Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Letter from Birmingham Jail, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Birmingham City Jail.
April 16, 1963

Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter
Bishop Joseph A. Durick
Rabbi Milton L. Grafman
Bishop Nolan B. Harmon
The Rev. George H. Murray
The Rev. Edward V. Ramage
The Rev. Earl Stallings

My dear Fellow Clergymen,

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise 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, my secretaries would 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 you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, 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" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. 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. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants-for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.

As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister 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 which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"-then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the 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.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies-a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime-the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle-have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.

Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful-in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent-and often even vocal-sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently" in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Blogger's note: I have been unable to find the "original" document, which was written in longhand by MLK. It is strange that there is no easily-findable scanned version of it online, but such is life. The "text" versions online vary in significant ways. The above main text was taken from https://letterfromjail.com/, swapping out the top-heading with what appears in the scanned PDF of a typewriter-transcription at https://library.samford.edu/special/treasures/2013/graphics/SC4630wm.pdf. There is also an audio recording of MLK himself reading the letter, available at: http://okra.stanford.edu/media/audio/630416001.mp3

.NET 6 Minimal APIs

ASP.NET Core 6.0 now has "minimal APIs". 

Examples: https://github.com/DamianEdwards/MinimalApiPlayground

Monday, July 19, 2021

Why Passwords Should Be Only Words

I never liked miXED cAsE passwords, and lately I don't like all the e×tr@ characters in passwords. I finally put my finger on why -- they are both simply less efficient sources of entropy.

Here are some examples of passwords, what sources they come from, and how much entropy I would assign to each of them.

  1. ~V{.^e2AQ= - randomly generated from 96 characters, basically what shows on your keyboard. Entropy is 6.58 bits per character, so this 10 character value would have about 66 bits of entropy.
  2. WDLHYLTXKZ - from 26 letters. Entropy is 4.7 bits per letter, so this 10 character value would have 47 bits of entropy.
  3. 3756206184 - from numerals. Entropy is 3.32 bits per numeral, so this 10 digit value would have 33 bits of entropy.
  4. correct horse battery staple - "randomly selected" (not really) from common words. I'll take Randall Munroe's word on this (pretty sure he did more research than me), and assign 11 bits of entropy per word, so this has 44 bits of entropy. (this means Munroe's "dictionary" had about 2000 words in it)

To align this more fairly, here are passwords with a similar amount of entropy:

  1. $.0h>_6@)]p)za% - 15 characters
  3. 362276725051989790476913717218 - 30 digits
  4. park appear internal tale glorious nation vary anxiety access - 9 words
    • For this I used a list of over 2000 common words, from 2 to 12 characters each, and selected 9 at random.

Which of these seems most efficient?

Let us first address the character length / memory size, which is a red herring. The number of bytes should not be considered a factor. Computers are generally not storing the actual password anyway, just a cryptographically-secure hash value of it, which is fixed size. In the edge-cases where the full text is stored, there is no trouble for computers to store 1000 characters instead of 10.

Another red herring is false-entropy. Most exemplified in L33t-speak, humans get a false sense of entropy by using a very limited alphabet, while mixing a few extra characters into them. So intead of "password", you use "p@ssw0rd". This gives an intuitive feeling that it has the entropy of a full 96-character random word (53 bits of entropy), but it is actually a simple dictionary word (17 bits of entropy) with a small permutation (+4 bits).

So what is the more natural means of quantifying efficiency? I only know of two:

  1. How hard is it to memorize, per amount of entropy?
  2. How long does it take you to input into a computer?

For effort to memorize, I believe full words takes the prize hands-down. For effort to input into a computer, I think it is more complicated. Today, using a smart-phone, with a "password" field that hides what I am typing, I would probably rather input the 21 letters than the 9 words. But on a keyboard, or using voice-recognition input, or even just a text field on my phone that lets me use a swipe-keyboard and see what I'm typing, I would much prefer the 9 words.

