Martin Luther King’s birthday, 01.15.1929:

Probably the most powerful public speech ever recorded for posterity by film cameras.

Did MLK have the crippling fear of speaking in public which many people Yours Truly knows suffer from? Not likely.

Note the sundry vicious remarks scattered among the comments to the clip. Yes, Virginia, there are some evil, truly bad — perhaps irredeemably so — people in this world: the incalculable those, ignorant and dumb and scared witless by the fact of their not-knowing the purpose for which they were born (and eliminating thereby the very possiblity of there having ever been one), whose complete lack of any merit-based self-awareness causes them to define themselves by who they are not, rather than, well, by “the contents of their character.” There are lots of them in America. There sure are lots of them in Russia. (“Russia-88,” the film about the country’s burgeoning skinhead/Nazi movement, by the young director, Pavel Bardin, which was made two years ago and has won a slew of international awards since, still is banned from being released in Russia… The 88 of the title, incidentally, refers to the numerical order of the letter H in the Latin alphabet, HH being the abbreviation of, you guessed it, Heil Hitler.) There are lots of people like that in Lithuania, and probably even in Kenya… well, probably not in Kenya, per se, as far as the neo-Nazi and white-power and other such bottom-of-the-barrel movements go, though still, there’re lots of evil, angry, ignorant, confused and cangerously violent people there too. But at least — turning the conversation back to the land of MLK — as the last presidential elections in the US have demonstrated, the majority of Americans no longer can be counted on, by the reflexive racists in their midst, to be even situationally (let alone on any consistent basis) sympathic to the latters’ cause. Most people in the world (if YT may be indulged in waxing pop-philophical for a second) have the capacity, depending on  the specific circumstances of their lives and the way they perceive themselves vis a vis other people at any given moment, both for being better and worse than themselves; they slide back and forth along that axis, as it were. But some are stuck for good in one spot — almost invariably, in the negative territory (although again, it’d be hard to suspect the likes of Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi of having ever done too much sliding into the dark areas of their souls)… But ok. Enough of this pontification. Where were we?..

YT, a few months short of turning 13 at the time, remembers hearing the news of MLK’s assassination, while listening (or trying to, at any rate, despite the local signal-jamming installations’ best efforts) to the news on the Voice of America’s Russian Service, on his father’s VEF-Spidola portable transistor radio, laid up in bed in his and his younger brother’s room in their family’s three-room, 37-square-meter co-operative apartment in one of the fastest-growing micro-districts in the vast Khrushcheville (khrushchoby Khrushche-slums — derived from the word trushchoby: slums) area of Upper Kupchino, on the southwestern outskirts of Leningrad. Even though the bulk of YT’s school years had been spent in his strenuous efforts to avoid having to go to school (and resorting in that unremitting low-grade trench warfare with his mother’s healthy scepticism to a wide array of uncomplicated subterfuges, such as discreetly immersing the old family thermometer into a cup  of tepid tea or eating a small chunk of tar soap, so as to induce a minor bout of vomiting and black-foaming at the mouth; etc.), that day he actually was sick with a flu, because… well, because he remembers being sick, to start with (which, in itself, would be enough of a proof) — but also, logically speaking, because, despite being alone in the apartment (his parents were at work, and his brother at school: and had someone been home, by the by, he would not have been able to remove the VEF-Spidola from the nightstand in his parents’ bedroom, much less so dare listening to the enemy propaganda on it: this was completely verboten to him — and why the German word, pray tell?.. Ah, who knows, and who cares — a Soviet Young Pioneer, by his father, who himself was listening to it, of course, or tried to, through the wild, beastly ululations of the local jamming installations, the sounds of deadly Russian blizzard, every single night, before falling asleep, in the pitch-dark of midnight hour, naive in his supposition that YT couldn’t hear, breaking at irregular intervals through all that muffled infernal howling, the hissing, poisonously serpentine, oddly accented, faraway voices of the VOA and the BBC and Die Deutsche Welle’s news anchors and political commentators), he was lounging in bed in his room, instead of wandering over into the living room and watching one of the immensely popular daytime TV serials’ reruns on the old Record TV there (black-and-white, of course; there were no color TV-sets in the Soviet Union at the time), such as the Hungarian “Captain Tenkes” or (especially) the Polish “Four Tankists and a Dog”.

That was the only piece of information he’d been able to glean from the VOA-Russian Services programming that afternoon: MLK’s assassination, in the American city of Memphis (sounded Egyptian to YT, frankly, but what did he know). The rest of the enemy insinuations and distortions and outright lies instantly were swallowed by the… oh well, see above. YT had experienced no strong emotions, felt no sorrow or anger, upon hearing the news: Martin Luther King, a heroic fighter for the rights of the oppressed Negro population of America as he certainly had been (of course, everyone knew his name back in the Soviet Union; the newspapers wrote about him constantly, and he was talked about all the time on the radio and the TV), had nevertheless nothing at all to do with his own life, or the lives of anyone he knew and cared about. America was situated on another planet from his own. He was in no danger of ever finding hismself there. He sure as hell felt happy he had not been born there, but…

Later that evening, this was the news item number one on the Soviet main information program, “Time,” needless to say. A major propaganda campaign had been unleashed. 

Time to wrap up this post.


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