Leave it to Rush Limbaugh to give advice to civil rights workers just before MLK Day.
“If a lot of African-Americans back in the ’60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma?”
In his defense, Limbaugh is not alone in missing the point of MLK’s nonviolent resistance. Rush’s logic seems to run something like this: “If Gandhi accomplished a lot, think about how much more he could have done with non-violence AND a machine gun.”
Again, Rush is not alone here. Even progressives who parrot MLK at every turn leave out his utter rejection of violence as well as his radical critique of capitalism and the American Empire. In fact, Rush’s willful ignorance may be less harmful to the intent of MLK than that of progressives who wish to apply the wisdom of MLK without dismantling the deeper economic and political sources of human enslavement and misery. No one has understood Dr. King who believes that violence is the answer to the problems that confront us.
And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.
—Martin Luther King, Jr., “A CHRISTMAS SERMON” 24 December 1967