July 2021 KELLEY KIDD Although born and raised in a conservative white Southern home, I have considered myself to be an American of progressive/liberal persuasion for my entire adult life. Martin Luther King’s speeches at the 1963 March on Washington and a few years later at Riverside Church against American prosecution the War in Vietnam were turning points that launched my activities for years to come. My activities in the struggle to change American policy towards the poor would have been enough to give me the reputation of a leftist and a political radical in the late 1960s. Continued involvement in the employ of progressive educational institutions extended that work through 1982.
Somewhat earlier than Dr. King’s 1963 speech, however, several people had influenced me in ways that helped set me up for Dr. King’s influence and that of other spokespersons of the left. First was Henry David Thoreau. Reading WALDEN and his essay of civil disobedience led me to convictions about the value of choosing conscience over the shared racial and economic ideology of my forebears and contemporaries. Then in 1962 a Methodist Bible teacher surprised me by suggesting that to me that Dr. King was the modern day American equivalent of an Old Testament prophet. And of course both he and Thoreau were unique echoes of the prophets’ concerns in many ways. But making that connection for me took many more years. And many more years have been necessary for me to come to the conclusion that the people who wrote what Christians call the Old Testament not only created Judaism, but also created (or passed on from the Creator) all of the humanistic and progressive sentiments and ideals of Western civilization.
These few paragraphs are the prelude to a series of mini essays that may show the reader the bones of an extended thesis that the Jews have given us virtually all of the cultural, political and spiritual foundations for a humane, just and compassionate civilization.