Even if history is written by the winners, it can be twisted by the losers.

For instance, some who are sympathetic with the lawbreakers who stormed the U.S. Capitol have decided the time is perfect to invoke the name and words of Martin Luther King Jr.

Here’s the backdrop. In advance of today’s national holiday honoring King, I wrote a column mentioning his bravery in obtaining voting rights for Black people. I ended my piece by contrasting King’s work in getting the ballot for oppressed Americans with President Donald Trump’s attempt to stay in power by discarding legal votes in a fair election.

Trump on Jan. 6 repeated his claim that the election was stolen. A mob of his angry followers stormed the U.S. Capitol in hopes of stopping Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.

Many readers responded to my column. Some lashed out at me. Others said Trump himself had attempted voter fraud.

Yet another reader sent me a note with a photo of King and one of his quotes: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

The reader then provided his own commentary about what King said: “It applies to people that are not left wing BLM types too.”

To suggest that the rioters who tore through the Capitol had been voiceless defies the record.

Trump had the president’s bully pulpit. He used it to exhort other bullies. They infiltrated the seat of government in hopes of stopping members of Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.

The reader who mentioned King’s statement about riots provided no context for what the civil rights legend said. I will, in hopes of dispelling any notion that King advocated violence.

King supported the constitutional right of peaceful protest, and he used it to lead myriad efforts to desegregate the country.

Would-be assassins in Montgomery, Ala., were enraged by King’s successful campaign to end segregation on city buses. They bombed King’s home and fired a shotgun through his door.

King took a brick to the head when he marched in Chicago to end housing discrimination. Neither he nor his backers retaliated.

King turned the other cheek until a rifleman assassinated him at age 39.

So how did King, leader of nonviolent movements for social justice, happen to discuss rioting?

In 1967 he wrote his fourth book entitled Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? By then, race riots had exploded in Chicago, Los Angeles and Cleveland. More rioting occurred in Newark, N.J., a month after the publication of King’s book.

Here are the additional relevant parts of what King wrote in Where Do We Go From Here: “A riot is the language of the unheard. It is the desperate, suicidal cry of one who is so fed up with the powerlessness of his cave existence that he would rather be dead than ignored.”

King went on, describing a riot as the breaking point “when the Negro says, ‘I’m tired of living like a dog.’ “

“And,” King wrote, “as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over.”

Not once did King advocate a riot or violence.

A small part of King’s analysis of his time is being co-opted. Some hope a few of King’s words, absent any context, will somehow justify the violence perpetrated by Trump’s followers.

If King had lived, he would have questions for Trump and his backers. Among them: Were they denied the right to vote, as Black people in his time were? Were Trump and his backers powerless to be heard? Did they contest Trump’s defeat in courtrooms, state legislatures and other forums?

Arguing to reverse his defeat in Georgia, Trump received a one-hour telephonic audience with fellow Republicans responsible for elections in that state.

Imagine if a Black person in King’s lifetime had asked for a similar meeting after being denied the right to vote. Those in power would have dismissed him as uppity. If the protester persisted, he might have been jailed, beaten or lynched.

King witnessed all of this. White police officers and politicians in certain cities were more gentle than others. But every adversary was committed to segregation.

“We don’t want to break their bones. We only want to break their spirits,” Gov. Ross Barnett of Mississippi once told a prison warden after the arrest of freedom riders.

There’s no parallel between Trump’s claims and King’s actions.

Something else is beyond compare. Only one will go down in history as the powerhouse for good.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

(41) comments

Peter Wyman

I'm surprise (that was dripping with sarcasm) that the DNC shill Milan missed the opportunity to call out Joe Biden on his support of the racist 1994 Crime Bill, one that unfairly incarcerated African-Americans for decades.

Cory Booker at the debates: "Joe you called it the Biden Crime Bill until 2015."

When Milan can't rewrite history, he simply ignores it.

joe martinez

MLK day but an op for Milan to jump on DT. He'll have Herrell and Pearce when DT leaves. And yes, Mark Coble, it's communism. Harris script of her video is, "Equitable treatment means we all end up in the same place". If we were all born with equal ability, we could possibly end up in the same place. Hard work might be an essential criterion. Surprised morally and intellectually superior JK doesn't accuse you of ignorance and asks if your mom knows about it Mark.

Khal Spencer

The more complete Kamala Harris quote:

"So there’s a big difference between equality and equity. Equality suggests, “oh everyone should get the same amount.” The problem with that, not everybody’s starting out from the same place. So if we’re all getting the same amount, but you started out back there and I started out over here, we could get the same amount, but you’re still going to be that far back behind me. It’s about giving people the resources and the support they need, so that everyone can be on equal footing, and then compete on equal footing. Equitable treatment means we all end up in the same place."

