published Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

David Cook: The Inauguration hoax

Monday’s Inauguration Day ceremonies were a dangerous insult to the memory and message of Martin Luther King Jr.

The day was layered in meaning: the president’s swearing-in projected onto the backdrop of M.L. King Day. It was scripted in history, a day of photographs and marching bands and national feel-goodery.

But through such casualness, we distort the ghost of King while bestowing blessing on the figure of authority he would have never agreed with.

The worst moment of all? When Obama swore the oath of office using a favorite Bible of Dr. King’s.

By doing so, Obama promised to uphold the office of commander-in-chief, giving him a throne of power over the largest military — and its budget — the world has ever known.

This is, exactly, what Dr. King preached against.

“We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls ‘enemy,’ for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers,” King said in his April 1967 anti-war sermon, “A Time to Break the Silence.”

(A commander-in-chief cannot make such statements. It is impossible; one cannot serve both masters.)

Calling the American government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” King condemned the over-militarization of our country and its economy.

A nation that spends more on weapons than social programs, King warned, will soon reach spiritual death.

(This was in 1967. What is the condition of our national spirit today, decades later?)

In his time, Obama has done little to slow the illegal violence of Guantanamo Bay, put great emphasis on the use of overseas drones and signed off on a military budget that is ungodly in scope, size and reach.

Yesterday’s dual mindedness — Obama meets King, commander-in-chief meets nonviolent prophet — sent the message that America can have both. It can’t.

Since his death, King has been whitewashed. We’ve reduced him to a one-dimensional, I-Have-A-Dream figure, happy and content now that a black man is president.

Yes, King entered our national script as someone bound in the fight against racism. But in the 1960s, his vision expanded to include poverty, materialism and the militarization of our consciousness.

By sanitizing King, we keep him safe in our collective memory as someone palatable and easy to remember. We build memorials. Commission official postage stamps. Take a day off work.

And forget the heart of what he said and did.

“A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love,” he preached.

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

One year after making this speech, King was shot in the head and killed.

(Tuesday’s online-only column normally focuses on the connection between 21st century events and the popular “Downton Abbey.” It will return next Tuesday.)

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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nucanuck said...

Thank you David.

Dr King spoke truth to power about the dangers of militarism and violence. We didn't listen. Certainly the imperial military out-reach of the US has continued to grow and spread violence far beyond anything MLK might have imagined in 1968. The price has been high. It has poisoned the American well from which we all drink. We have a damaged psyche because of it.

We know that we are killing, maiming and ruining the lives of simple people in far off lands and yet we do nothing to stop the violence. We may detatch ourselves from that reality, but deep down we know that we are country on the wrong course.

In the 1960s I thought MLK was a radical and a rabble rouser. I now understand what he was trying to tell us back then...a message that resonates today more than ever.

MLK was a great American with a message that we still ignore. If we don't move away from militarism and toward non-violence, we are destined to be victims of our own violent future.

January 22, 2013 at 2:07 a.m.
Walden said...

If only our rabid enemies felt the same way... alas...

January 22, 2013 at 9:36 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Or maybe it's the enemies we made rabid. . . alas.

January 22, 2013 at 9:39 a.m.
Leaf said...

Or maybe the world isn't just black and white, Walden, dayton and JonRoss.

In a fight, the US is the giant. It should be easier for us to be magnanimous instead of using our military power to the extent we do.

January 22, 2013 at 10:52 a.m.
bluedude123 said... ^^ This is a very similar arguement from Cornel West from January 19

January 22, 2013 at 11:10 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

I meant that the US, through its continued programs of empire, imperialism, nation building, and continued use of military mercenaries, subversion of other nations choices, and wholesale slaughter of innocent people lead otherwise peaceful enemies into the rabid dogs they've become.

Imagine if the City of Chattanooga Police Chief decided that Red Bank police weren't doing enough to find a murderer. The Chattanooga Police Chief decides to blow up Red Bank people's house, businesses, and families in order to kill this hidden murderer.

Then the Chattanooga Police Department occupies Red Bank, ransacks homes, humiliates Red Bank Citizens, destroys their businesses, shoot, kills and murders innocent Red Bank citizens, still not finding the murderer.

