Occassional reflections of a moderate (hey at least I think I am)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Martin and Malcolm (Revisited)

While I admire both a great deal, I quite frequently go over with myself why I am a bigger fan of Malcolm X while so many of my friends tend to favor Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Though I have read a good deal of what Dr. King wrote, I do not recall having read this quote (via Instadpundit ):

“if your opponent has a conscience, then follow Gandhi. But if your enemy has no conscience, like Hitler, then follow Bonhoeffer.”

In an odd way this quote goes a good ways to explaining why I prefer Malcolm to Martin. Intellectually, I was introduced to Dr. King's writings in the context of non-violent resistance. While the quote above evidences a good deal of pramatism which undoubtedly Dr. King needed to exercise to achieve his goals, it does not evidence a comittment to non-violence. Stated another way, he was a "tactical pacifist". This may be a great position for a leader, but it was not what I admired when I was studying philosophy.

As an aside, in reference to the quote above, Prof. Reynolds states
“[A reader] asks: 'Now consider: MLK chose nonviolence to advance his cause. What does that say, then, about his beliefs about his opponent?'"

My take away from that quote is that MLK believed that America in the 1960s was more like British colonialists (who incidentally merited being violently overthrown a century and a half before by Amercian colonists) suppressing a majority half a world away rather than Nazi Germany. This is faint praise indeed.


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