To My Unburdened Contemporaries (a first letter initiated during the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and largely formed through an appropriation of the Letter From Birmingham Jail written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 16, 1963)

Folks:
While confined here, I’ve been told some of you call my presently unofficiated and unpaid activities “unwise, destructive and untimely.”  Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, I’d have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that most of you have initially come from a place of genuine interest and that your criticisms would have perhaps at one time been sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here in these isolating circumstances, since you have been influenced by the view arguing against “outsiders coming in” to the rarefied spheres of professional cultural production. I am here because injustice is here.  I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by and not be concerned about what happens elsewhere, to those on the outside. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, of power, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” and “amateur” idea.
You deplore my efforts. But your statements, I am sorry to say, fail to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought them about. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes (including a monetary economy).
Our hopes have so often been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment has settled upon us. We’ve had no alternative except to prepare our own actions, whereby we present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the world.  We’ve repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are we able to accept blows without retaliating — to endure erasure from official archives?”
You may well ask: “Why direct action and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?”  You are quite right in calling for negotiation. These actions seek to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that those who constantly refused to negotiate are inevitably forced to confront the issue. The conflict is dramatized to the extent that it can no longer be ignored, no matter how well one has cultivated an ability to ignore things. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth.  We must see the need to create the kind of tension in society that will help everyone rise from the dark depths of self-interested competition to the majestic heights of understanding and familial empathy.
Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of exclusion to say, “Wait.” But when you have repeatedly witnessed ruthless sociopaths obtain all the viable professional opportunities necessary for what constitutes success within the ongoing neoliberal present; when you have seen hate-filled self-preservationists kick and even kill any criticism of the way things actually function; when you see the vast majority of your contemporaries smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of a supposedly affluent, pluralistic society; and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in their mental skies…
There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and people are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.  You express a great deal of anxiety over our unwillingness to follow the rules. This is certainly a legitimate concern, but one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.  All segregation statutes are unjust because they distort the soul and damage the personality. They give the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what is happening to several, ongoing generations of postwar children, people who’ve always been aware of their inherent intellectualism but have never been allowed an acknowledged function as intellectuals within existing society.  If one recognizes this vital urge engulfing those unwilling to accept the way things are, one should readily understand why alternatives are taking place, with or without your approval or engaged, open attention.
If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me.  Let us all hope that the dark clouds of the collectively untenable present will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities.
Yours for the cause of Peace, Liberty and Fraternity,
jeremy