Chinese as were his imported workmen, whose wages for their labors are not known. Black artists and unionized and well-paid U.S. granite workers could have been used but were not. The rock, itself, was imported from China, whose government contributed $25 million to the memorial project.

As we were leaving the King Memorial, we saw a group of children, whose bright orange shirts indicated that they were from an inner-city day camp. King devoted his life to the creation of a world in which kids like these, in fact, all girls and boys, would grow up in an egalitarian, hopeful, and caring society. What an insult this monument is to them and to King. Here, it is impossible to grasp King’s radical spirit, his willingness to stand up to the most brutal repression, his brave opposition to the War in Viet Nam, his hope-shattering murder.

Maybe, this entire edifice should be demolished and a monument worthy of him constructed.

Michael Yates is the author, along Paul Le Blanc, is the author oA Freedom Budget for All Americans: Recapturing the Promise of the Civil Rights Movement in the Struggle for Economic Justice Today.  

October 13, 2015
Dave Lindorff
US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital
Steve Martinot
The Politics of Prisons and Prisoners
Heidi Morrison
A Portrait of an Immigrant Named Millie, Drawn From Her Funeral
Andre Vltchek
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Jeremy Malcolm
All Rights Reserved: Now We Know the Final TTP is Everything We Feared
Paul Craig Roberts
Recognizing Neocon Failure: Has Obama Finally Come to His Senses?
Theodoros Papadopoulos
The EU Has Lost the Plot in Ukraine
Roger Annis
Ukraine Threatened by Government Negligence Over Polio
Matthew Stanton
The Vapid Vote
Louisa Willcox
Tracking the Grizzly’s Number One Killer
Binoy Kampmark
Assange and the Village Gossipers
Robert Koehler
Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime
Jon Flanders
Railroad Workers Fight Proposed Job Consolidation
Mel Gurtov
Manipulating Reality: Facebook Is Listening to You
Mark Hand
Passion and Pain: Photographer Trains Human Trafficking Survivors
October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid