The show imagines if Dr. King had survived his shooting and emerged from a coma today. He gets vilified in the aftermath of 9/11 for suggesting turning the other cheek, and lives a life of quiet obscurity.
One of the finest statements about violence is this passage from "Strength to Love":
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.Of course, talk like that is no more tolerable today than it was in the '60s. Was invading Afghanistan right? Sure, and applying a little violence turned the tide and ended a persistent act of violence.
But Iraq has clearly been a perfect example of the problem, "returning violence for violence, … adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars." Undoubtedly, that war will beget more wars and more hate, whether in Iran (itself a product of American violence in the 1950s), Syria, or just the future Iraq.
Even the failed strike on Zawahiri is an example. Eighteen people died, people with families, and those families are angry:
At another destroyed house, Sami Ullah, a 17-year-old student, said 24 of his family members were killed and vowed he would "seek justice from God.""Hate begetting hate."
So "Where Do We Go From Here?":
[I]n order to answer the question, Where do we go from here? which is our theme, we must first honestly recognize where we are now. When the Constitution was written, a strange formula to determine taxes and representation declared that the Negro was sixty percent of a person. Today another curious formula seems to declare that he is fifty percent of a person. Of the good things in life, the Negro has approximately one half those of whites. of the bad things of life, he has twice those of whites. Thus half of all Negroes live in substandard housing. And Negroes have half the income of whites. When we view the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites and there are twice as many Negroes dying in Vietnam as whites in proportion to their size in the population.We are largely still where we were when Dr. King said those words in 1967. Among his proposals: a guaranteed national wage.
In other spheres, the figures are equally alarming. In elementary schools, Negroes lag one to three years behind whites, and their segregated schools receive substantially less money per student than the white schools. One-twentieth as many Negroes as whites attend college. Of employed Negroes, seventy-five percent hold menial jobs.
This is where we are. Where do we go from here?
Now our country can do this. John Kenneth Galbraith said that a guaranteed annual income could be done for about twenty billion dollars a year. And I say to you today, that if our nation can spend thirty-five billion dollars a year to fight an unjust, evil war in Vietnam, and twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God's children on their own two feet right here on earth.I'm not a conspiracy theorist, and I wasn't alive when he was shot. All I know, I've learned from movies, TV, and my parents. And from those sources, my impression is that King's transition from a civil rights activist to an economic activist is what precipitated his assassination.
His view of America's future was challenging:
What I'm saying to you this morning is that communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.Maybe he's right, maybe wrong. What I want to remember on this anniversary of his birth is that Dr. King can't be reduced to a sound bite and a now obvious call to end Jim Crow. Equality means more than just eliminating horrific discrimination, it means equality of opportunity. That isn't easy. It calls for the combination of power and love which Dr. King preached and which he exemplified in his life.
What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.