Sunday, January 15, 2006

Self-Defense, Segregation and MLK

Here's a fascinating story from Different River on the armed Deacons for Defense and Justice, who guarded Martin Luther King in many of his public appearances:

When I discuss the Second Amendment with people, I often have to point out the right to keep and bear arms has nothing to do with duck hunting, and was not even originally enacted for purposes of self-defense against crime. It was enacted because of the belief that an armed populace is a protection against a despotic government; just as the popular militias rose up against the British colonial government in the 1770s, an armed population serves as a protection, and a deterent against despotism nowadays as well.

The inevitable response is that the old purpose is simply not realistic today. How could out government become oppressive when we have a democracy? How could armed citizens resist, when the government has tanks, fighter planes, and nuclear bombs? The Deacons give us the answer: A democratic government can become oppressive against a subset of its citizens if the majority support it, and “the government” might not be the federal government with tanks and nuclear bombs, but a local government with a police force that is on the side of the majority and has no qualms about oppressing that subset.

As you may or may not know, I grew up in Memphis and was getting ready to graduate from high school when Dr. King was assasinated. My friends and I broke the curfew, sneaked into the "triage zone," and watched burning buildings and military response against snipers. I think it was one of those turning points in my life, a sense that the world was not nearly as fixed, nor as stable, nor as black-and-white as I'd learned in high school. Of course, there were no blacks in my high school, and one, coun'em, Jewish person. We had no proms or dances, because Afro-Americans might attend. There were no public swimming pools, guessed it! One of my relatives used to tell the knee-slapping story of when, as a little kid, I accidentally went in the "Colored" door at the What-A-Burger. Yep...a real knee-slapper...

Growing up in Memphis back then left me with an utter revulsion for any and all kinds of discrimination, regardless of how "respectable" it might be. I AM A MAN read the protest posters before Dr. King was killed. Not exactly a revolutionary statement.

BTW, a little bit of trivia you'll only find on The Michael Bane Blog!

One of the great myths of the King assasination was that immediately after the shooting, there was a broadcast on police radio bands that sent city cops all over town. That myth has been totally debunked, along with all the other myths suggesting a conspiracy.

Well, as it happens, my parents were chronic police band monitors back then, and I was an active amateur radio operator and "short-wave listener," a collector of "QSL cards," written verification of listening to obscure, distant radio stations. In effect, I was a professional listener. So my parents were listening to the police radio when Dr. King was shot. They immediately called me into the room, where I heard a series of dispatches sending cops all over the city like somekind of Keystone chase scene.

"That's not a police broadcast," I said. It was obviously not the cops — the signal strength was much stronger and sounded different than police dispatch; the tone and nature of the voice behind the microphone was totally different that the usual dispassionate police dispatcher; the signal was cutting in and out, which police dispatches never did, etc.

Of course, that never happened. I've read that it never happened. No tape recordings, nobody remember nothing. And if it's written down, it must be true, right?

Did Ray pull the trigger? I think so. Did he act alone? Yeah, sure.


Anonymous said...

Interesting how memory works.. I have a clear memory of seeing the 'Thunderbird Photograph' (worth a google search), but again it most probably never existed.

Michael Bane said...

There is that, isn't there?

And it gets worse, I'm told...although I can't quite remember by whom!