Monday, January 15, 2018


It seems appropriate to post something that is largely going to repeat a post I put up on this holiday a few years ago. And I'm going to have to change a link to go to the Internet Archive to do it. But it's worth it.

I commemorated MLK day by reading Dr. King's 1964 interview with Playboy (published in the January 1965 issue).

In the interview, Dr. King makes a lot of the same points he'd recently made in his Letter from Birmingham Jail and elsewhere, but why not, they needed to be repeated, and still need it today. His rhetorical style tends to the oratorical even in a one-on-one interview, but he doesn't put on a self-abnegatory show when asked to address personal matters, and he's willing to consider tactical and practical considerations as well as high moral ones. He also has the invaluable ability to issue the necessary caveats to his generalizations without getting sidetracked, sounding imbalanced, or otherwise losing the point. The same is true of his historical comparisons to causes not directly involving blacks; see, for instance, his reference to the Holocaust. I am also struck, mostly because I don't meet a lot of people like that and am always struck when I do, how thoroughly his theological training and his calling as a minister permeate the entirety of his thinking. This is an intellectual and moral force you're reading here, the way that Lincoln was one. Now you can see why King's name is also in our commemorative pantheon.

King has an interesting theory defending the morality of civil disobedience, which I've rarely seen stated so forthrightly, and towards the end he brings up the matter of social welfare spending, which is where I think he'd be most dismayed by the situation today. There's much else I could say about this, but I'll close here and just refer you to the interview for more.

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