This is a gut feeling, I haven't run any performance tests. I hope someone does a real research project on this. But I do have one simple argument, against mixed-case and non-numeric characters -- they require multiple keystrokes. Every time you change from uppercase to lowercase or vice versa, you have to move at least one other finger. If you're moving that finger, would you rather add 1 bit of entropy to that character by extending the alphabet of possible characters, or 4 bits by simply adding a letter? I vote for the latter.

One final consideration, which is an edge case, but some old ("legacy") computers put very strict limits on the length of your password. This is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, but in systems where your password can only be 8/12/16 characters, then using an actually random set of characters, from the widest selection set possible, is a significant advantage.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Software Engineering Explained

CAUTION CAUTION CAUTION CAUTION --> How the customer explained it: tree swing, but with 3 vertical seats where it looks more like a rope ladder. How the customerexplained it How the project lead understood it: tree swing, but with the ropes tied to opposite branches so the seat just rests against the trunk. How the project leadunderstood it How the analyst designed it: tree with a large gap where a section of the trunk is missing, with a swing in the trunk gap, and propped up with support braces. How the analystdesigned it How the programmer wrote it: tree with a swing lying on ground, the rope tied around trunk instead of branches. How the programmerwrote it What the beta tester received: empty noose hanging from a branch, where the swing should be. What the beta testerreceived How the new team applied patches: tree swing in place, but blocked off with caution tape; the tree is bandaged with duct tape, supported by props, and there is a useless extra swing lying on the ground. How the new teamapplied patches How it was documented: empty landscape, with just shadows of where the tree and swing would be overhead. How it wasdocumented When it was completed: a simple swing suspended by ropes, but the ground is snow-covered with a snowman, the tree bare of leaves. When it wascompleted What operations installed: one rope hanging from a branch, the swing seat dragging on the ground. What operationsinstalled The disaster recovery plan: a shriveled tree bent-over under the weight of the swing, which is touching the ground. The disasterrecovery plan How it performs under load: a swing with the seat broken in two, presumably from the butterfly which is hovering above it. How it performsunder load How the customer was billed: a wooden roller coaster. How the customerwas billed What Marketing advertised: a bright swing, with a luxurious red pillow on the seat; the tree is a black silhouette against a solid green background. What Marketingadvertised How it was supported: a tree stump. How it was supported What the customer really needed: a tire-swing hung from a branch. What the customerreally needed

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity vs Breath of the Wild

I just finished the latest Zelda game, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. 100% completion, >77 hours. And I need to tell somebody about it, even if it's just myself.

Game Comparison

How does Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (AOC) compare to the previous game in the series, Breath of the Wild (BOTW)? Let's look at my top three features that made BOTW so amazing, and see how AOC compares. (spoiler alert: there is no comparison)

Breath of the Wild Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Huge open world! By far the largest designed game world at time of release - estimated at about 84 sq km (over 20,000 acres). And it was really open - Link could walk, run, or ride his horse anywhere in the overland world, without even so much as a loading screen. (the puzzle/dungeons did have loading screens, but still) Medium, fractured world... AOC is broken up into numerous missions, varying from sortof large to extremely tiny. You are bounded by invisible walls at every turn. That huge world is still there right? You can see the whole map! Maybe in some philosophical way, but if you can't see or interact with 99% of it, then it's not really there.
Open-ended gameplay! Link can follow the assigned missions to complete the game, or completely ignore them. While playing, several times I found myself setting my own goals that were not designed by the game creators. You can complete most tasks in any order; including going straight to the final boss (after the obligatory tutorial area). "Open-ended?" Like a hamster cage maybe, or possibly like subway tunnels. You can choose which (metaphorical) tunnels to go down, and new tunnels open up regularly to see other areas, but there is no real "freedom", or even the pretense of it. The only way you interact in the game is through predefined missions, which have predefined goals. If you enter a mission and exit without completing the goals, nothing you did counts - anything you picked up just disappears, including EXP.
Amazing physics engine! On the most primitive end, you will struggle to climb steep mountains, and have fun stacking boxes and barrels, but that's only the beginning. To get an idea of what I mean, search for "breath of the wild physics" and watch a few short videos. Physics, what's that? Link ignores all terrain, including moving through water like it was land. Invisible walls block you from attempting to cross any steep surface (and many not-so-steep ones). There are a few basic physics elements, like exploding barrels propelling characters backwards, but it is done at the same level as video games from the 90's. And while your cadre of 18 characters have some variances in their physical abilities, such as running speed, weapon reach, etc, these seem to have no effect on physics -- your largest characters can overlap monsters in space, and they don't fling enemies any farther than the smallest characters.

