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Pretending That Tyrants of the Past Were Heroes

Why Teddy Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Are Not Comparable Figures of the Progressive Movement

An Open Letter by Punkerslut to
the Center for American Progress (CAP)

By Punkerslut, Made with Graphics by robpatrick
Image: By Punkerslut, Made with Graphics by robpatrick,
Released Under the Creative Commons
"Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 2.0 Generic" License

Start Date: February 2, 2011
Finish Date: February 2, 2011

"...that if the average family in which there are children contained but two children the nation as a whole would decrease in population so rapidly that in two or three generations it would very deservedly be on the point of extinction, so that the people who had acted on this base and selfish doctrine would be giving place to others [non-White immigrants] with braver and more robust ideals. Nor would such a result be in any way regrettable; for a race that practised such doctrine--that is, a race that practised race suicide--would thereby conclusively show that it was unfit to exist, and that it had better give place to people who had not forgotten the primary laws of their being."
          --Theodore Roosevelt, 1905
          "On American Motherhood"

"We must use time creatively, in knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity."
          --Martin Luther King, 1963
          "Letter From a Birmingham Jail"


     "...progressive pioneers such as Teddy Roosevelt and Martin Luther King..." This is the first line of your "about" page, and there's something unsettling about this. Teddy Roosevelt sanctioned the kidnapping, internment, and execution of workers who tried to organize unions against their bosses. Martin Luther King waged a struggle for civil rights against the privileges of church, capital, and state. Theodore Roosevelt encouraged gangs to roam the streets, burn houses, and torture those involved in left-wing movements. Martin Luther King sacrificed his life in advocating peaceful change of society.

     Do you understand, now, the contradiction of lumping them together indiscriminately as "progressive pioneers"? I see where you got the words from: King was progressive, because he wanted redistribution of the wealth, and Roosevelt was a pioneer, because he hunted animals. In case you are unaware of the story...

"...leading officials of the Western Federation of Miners were overpowered and kidnapped by a gang of thugs and torn from their families at night by conspiracy of two degenerate governors and another notorious criminal acting for the Mine and Smelter Trust...

"Was Roosevelt also 'horrified'?... Yes!...

"He was 'horrified' because the Mine and Smelter Trust, unclean birds that feather their nests, especially in Colorado, with legislatures and United States senatorships, had not killed instead of kidnapping their victims." -- "Roosevelt and His Regime," by Eugene V. Debs, 1916

     Take this "progressive pioneer," your darling of the "progressive movement," and compare him with King's wisdom: "...right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant," and "Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever." How can you worship a US president that allowed a corporation illegal under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to kidnap union activists at their own company? And then how can you take him, and compare this monstrous, gluttonous serpent, with someone who believed in peace, humility, and non-violence? How do you take the man who called it justice when the streets ran with the blood of the common people, and compare him to someone who was willing to suffer for as long as it took to get freedom?

     Nanking, China, 1937 -- Japanese troops march into the capital of the Chinese Empire, raping women and killing families, with an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 systematically slaughtered. What does this have to do with Teddy Roosevelt, when his presidency ended in 1909? Quite a bit, actually, since before the end of his presidency, Roosevelt signed a secret document promising non-intervention and encouraging Japanese Imperialism in Southeast Asia. (The Imperial Cruise: The Secret History of Empire and War. Little, Brown, & Co., 2009. ISBN 0-316-00895-8.) Secret wars to massacre entire cities and establish the dominance of Imperialism across the globe, yes, compare this man to Martin Luther King, who led marches that were attacked by dogs and police, just to have racial equality. What a perfect, brilliant, unmistakable comparison.

     Your slogan is "Progressive Ideas for a Strong, Just, Free America," borrowing every heartless and soulless phrase available from the "Progressive Era" of Roosevelt. "Our priorities for U.S. economic policymaking are strong economic growth, building opportunities so that all Americans can share in the American Dream, and widely shared prosperity. Our progressive economic priorities underscore our commitment to government that works for the common good." 'Common good' and 'widely shared prosperity.' What exactly does that even mean?