Do you think the citizenry of Red Bank might get pissed? Might retaliate against Chattanooga? Might go rabid?

That's what I meant by taking enemies and making them rabid. In most cases, these people weren't enemies before. They were created by US involvement.

January 22, 2013 at 11:13 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Venezuela, Palestine, the list goes on.

It's not that these were friendly, peaceful nations; these nations are as sovereign as the US. It's that the US government chose to interfere.

The people of Iran are Persians, not Arabs. They have a bad, religious government. The people are not the problem. So how would killing innocent Iranians through bombings that Israel and US Congressional warhawks want help?

Iraqis resent the US, more than ever.You would too, if a foreign military occupied your neighborhood.

If the Chinese had decided to send troops to Ohio after Kent State in 1970 massacre of civilian students protesting the Vietnam war, would that have been justified? Don't you think that ordinary US citizens would have seen that as provocative, turning regular citizens into rabid dogs against the Chinese?

US government support of dictators world-wide, US hegemony world-wide, the US military for sale to corporate and congressional warhawks, that's enough to turn the tide against America the beautiful.

US foreign policy has been empire building since the invasion of the Philippines and Cuba on false pretenses.

In most, not all, the US created their enemies and have used war as the solution to the detriment of America.

January 22, 2013 at 12:05 p.m.
Lr103 said...

daytonsdarwin. Gosh! And just when everyone thought there were no longer any signs of inelligence in this nation someone of your magnificant intellect comes along to prove them wrong ^5!! on your remarks.

Starting a war is easy, trying to stop one is near impossible. People actually feel countries can just say, OK! We've raped andravished the land; killed enough innocent men, women and children. Let's jut pack up and go home now, until the next misadenture. They all want to forget the mess America and the world are in began under a prior president who came into office determined to invade a sovereign counry that was no threat.

January 22, 2013 at 12:26 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"you are saturated with a world view that is not based on all of the facts."

You cannot back this statement up with facts.

"complicated sub plots."

daytonsdarwin pointed that out.

"You can't dispute the fact that the U.S. became involved in these because of the filth of the dictatorships that control those countries."

Yet, they were still sovereign nations.

"We can also name dozens of countries that have survived and/or thrived as independent states because of long term U.S. support and involvement'

Let's go through the list:


Germany didn't pay off the reparations laid out in the Treaty of Versailles until 2010. We didn't exactly support them until the early 90's. They built themselves up in spite of us.


The two atomic bomb drops set that country back 25 years...and they're still more advanced than us.

"Great Britain"

They were thriving long before we ever started being friends.

"Eastern Europe"

Could you be more specific? Or are you just guessing at this point?

"Thailand, The Philipines, Israel, Australia, India, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, Senegal, etc. etc."

You're just naming countries that we are allies with. We never invaded any of these countries. We never occupied Australia or Israel. They didn't do well because of us. They just happen to ally themselves with the worlds biggest bully.

Nothing you say is truthful. You make claims that you cannot back up and have moved the goalposts entirely considering this was about war and countries we invaded. Everything you have written is fallacious in the sense that it has nothing to do with what daytonsdarwin is referring to or the initial topic of discussion.

January 22, 2013 at 12:35 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

jonross, why is it necessary to invade countries because they have dictatorships? The Shah of Iran was who the US installed after the people of Iran decided they didn't like the Shah's daddy and his torture cells. In Europe after WW2, an exchange of dictators occurred. Stalin for Hitler. The US government has supported those filthy dictators for years. Remember the photos of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam? Reagen giving arms to the Ayatollah?

The US gave arms to "Potato-Head" Chaing Kai-Shek, a brutal Chinese Nationalist who drove millions into the arms of Mao.

American intervention has been a primary cause of the ill-will of the world against America. Yes, I do find a world-view of history to be better than a pathological worship of simplistic American propaganda from a corrupt American government, cash-stuffed politicians of both parties, and military-for-hire mercenaries.

As George Carlin says,"It's all bovine excrement."

January 22, 2013 at 12:43 p.m.
Easy123 said...


You just admitted the point you were trying to disprove. You're just glad it's your country building the empire instead of, as you mentioned, the Chinese.

