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Civil rights

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Nice Charles Krauthammer column in the Washington Post the other day. It calls for Trent Lott to step down, but that's not the part that caught my attention; I really like what Krauthammer says about MLK and the civil rights movement. Excerpts:

Martin Luther King succeeded in taking a liberation movement that could easily have turned irredeemably divisive and deeply anti-American . . . and dedicated it instead to a reaffirmation of American principles. The point is not just what King and his followers did for African Americans, but what they did—by validating America's original promise of freedom and legal equality—for the rest of America. . . .

The fact is . . . that the civil rights movement forever set the standard for social transformation in America. We owe to King . . . the fact that every subsequent social movement from environmental to gay rights to antiwar has almost automatically embraced nonviolence. Political violence has, of course, not been abolished. But the nobility and success of the civil rights movement has delegitimized the very idea of political violence—giving us a country that now routinely achieves profound social change in an atmosphere of comity and mutual respect rarely seen anywhere else in the world.

Okay, so perhaps riots in LA and anti-WTO protests in Seattle and bombs in Oklahoma City don't count exactly as comity and mutual respect. Still, I think it's a cool point, and not one I've seen made before: political violence is rare in the U.S., despite the fact that we are not exactly a peaceful people. Whether or not we can attribute that fact to MLK, I think it's cool.

(Thanks to David R. for the pointer.)

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