I think her idea is overly simplistic but better analyzed than simply called "communism" which is a discredited idea. Good critique of the notion that we will indeed all end up in the same place is here at the Cato:

https://www.cato.org/blog/kamala-harris-pursuit-equity

Khal Spencer

Its only the last sentence where, IMO, Ms. Harris shoots herself in the foot. The first part is noble in that as ML King once said, you can't hold people down for generations and then spring them free but without resources and then pat yourself on the head for doing enough. I was a kid on the east side of Buffalo, NY and saw systematic racism first hand. One of only two White kids in a Black classroom. That is, until we moved to the exurbs (my stepdad's grandparents had a chicken farm out there and he always longed to go back). Then, as ML King also said, folks living in the suburbs have no idea what its like in the inner city. I concur. The Kensington Expressway, which ripped E. Buffalo apart, ensured those driving into the city never had to navigate a city street.

As an irrrelevant aside, my first and second grade Black buddies and I would routinely get chewed out by the teachers for sneaking through the Kensington Expressway construction zone on an unfinished pedestrian crossing over the yawning trench rather than taking the long march around it, where the crossing guards protected us.

That last sentence of Sen. Harris is the problem. One can only enforce all of us ending up in the same place by ensuring that government controls all the variables that cause us to end up in different places. Heck, I ran on the track team and know that drill. Her unwitting suggestion is the essence of totalitarianism.

joe martinez

Harris has made other comments that describe her as far left to me if someone wants to quarrel with the communist(small c) description. She is called by some to be the most liberal senator. More lib than Bernie? yuk. Racism no doubt is out there but I think it's a state of mind and I don't know what you do about that. I was born and raised here and spent many years away. Enough credits for chem and electronics degrees and chose chem. Few liberal arts courses so no brain washing by lib profs. Came back here and was stunned at the narrow mindedness. Philosophy of all my hi school buddies is hate Rs. We still get together often. All educated and Dems who retired from govt jobs.

Richard Irell

Unfortunately, nuance from politicians has not been a thing for a couple of generations at least. We live in a time of sound bites. I think it doubtful that KH was really advocating for equality of outcomes, but I could be wrong. From a negotiating standpoint, taking an extreme position and then negotiating to a more moderate outcome is common tactic.

Life is unfair. I have a good life and I recognize that I started from a pretty good spot for which I can take no credit. If the conditions of my birth had been different, I have no doubt that the arc of my life would have been different as well.

We know that kids born today into certain zip codes will have much different outcomes than kids born into a different one. We owe it to them and, selfishly, to ourselves to at least try for some semblance of equity.

Khal Spencer

Hi Richard. I meant to append some of what you said to my post. Asking for a nuanced explanation from a politician is a little bit optimistic. Leave it to a sound byte to take a worthwhile idea and make a mess of it.

Jim Klukkert

joe martinez– Communism's most fundamental characteristic is the "dictatorship of the proletariat."

Tell me that you have the foggiest notion of what that means.

Then demonstrate that Kamala Harris has ever advocated for the "dictatorship of the proletariat."

I am so glad for the name calling and personal attacks that adorn your incredibly ignorant comments. Y9ur own comments, more than any critique I could hope to mount, expose the absolute bankruptcy of your positions, if we can call such specious ramblings as positions.

Nonetheless, critiques I will mount, as fish in the barrel are so much fun!

joe martinez

As I said, you are morally and intellectually superior to us commoners so I defer to you. I suspect you may be part commie.

Jim Klukkert

joe martinez- You have been posting on these pages long enough to know that if you make a comment, you may be asked or challenged, as I have done today, to substantiate your claims.

There was a time in our country’s history, when calling someone a ‘communist’ was a very serious matter, which resulted in serious sanctions that are clearly wrongful in a Democracy that subscribes to Constitutional freedoms of political thought, expression and so on.

These sanctions included loss of livelihood, physical threats and/or injury, prison and death. Thankfully those times are behind us, but if one throws around the allegation that one is a communist, there are those among us, like me, who will forcefully object to the tactics of “Red-baiting.”

If you want to trot further down the path of Red-baiting, I will make every effort to get your account canceled on the SFNM web page.

On the other hand, if you are well intended to resolve the issues that beset our world, in civil discussion, that is awesome. The situation calls for all hands on deck. I would welcome your participation.

The choice is yours.