Those are only the top differences; but they go all the way from the heart of the game to almost every detail. While AOC looks like BOTW, and even has a well-connected storyline, the games themselves are completely dissimilar in almost every way.

Breath of the Wild Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Full of puzzles, both explicit and implicit. The only "puzzles" are how to optimize leveling up your characters and their arsenals of weapons.
Full of weird, interesting things to look at and find. The only hidden items are chests and Korok seeds -- which later in the game you are given tools to find, should you wish to get 100%. (which of course I did)
Weapons are extremely constrained resources; the management of your collection of fragile weapons is like a perpetual mini-game.
(I actually have just two complaints about BOTW, and the fragility of all equipment is one of them - Link must be swinging, stabbing, and shield-smashing like his life depends on it, every single time. Because whether you are smacking a floppy bat or stabbing solid stone, they break like crazy either way, and you can't ever repair them.)
All weapons are indestructible, arrows are infinite, and you can dramatically upgrade any weapon, both with levels and seals (magical enchantments).
(I realize that breaking all your stuff is lame, but this is a wee bit of an over-correction)
Makes your variety of weapons extremely significant. While the durability goes down the same regardless of what you hit, the amount of damage you do depends on what weapon you choose, and how you use it. Hammers break rocks much better, axes cut down trees better, and "sneak attacks" do extra damage. All weapons do equal damage. So find the weapon/character that does the most damage, level up that weapon, learn the combinations, and repeat for the whole game. (With one exception - the Master Sword is improved against Malice/Hollows.)
Link's "level" is your skill level. While Link does get increases to hearts and stamina, this matters much less to his survival than does the player's ability to dodge and parry, and more importantly to be strategic about approaching each situation. Like Final Fantasy, "levels" are the trump-card. While player skill can boost your damage and reduce your injuries, dodging is made extremely easy, and simply repeating simple attack patterns can destroy hundreds of enemies per minute. Once you reach level 100, there are only a handful of missions which require any real skill or thought to overcome.
Makes real use of both recipes and clothing to affect the game. You can only have one food effect active at a time, and you carefully manage your food and clothing to survive and get significant benefits. Has a version of recipes, but they are all managed for you, and you can easily ignore them if you don't feel like selecting them; their effects are mostly mediocre, and often you only gain access to resources after you have demonstrated that you no longer need them. And while Link has an extensive wardrobe, they are merely costumes, which have no effect whatsoever in the game.
Link starts off with nothing; you will scrape to gain every item and ability, both in-game and in your own skills as a player. Link starts you out as a larger-than-life hero out of the gate, with slightly more abilities that Link has at the end of BOTW. Later in the game, the only phrase that describes Link's abilities is "power overwhelming" (said in the voice of the Protoss - which incidentally sounds a lot like Monk Maz Koshia).

What's AOC Got That BOTW Don't?