January 22, 2013 at 1:38 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Good article, David Cook. I always find it amusing when I see so many conservatives today offer up their praises for Dr. King. They obviously either misunderstood his message entirely or they simply choose to ignore what an extreme liberal and social activist he was. He was thoroughly despised by practically every conservative back in his day.

Obama is often referred to as a communist/socialist/Marxist by his many right-wing enemies but he is a mere cub scout of liberalism compared to MLK. Would that Obama would take on even a little of Dr. King's fearless progressivism!

You righties who continue to sing Dr. King's praises need to spend some time familiarizing yourselves with some of his more notable quotes. You would see clearly that he would not even want your misplaced respect. He welcomed the enmity of his detractors.

January 22, 2013 at 1:39 p.m.
Easy123 said...


"Just as Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin and Salvador Allende snookered their people into their brand of social justice"

What Hitler, Lenin and Allende preached was not "social justice". It was the exact opposite. You need to learn what things mean before you say them.

"Obama has done some grand snookering himself."

How so?

"I wouldn't place him at the level of Hitler and Lenin YET, but he is certainly in the style of Allende."

And most people would label you an idiot or insane for believing such ridiculous notions.

January 22, 2013 at 1:43 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

I was not in favor of US intervention in Libya, nor am I in favor of US intervention in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, and the list goes on.

I am not in favor of American military servicemen and women coming home in body bags,or wounded, blind, and mentally crippled by a mercenary military command, a war mongering Congress like McCain, Alexander, Nelson, Lieberman, and corporate war profiteers like Halliburton, Blackwater, Boeing, and the countless businesses that make money at the expense of American lives in wars of aggression.

January 22, 2013 at 2:01 p.m.
nucanuck said...

In the last few months we have read that the US is going to place "lillypad" Special Forces units in 37 African nations. We are now transfering military assets to the South China Sea area. We have just learned that the US has had a small military presence in Mali for years.This is nothing less than militarized mercantilism.

China, on the other hand, is helping build infrastructure, schools, hospitals, road, bridges...throughout the undeveloped world. Clearly the Chinese are more likely to win the hearts and minds of the people. On a recent trip to Manzanillo, Mexico I encountered groups of Chinese engineers helping Mexico expand their port facilities.

Flexing US muscles does not make lasting friends. Selling fighter jets and armaments to third world countries doesn't help those countries. We need a new foreign policy approach if we want to have fewer enemies.

January 22, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

"Blame America first"

January 22, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

"Blame America first."

When the blame is warranted, yes. It's wise to clean-up our own messes first before creating new ones. It's smarter to not create new messes that result in death.

Here's a suggestion. The next time the US government votes to send troops to fight, those front line troops should contain the US Congressmen and Congresswomen that vote for such military actions. Their first born children and grandchildren should also go to the front.

If they believe it's such a good idea, let them be the first to shed their blood and 'gloriously' sacrifice their children. Then a parade of the amputees, blind, and shell-shocked cripples from Congress and their families march down Pennsylvania Avenue where the President can pin medals on destroyed bodies and coffins and talk about their patriotism.

Halliburton, Blackwater, and the other war profiteers can supply the flags and bunting.

January 22, 2013 at 3:32 p.m.
Leaf said...

dayton, that's quite an image.

The thing is, we live in the real world where America does have an obligation to use our military occasionally. But we just do it to a much larger degree than necessary. We don't live in Cook's utopia unfortunately, and we don't live in JonRoss's savage dystopia, thank god, but when we have the choice we should aspire to Cook's vision.

And another thing. Drones are bad. They make the cost of killing much too low.

January 22, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.
Lr103 said...

JonRoss said... Beyonce lip synched our national anthem.

Actually, lil johnnyrus, the Marine Band has retracked that claim.

January 23, 2013 at 9:23 a.m.
AndrewLohr said...

A family man using an adulterer's holiday?

January 24, 2013 at 2:01 a.m.
daytonsdarwin said...

Lohr, is that like King David having a man killed so he could take his wife? The Bible is replete with adultery, sex trafficking, genocide, and disease, all created and spread by your loving God.

January 24, 2013 at 8:46 a.m.
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