Erich Kuerschner

hmm. I don't often share your POV, Mike Johnson, but you hit it out of the park here, in that post. So many pile on the bandwagon, thinking that if they echo the crowd and MSM, they are somehow contributing to a better world. For the record, I find it sad that it got to the point that DT was seen as the best choice for so many. But the fact remains, the voice that Bernie Sanders might have given to those that saw treating auto workers one way (THEIR contracts were renegotiable , salary, and perks clawed back) whereas the bankers committing criminal fraud, were not only "too big too jail", they were allowed bonuses instead. During the S&L scandal of the 80's, over 1,100 bankers were jailed. In a MUCH more serious case of fraud, ZERO- or perhaps one?) went to jail. How are folks too feel when they lost their home, jobs, health insurance (Obama Care is of little value to those w/o income) watching some elites receiving $400,ooo for an hour speech? Tell, me WHO spoke for them? Trump may well have been delusional, uniformed in his perception that he could take on TPTB [ http://bit.ly/2n77vsY for "The Hill discussion of this ] , but from MY POV, some were SO voiceless they were willing to go for "any port in the storm", that offered ANY hope, however small. Clinton certainly was not seen as looking out for the "deplorables."

And as Glenn Greenwald has speculated, [ https://on.rt.com/azn1 ] if we go through another four years similar to what we went through with eight tears of Obiden, Greenwald warned that Biden could set the stage for a “smarter, more stable version” of Trump to take power.

Jim Klukkert

David Brooks, conservative columnist for NYT, March 5, 2020: Biden’s Rise Gives the Establishment One Last Chance. If he fouls this up, we’re doomed.

"If Biden wins the White House but doesn’t deliver real benefits for disaffected working-class Trumpians and disillusioned young Bernie Bros, then the populist uprisings of 2024 will make the populist uprisings of today look genteel by comparison. 'The system is rotten to the core,' they’ll say. 'It’s time to burn it all down.'”

See: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/05/opinion/joe-biden-2020.html

Khal Spencer

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Jim, I'm shocked, shocked, to see you are reading a Conservative! (just pulling your leg, of course). Thanks for the link and for the recipe yesterday. Meant to respond.

Khal Spencer

That whole Brooks piece is worth a serious read by those jawboning around this pickle barrel. Thank you for the link.

Peter Wyman

David Brooks is NOT a Conservative journalist. He is the NT Times' version of a Conservative journalistic, so that they can claim: "Look! We have one of them writing for us!"

Dr. Thomas Sowell, as well as the recently-deceased Dr. Walter E. Williams, are far better examples of commentators who reflect the Conservative mindset.

Which "Conservative" will you be referencing next? The NYT's Thomas Friedman?

Khal Spencer

Let David Brooks speak for himself.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/13/opinion/conservative-radicals.html

Russell Scanlon

David Brooks IS a Conservative—one of many who have been drummed out of the increasingly isolated, radical “Freedom Caucus” GOP party.

Mike Johnson

The David Brooks of today is not the David Brooks many came to know in the time he was editorial page editor for the WSJ. After a bitter divorce, and his soul searching for spiritual renewal, he is not the conservative many remember. But a Canadian who spent most of his life in NYC could hardly be called a typical conservative anyway. However, he is a keen observer of people and trends. But he does understand the issues facing all of us moderates, as he wrote recently: “I could never in a million years vote for Donald Trump,” Brooks wrote in a recent New York Times column. “So my question to Democrats is: Will there be a candidate I can vote for?” Alas for Brooks, he’s not sure that the Democrats will give him the moderate candidate he wants, since so many of the contenders are aping Sanders and Warren by talking about the need for universal health care and making a broader critique of the power of big business.

“Democrats have caught the catastrophizing virus that inflicts the Trumpian right,” Brooks complains. “They take a good point—that capitalism needs to be reformed to reduce inequality—and they radicalize it so one gets the impression they want to undermine capitalism altogether.”

Khal Spencer

Here is the David Brooks editorial from which Mike quotes:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/27/opinion/democratic-debate-2020.html

Its conclusion:

"Right now we’ve got two parties trying to make moderates homeless."

Jim Klukkert

Peter Wyman– David Brooks is regarded by many as a Conservative journalist. The point of my comment is to what Brooks had to say in that column. You seem ready to ready to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Just trolling, or perhaps you might find it interesting when a Democratic Socialist like myself, suggests folks read an opinion of, shall I say, a "moderate?"

Khal Spencer

Sadly, we are stuck with the two people the primary system gives us: chicken or fish, as the airline says. Except the fish has been left out for three days and the chicken infected with salmonella. The D machine gave us Hillary and the GOP activists gave us DJT.

