SERVICE IS NOT ENOUGH Celebrating the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense
than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“More than 40 years after his death, Dr. King’s examples can continue to guide us in addressing our nation’s most critical issues today. Each of us can contribute to strengthening our own communities by serving in Dr. King’s honor on the King Holiday and throughout the year. And, by making service part of our daily lives, we can help realize Dr. King’s dream. Together, we can ensure that more young people graduate from high school; that Americans of all ages have healthier futures; consume less energy; support our military families and veterans; and that we increase employment, financial stability, and affordable housing for vulnerable individuals and families.”


I suspect that National Service is not really what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr had in mind as his legacy. Not in the face of the severe crisis we face today. It is possible that he would be organizing a poor people’s march to the inauguration of Obama seeking to end the president’s dangerous attacks on civil liberties, appointments of cabinet members with a record of supporting torture, covert disruption, war and economic policies that have driven one in two Americans into poverty while increasing the destruction of our environment and climate which will push millions more to live in extreme poverty.  National service is not enough. We should honor Dr King by joining Idle No More, occupy and others in taking nonviolent direct action to move America towards a post capitalist society that respect the environment and brings an end to war and poverty.

Sadly Obama is marking King’s birthday by obscuring his legacy with a national day of service reenforcing the message that the poor will always be with us and that public policy is not responsible for the crisis we face. The photo announcing this national day of service showed Obama and his family sharing food at a soup kitchen. It is important to feed the hungry but it is just as important that we end the policies that have forced millions to eat at soup kitchens.

Martin Luther King Jr, was born on January 15, 1929  and shot to death on April 4, 1968.  King’s murder had a profound impact on my life. That weekend I experienced the rage of an America that lost an important voice of truth in a country of lies. My family traveled past Washington DC as ins of double bladed helicopters rushed troops to the capital and hundreds of military vehicles raced passed us on I 495. As we were about to enter the Ft McHenry Tunnel we could see that much of northern Baltimore was on fire and when we arrived in Philadelphia we drove down Germantown Avenue past machine gun nests, marines in flack jackets some straining to control their angry German Shepards from escaping their leashes.  That evening my mother lead us in prayer kneeling around our bed as smoke filled our hotel room and news of the riot aired on TV.

The Vietnam War was also raging and King had called on us to seek an end to tragic murder of the people of South East Asia. A year before a sniper killed him in Memphis  he spoke out against the obscene amount of military spending that is robbing America’s middle class. He was organizing a Poor Peoples Movement that included the formation of an occupation in Washington DC inspired by past occupations like the Bonus Campaign of veterans during the Great Depression.

I have been sharing free meals the the hungry for over 30 years with the Food Not Bombs movement. I believe King would be distressed at this day of service knowing that the United States continues to spend billions to kill innocent people half of America is struggling to survive. Kill lists, signature drone attacks, indefinite detention in secret prisons, the use of harsh criminal charges for protesting arctic oil drilling, the appointment of torture advocate John Brenner to the CIA and the architect of the banking fraud Jake Lew to treasury are just some of Obama’s policies that might run counter to the world King was seeking to inspire.

But maybe the most ironic about Obama associating himself with the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is the actions his Justice department took to crush the occupation movement. King was assassination by a sniper rifle ending his effort to build a movement to redirect military spending and create country where we all could live in dignity. The Poor Peoples movement was the occupy movement of his time. Obama’s Justice Department has admitted they intended to end the occupations using the same methods used to end Kings’s campaign to end poverty. Original documents obtained by Partnership for Civil Justice Fund show that the FBI involved in a program “to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.”

It would be wonderful if Obama announced an end to his covert disruption of the American Peace movement, cuts military spending redirecting it towards programs that would end hunger and homelessness and bring an end to his illegal use of targeted killings, secret detention and harsh prosecution of people in our movement such as Jeremy Hammond, Bradley Manning and the others who have been targeted for their work to bring peace and democracy to our nation just as Martin Luther King Jr was doing when he was killed.

Food Not Bombs shares food ands works to redirect military spending in over 500 cities in the United States and another 500 in other countries. For us every day is a day of service but a day of service seeking to bring real and lasting change to our world. A world that is not destroyed by the climate crisis, famine, war and covert disruption of pro-democracy efforts.  Imagine if Obama and the Democratic Party joined us and implemented policies that supported a sustainable democratic future instead of one ruled by violent corporations for the short term greed of a few.

Thanks so much

Keith McHenry
co-founder of the Food Not Bombs Movement

1. An identified as of October planned to en Iacks .196
against protestors in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An indentifiedl had ib7C
received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in
Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin, Texas. lanned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles. (Note: protests continued throughout the weekend with approximately 6000
persons in NYC. “Occupy Wall Street” protests have spread to about half of all states in the US, over a
dozen European and Asian cities, including protests in Cleveland l0/6-8/1 1 at Willard Park which was
initially attended by hundreds of protestersSE-CR

Page 61