     Take your fake progressive "Roosevelt" and compare him to a real, progressive revolutionary of the era, Henry Demarest Lloyd: "The Fathers renounced the King George who taxed them on their tea without their consent. What would they do to-day when they found that there was a King George in every important industry, taxing the people without representation or consent?" Are you anti-Capitalist? Are you willing to question where the profits come from for CEOs and others who do little for our economy? When Anarchists were falsely accused of crime, Henry Demarest Lloyd defended them, in the famous Haymarket trial of 1886. When Anarchist and Socialist unionists were kidnapped for unionizing, did Teddy Roosevelt defend them? No, he cooperated fully with the trusts, the cartels, and big business.

     Yes, I can see ever more clearly the type of "progressive" you decided to line up with Martin Luther King: one who supports business, wealthy interests, and the powers of exploitation and slavery. Where is the 'common good' and 'widely shared prosperity' in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of unionists? It seems like such a basic question when you read the first few lines of an accurate biography of Roosevelt. Why the murder? Why the killing? Why the prisons, the gangs, the thugs, the secret police, the conspiracies, the rigged trials, the shootings, the summary executions? And, why do you think this should be called "progressive"? It seems like you're hijacking the term to suit your needs, like Lenin declaring "Land to the Workers," when he never fulfilled this end.

     "We believe an open and effective government can champion the common good over narrow self-interest..." How many people are workers or depend on workers? The great vast majority, easily 95%. How many people are presidents, judges, cops, generals, capitalists, and business-owners? Probably less than 5%. So, then, why is the "common good" only explained from the point of view from the 5%? It seems, rather, like "good for the uncommon, ignoring the common."

     You list a "subcategory" of "Labor & Work" for economy, but it's actually just a list of news. How conveniently titled one of them is: "Repealing Health Care Is a Job Killer." Ah, so now you want to talk about jobs, after worshiping someone who kidnapped unionists? Now you want to protect the right to work, after your intellectual master killed those who demanded the same thing? Call me mistaken, but I think you're demanding "progressive" without explaining it, because it's something easily hijackable -- and that nobody might ever notice how little thought was actually put into this project.

     The most progressive statement on your website is that you believe in "the common good." Congratulations -- you're stumbled upon the very basic precepts of political philosophy that were uncovered by cavemen and written on cave walls 10,000 years ago. To be a political force, you need to develop that concept into an actual plan of action -- into an interpretation of the current forces of society that produce the conditions we live and work in. That part doesn't exist, because there's no direction in which you can move without indirectly or directly condemning Capitalism.

     The right to work? Well, that's taking from the right to levy profits and the right to conduct unproductive industries. The right to a fair wage? Again, that's dipping into the profits of those who do nothing but own. The right to unionize? Your obvious Achilles' heal, considering your icon's "relationship with organized labor." The right to bread that's not poisoned by chemicals, air not contaminated by pollutants, and a workplace not infested with exhaustive and debilitating work? Absolutely not! After all, European peasants had those rights in the year 1600.

     It's not so much that I think you are regressive, instead, I think that "progressive" is quite a neat trick to keep people walking in circles instead of presenting a real challenge to the established system of poverty, misery, and unemployment. This is why phrases like "common good" over "narrow interests" are thrown in: they give the implication of something resembling good-hearted Socialism, but without being a threat to Capitalism. It is wide enough so that it can appeal to the least developed thought of any individual, and, likewise, so wide that it can only fit into our current system, and nowhere else.

     True progress means a movement that vehemently makes war on those who live off of child slavery in Africa, forced sweatshop labor in Asia, and budding Fascist dictatorships in South America. It means fighting police brutality, legislative bribery, and capitalist domination, here and abroad. Until you can understand what's stopping progressive change, you'll never accomplish your aim.

     Thank you, I patiently await a response.

Andy Carloff

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