So a conservative/republican was faced with a pretty lousy choice in 2016. A very unpopular Democrat who sounded elitist vs. a bombastic Republican who reminded me of Mussolini. As Michael Moore predicted, many Democrats stayed home or were "tired voters" and Trump won by a squeaker.

I do think we are in for a long haul of polarization and given the ability of people to live inside self-reinforcing bubbles rather than interact in the real world, Greenwald has a point. I think the hate machine is a self-licking ice cream cone.

Mike Johnson

Thank you Mr. Kuerschner, I agree with your POV. And as a conservative D, I felt exactly as Khal describes in 2016, no one to vote for so I, and many like me, did not vote. So many who hated and loathed DT, myself included, continue to think he is the problem, even if they speak words to the contrary. Milan is a good example of this, as are many commenters here, they fervently believe all will be well once DT is gone and Joe is in office. That is a fallacy. This situation in America has been decades in the making, and we saw much of it early this century as elections were challenged in Congress, politics took an awful turn toward personal destruction, and people took to the streets to protest the outcome of so many earlier elections. We should thank our lucky stars that an ignorant idiot, incompetent, egotist was elected in 2016, and not a real leader who could more carefully galvanize the right wing forces that exist in abundance in this country, including the radical ones.

Russell Scanlon

I really doubt that any serious voter thinks “all will be well” when Biden assumes office. Once the tumor is gone there is still radiation or chemo to deal with. But I think you made some really good points—except for the one about sitting out the 2016 election.

Khal Spencer

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Richard Irell

You err when you infer the motives of others. Donald Trump is a vile individual and has done great damage to our Republic and its institutions and to our international reputation.

To suggest that I believe that all our problems will vanish at noon tomorrow is absurd.

I believe that our system has failed many Americans. Many hard working, taxpaying, law abiding people have seen the American dream slipping away over the last 50 years or so. They are angry, and understandably so. Many voted for Obama twice hoping that he was an agent of change for them. While I think he was in general a decent President, he didn’t deliver for what we now call Angry White Males. So they voted for Trump. Of course he didn’t deliver either, but he made the right noises.

Hopefully, Biden will do something to help preserve and create middle class jobs and opportunities. It may be that it will be impossible for him, or anyone, to do so, but the effort must be made.

As FDR said:

Do something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn't, do something else.

Khal Spencer

Erich, FYI.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/18/us/supporters-of-donald-trump.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Why Rage Over the 2020 Election Could Last Well Past Trump

A vast majority of Americans do not approve of the riot at the Capitol. But experts warn that the widespread belief there was election fraud, while false, could have dangerous, lasting effects.

mark Coble

MLK dream is far from reality. We don't judge based on character as he wanted and urged.. We judge on how people fit into perpetual victim class. We continue to lower standards for affirmative, equality and diversity hires. We will all be equal...at the bottom. See VP Harris and her views on "equality of outcomes" and tell me it isn't communism.

Jim Klukkert

mark Coble- Per your request: "it isn't communism."

Erich Kuerschner

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Mike Johnson

Yes, many tend to ignore Dr. King's wise words and leadership by assuming he was speaking to only one race. He was speaking to humanity, and we should judge those who invoke his words by these words he spoke: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." As yourself if what you are reading when his name is invoked to some select cause is based on love or hate. It is simple.

Erich Kuerschner

[thumbup] BINGO.

Khal Spencer

Let's not forget that MLK was not a fan of identity politics. He planned the Poor People's Campaign in '68 in part to be inclusive of all those on the bottom of the economic ladder and in part to gain alliances for Black people by reaching out to all. He had a dream, i.e., a vision, that I wish more folks had nowadays.

King advocated for reparations, for example, but he did so in a context that was convincing. Too many of today's SJWs lack his skills in critical thinking or delivery.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N-m9RcZGkc

Mike Johnson

Indeed Khal, and let us not forget Dr. King was also not a fan of violence or riots, unlike what many left wing spokespersons claimed during the summer's violence: "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. 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."

Khal Spencer

Thanks for the full context, Milan. I remember the sixties. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the MLK assassination: sitting on a stool at the kitchen table doing homework. My mom had the TV on in the living room.

The Right has been anything but silenced or ignored on the Federal level nor has it had to worry about its homes being firebombed. Senate majority was GOP and Mr. Trump has been president. Mr. Trump and the Senate left us with a Conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Only Donald J. Trump's fabulous blunders, tantrums, and narcissism handed the Senate to the Democrats and then by a squeaker of a tiebreaking majority. That said, I hope we let let cooler heads govern from between the forty yard lines for a while.