So that's what "missing" from Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity; but what does it have, that Breath of the Wild doesn't? That is, aside from being a (super)power-fantasy.
  1. The combat system in AOC is much more evolved/involved. In short, there are "combos" which remind me of Street Fighter, only vastly much easier to learn and perform. And you will practice combat endlessly, so you get pretty good at it.
  2. The single biggest new feature is multiple playable characters. The final count is 18, but they are distributed pretty evenly through the game, so you aren't likely to spend much time playing most of them. If you discount the two which you won't get until after you defeat Calamity Ganon, and the 6 that I really didn't enjoy playing at all, that's still 8 to choose from for a lot of the game, which is cool. Well... maybe, sometimes. I was burned on this by my own optimization, because if you want to level up as fast as possible (which the game really incentivizes), then you end up picking one main character (I choose Link if course), and using that one character whenever possible. Most missions allow/require selecting multiple characters, and you can direct them each around the map, but most of the time I just played Link and ignored the other characters. Although, AOC does force you to play specific characters at times. Each character has one or two "training" missions which that character must play solo, and some require two specific characters, or four. And there are a few time-constrained missions where you really do need to split up to beat the clock, forcing you to actually make use of at least two or three selected characters in combat. And even some missions where every character is locked into an area with their own monster to defeat. But most of the time you choose at least one character, so I played as Link probably 80% of the time. And any of your team who isn't played by you is really lame; they both take and receive minimal damage, and sometimes don't follow instructions. Unless, you are playing in...
  3. Multiplayer! You can play two-player co-op (split-screen). I did not actually do this, but I can see it being an important feature for some players. (I suspect that Nintendo decided to support multi-player first, and back-filled to get all the features of multiple characters that you can direct around the map.)

Know Before You Go (to Hyrule)

If you choose to play through Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, here is everything that I wish I had known before I had played for many hours. (Of course there's a lot more to learn, but you will learn all that in the course of normal gameplay.)

Most of this won't make sense, much less stick in your brain, until you have played the game, so come back and read this after you have played one or two missions.

  • From every menu screen, tap the R or L bumpers several times to cycle through the variety of menus. They aren't required, but they are super helpful, especially for browsing through objectives and missions.
  • You should always register as many items to the Sheikah Sensor as possible. For some seals, this will increase how many of them you will get. It adds visual noise to the map, but if you use the aforementioned menus, this shouldn't be a problem.
  • You should also register any Quests you are pursuing to the Sensor. This makes them visible even when zoomed-out on the map. And it also functions as a warning-light on a "Sell" screen, marking any items that you need more of to complete a flagged Quest. (but not if you already have enough, so be careful what you sell)
  • If you ever want to find all the Korok seeds, for Hyrule's sake hold on to the "Forest Dweller's Sword" when you get it (during "Freeing Korok Forest"). It doesn't have great stats so of course I just fused it, and only later learned that this is the only decent weapon that will (eventually) get "Detects Nearby Koroks". I did finally got another one by chance, probably 25 hours of gameplay later.
  • On any "Sell" screen, a yellow star icon means a "High-Resell" item. This will appear on individual weapons when selling to the Blacksmith. It can also appear in trading posts when on the Sell screen, where the yellow star appears in the category area, not on the individual items shown. Each trading post only "wants" a couple of categories of items, and at any given time it may not "want" any of them.
  • There are moderately good websites for most questions about the game, locations of Koroks, etc, but no "one best site". But there is one best google sheet! 😃

