NEW HAMPSHIRE WAS THE LAST STATE TO RECOGNIZE MLK DAY. WHY DO WE SUCK SO HARD?
- AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, before we get to the end of this conversation, about something you both were very involved with. New Hampshire was one of the last states to have Martin Luther King Day.
- ARNIE ALPERT: The last state.
- AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Arizona voters approved Martin Luther King Day in 1992 after a tourist boycott. But in 1999, New Hampshire changed the name of Civil Rights Day to Martin Luther King Day. And as we move into Martin Luther King Day weekend and the honoring of Martin Luther King, in 1999, to be clear, New Hampshire became the last state to adopt MLK Day as a paid state holiday, replacing its optional Civil Rights Day. You both were involved in this longtime struggle. Explain. Arnie Arnesen, you were what? In the legislature? And—
- ARNIE ARNESEN: I was in the legislature. It was 1985. I was a freshman legislator. It was my first floor fight, Amy, the first thing I did. I was this young woman. I had just given birth to a baby. You can actually see a film of me handing my four-month-old to the woman sitting next to me, as I am frightened and going down to the floor to fight for Martin Luther King Day. You need to know how many votes out of the 400 legislators we got. This is 1985. We got 60 votes for Martin Luther King Day, out of 400. Can you believe it? It was unbelievable. And I fought it every single year I was in. And it was—it pained me to see how long it took for us to actually embrace it.
- AMY GOODMAN: And yet, you have Ron Paul right now, I mean, fiercely antiwar, expressing a lot of sentiment of so many people around the country, but also this issue of the Ron Paul Political Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report, the newsletters he put out that he claims were robo-signed, but talked about MLK Day as "Hate Whitey Day," among other things. Arnie Alpert, can you talk about this?
- ARNIE ALPERT: Well, I think you also want to look at Ron Paul, while he might have an antiwar message, he also wants to eviscerate the social safety net. So, and you have to look at what was Dr. King doing in 1968 at the time that he was killed? He was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign, and he was stepping up for the rights of black workers, poor workers in Memphis to be able to have a union. And I look at Mitt Romney talking about saving the soul of America and recall that the motto of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was "to redeem the soul of America." So we—what we have to look forward to for Martin Luther King Day is to reconnect ourselves with values that tie together a message of peace, a message of social justice, a message of standing up forever against racism, and linking that together through social movements that take courageous, nonviolent action.
- AMY GOODMAN: Arnie Alpert and Arnie Arnesen, I want to thank you very much for being with us, as well as Dale Kuehne. That does it for our show. We head on to cover what’s happening in South Carolina and also to cover Martin Luther King weekend.
WHY ARE THE ANIMALS ON THE FLOATS WEARING FEATHER HEADDRESSES?
Why the US is not a Christian nation:
This morning, a girl in my sorority claimed that the US was “founded on Christian values” and that’s why anti-choicers (she called them pro-life, of course) think they have the right to force their religion into out laws and uteri. I told her she was wrong, and she tried to argue with me. I prepared to prove her wrong: “I am an American Government major. You are an Asian Studies major. I KNOW what the Constitution says, I’ve read it so many times I’ve lost count” So then I found this article from July 4, 2011, which I will be sending her way - quoted at length below.
Beyond that, the first House of Representatives, while debating the First Amendment, specifically rejected a Senate proposal calling for the establishment of Christianity as an official religion. As Lambert concludes, “There would be no Church of the United States. Nor would America represent itself as a Christian Republic.”
The actions of the first presidents, founders of the first rank, confirmed this “original intent:”
— In 1790, President George Washington wrote to America’s first synagogue, in Rhode Island, that “all possess alike liberty of conscience” and that “toleration” was an “inherent national gift,” not the government’s to dole out or take away
— In 1797, with President John Adams in office, the Senate unanimously approved one of America’s earliest foreign treaties, which emphatically stated (Article 11): “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen (Muslims) …”
— In 1802, Jefferson added his famous “wall of separation,” implicit in the Constitution until he so described it (and cited in several Supreme Court decisions since).
These are, to borrow an admittedly loaded phrase, “inconvenient truths” to those who proclaim that America is a “Christian Nation.”
The Constitution and the views of these Founding Fathers trump all arguments about references to God in presidential speeches (permitted under the First Amendment), on money (not introduced until the Civil War), the Pledge of Allegiance (“under God” added in 1954) and in the national motto “In God We Trust” (adopted by law in 1956).
You all know how I feel about “In God We Trust” on money (it should more truthfully read “In this piece of paper we trust”), and “Under God” in the Pledge (though I don’t say it anyway). In short: THIS IS NOT, NOR HAS IT EVER BEEN, A CHRISTIAN NATION. Kthanksbye.
[And on a side note, what is it with people who have NEVER read the Constitution in full claiming that they know exactly what’s in it and what the intent was?]