Now as far as examples of the Right being voiceless, one has only to look at New Mexico but given the GOP's state leadership being a ineffective, I wonder who to blame for that issue. Given the historical state of the NM economy, our leadership's constant begging for Federal dollars rather than growing an intrinsically NM economy, and our second to last leadership in public education, one would think that the Dems would be sitting ducks.

Oh, and I hear Couy "all hat and no cattle" Griffin got a visit from the FBI...if the NM GOP wishes to become relevant at the state level, the Party Formerly of Lincoln needs to do some soul searching.

Russell Scanlon

I agree that the NM Dems need a kick in the butt. I moved here from another one party state (Texas) that suffers from a different kind of dysfunction. I mean—Ted Cruz?.. Louis Gohmert?. . .and Ken Paxton is the Atty General for God’s sakes. A functioning democracy needs two (or more) strong, intellectually solid political parties to function —parties that represent ALL people including, yes, people of color. Alas, the GOP has been descending into an organization of disgruntled angry white people for decades. Just look at the faces in those videos of MAGA rallies or at the Capitol insurrection. Sorry folks—that ain’t the way America looks anymore. And it never will again. There is not a dang thing you can do about it, except put your hope in developmentally challenged demagogues like Couy Griffin.

Furthermore your description of the current balance of power is ignoring years of blatant gerrymandering and voter suppression by the GOP. That is the only reason it is close. The GOP, in it’s current pathetic state of reactionary, racist, servitude to the fossil fuel industry, the NRA, and “ Evangelicals”, will likely never win a national election again.

And before anyone draws any conclusions about my politics, I am a center-left moderate. And there are at least 80 million voters just like me. If you want “unity” and “reconciliation” you could begin by stop calling us “Radical Socialists”.

Khal Spencer

I don't recall referring to you as radical socialist unless you meant that to someone else. The Senate will trend to the right of the national public since it is by state and many states are, frankly, more conservative. Even with the overwhelming turnout in GA, both Senate races were pretty close.

As far as gerrymandering, I recall a couple months ago after the 2nd CD went GOP again at least one prominent Democrat could be heard, muttering under his breath in this newspaper, to the effect that the D's would fix that wagon. Gerrymandering goes to he who controls the state legislatures. My parent's district use to be centered around Buffalo. Now Buffalo is bright blue and my parent's home is in a bright red district that looks like a squashed but and extends halfway across the Finger Lakes.

Yeah, a lot is broken. As one center-left guy to another, I agree with you but which end of the elephant to you want to start on?

https://theintrovertentrepreneur.com/2010/04/21/how-to-eat-an-elephant/

Russell Scanlon

There is a solution for abusive gerrymandering—draw the districts by an independent commission based on the Census. And yes—the Dems have done it also, although not with the gusto and thoroughness of the Republican Party. There is also a simple solution for removing polling locations from largely Black voting districts—just add more locations. There is a solution for making voting registration more difficult or disqualifying felons who have served their time and wish to re-enter society—make voter registration easier for every American from every demographic. There are solutions for all these problems. But that is not what the GOP wants. Just ask yourself: Which of the two parties has made voter suppression an integral part of their strategy? Where is the Stacy Abrams of the GOP? And why would a political party in a democracy actively seek to disenfranchise voters? If they had any confidence in their message wouldn’t they try to encourage citizen participation?

My “radical socialist” comment was certainly not directed at you. It was a result of listening to hours of gaseous diatribes from the 2020 campaign and charlatans in Congress trying to defend an insurrection by white supremacists.

Mike Johnson

"Given the historical state of the NM economy, our leadership's constant begging for Federal dollars rather than growing an intrinsically NM economy, and our second to last leadership in public education, one would think that the Dems would be sitting ducks." We said, and as a right center moderate/conservative Democrat in my part of NM, where we have not had anyone who represents us politically since the left wing removed Carl Trujillo with lies, corruption, and massive money, I feel my voice is being silenced and goes unheard. Look at what represents me today, from County Commissioner all the way to Senator and Guv., nothing but left wing, anti-private business, big government advocates that spend like drunken sailors and yet we are still where you describe Khal. But the amazing thing is that these kind of people in power in this area are supported by people (voters) who want to keep us in last place and extend the status quo, I don't understand it. But suffice to say, I am unheard in this state government, and perhaps the country as a whole is not insane, as we have Scranton Joe and not Bernie, and conservatives gained many seats in the House, the midterms may at least make the country a place where my voice is heard, NM is doomed.

Russell Scanlon

Ya’ burnt Mr. Johnson.

David Ford

It would certainly be preferable and a real step to healing our world where actual facts rule and not a false reality supported by false or "alternative" facts. That includes facts presented with omissions as Milan is pointing out and correctly so.

Thank you Milan.

Stefanie Beninato

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