Lastly, you should learn at least the basics of weapon fusing ASAP; it is quite involved.
  • Weapons are leveled-up only by fusing, which sacrifices one weapon to make another stronger.
  • Each weapon has a hidden "quality", which affects how much damage it does. You can easily read that damage number, but you won't know if there is a better possible number without some googling. (and there always is a better possible number, because the absolute best values only come from Octo-polishing)
  • Weapons are also improved with Seals:
    • Every weapon can have up to four seals which you can affect.
    • Seals will only be applied in fusing when there is an open slot for a seal. The first four slots are opened at weapon levels 1, 5, 10, and 15.
    • Every weapon has two bonus seals, which apply automatically at level 25 and level 30. These two seals are totally pre-determined by the weapon type.
    • Each effect has a unique icon, but they are logically grouped by the outer shape of the seal:
      • Circle for resources and EXP
      • Square for aggressive-play
      • Hexagon for defensive
      • Star for specialized damage
    • When two or more seals on a weapon have the same shape, the effect of all of them is increased.
    • For each normal icon there is the normal version, or improved versions with one or two tiny blue plus-signs in the lower-right corner of the icon.
    • There are also seals with Golden outlines, which are extremely rare, and they have only one version of them.
      • note: This does not mean they are the best seals -- depending how you play, most of these will be less useful than seals you already have on your weapons.
    • There are static increases to a weapon's damage based on having 4-of-a-kind of seals, and 2-of-a-kind seals. So for maximum damage you need 4 of one shape and 2 of another shape. To do this without wasting many resources, you need to know what that weapon's hidden seals will be (revealed only at level 25 and level 30).
    • Bonuses that have a % will stack. So if a seal does not have a % on it, do not apply more than one of it to a single weapon.
  • Use weapons with the "Fusion Material EXP" seal as an in-between step to level up good weapons; that is, fuse other weapons to them first, and then fuse them to an actually good weapon.
    • Early on, you should probably just use this weapon for a while, then when you find an actually good weapon fuse it into that one for a fast level-boost.
  • Never apply a really good seal to a weapon that you aren't planning to keep forever. When you fuse a weapon onto another one, only the first seal is available to be transferred, so to transfer the 2nd/3rd/4th seal, you would have to remove the preceding seals from it first.
  • You will never level up all your weapons to the "best" optimal version. Between all my characters, I have about 6 weapons which are close to what I was optimizing for, and none of them is quite perfect. I expect that I could get all 18 characters with at least one perfect weapon by playing blood-moon missions for another 20-50 hours, but I really have no interest in doing that.
  • The Blacksmith will gain several abilities through completing specific missions in the game. These are:
    • Raise Weapon-Level Limit: this ain't free, but it's well worth it. You will unlock the ability to raise to level 25 and level 30 with two separate Quests
    • Remove Seals: and this ain't cheap! There are two separate Quests, one to let you remove one seal, and the other to let you remove all four seals (for the price of two).
    • Octo-Polish: Will convert a rusty weapon to a good weapon. There is a separate Quest for improving the results of polishing.

Good luck, and happy Korok hunting!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

PowerShell makes it easier

Change the "Date Created" and "Date Modified" of a file in Windows:

  • (Get-Item "C:\file1.txt").CreationTime=("3 August 2019 17:00:00")
  • (Get-Item "C:\file1.txt").LastWriteTime=("3 August 2019 17:10:00")

Much easier than changing your system clock!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

COVID-19 re-evaluated

I looked at the data again, here is what I see.

  1. It now seems clear that the COVID-19 deaths match the cases almost exactly, just with a two week delay.
  2. The US has dropped case mortality from 10% at the end of March to 2% at the end of June, which seems to have leveled off at 1.5%, and does not seem likely to move any time soon.
  3. Our cases have exploded -- there was a big dip in September, but growing sharply from around October 5th and continuing today.


  1. Since mortality leveled off around July 1st, we can forecast expected deaths for at least the next two weeks quite simply -- here is a graph overlaying average deaths with 1.5% of cases from 14 days earlier.

    So you can see, it is pretty certain that we will be breaking 2,000 deaths per day in two weeks. And looking at the curve, it seems almost certain that we will be at 3,000 deaths per day a few weeks after that, where we can *hope* maybe we will level off and start dropping back down. My best guess is that we will have at least 350,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States by the end of 2020.
  2. It could be *much* worse. That was my "optimistic" prediction of what will happen, if we all respond to the spread in a meaningful way, and ASAP.  But what if our response is not effective, and COVID-19 infections match the patterns of influenza? Because we do know a lot about that, and it looks real bad. With the flu, the infections really start up around October, keeps going up through year-end, peaks around the end of January, and taper off around April. I really hope this is not what happens with COVID, because that means this has barely started. If true, we can expect at least 2,000,000 deaths by March. And that is aside from the "pandemic" problem; because with those numbers, our medical facilities will not be able to keep up, and the mortality rate will start going back up.

☹️ Last March, when I first looked into the COVID-19 numbers, I thought there was a good chance this disease could kill from 6 million to 9 million in the US. I thought it would spread much faster, so I was way far off there. Now I just hope the final tally will be just as far off; but right now it seems too close to tell if we might actually reach that number.

Stay strong, stay healthy.

Data from ourworldindata.org:

Influenza graphs: