Friday, January 14, 2005

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King

On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a watershed speech, in which, for the first time, he spoke out against the war in Vietnam. Many of his followers encouraged him to continue his focus on civil rights, but the more King learned, the more the immorality of our actions in Vietnam ate at his heart. I want to share with you a particularly relevant part of that speech, which could as easily have been directed at our war in present-day Iraq:

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." [applause] Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. [applause]

Exactly one year to the day after he gave this speech, King was assassinated on his hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.

When people of conscience speak out against crimes of state, they put their lives on the line. I say that not to dissuade any of us from doing so, but to remind people that those who speak out need all the love and support (financial and emotional) that each of us has to shower upon them. They put their lives at risk to make the world a better place. We should honor them in life and defend their honor when they are gone. What does it matter if they were not perfect human beings? Whom of us can claim that mantle?

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s family, from Coretta and Martin III to Dexter and the others, have never failed to continue to support the vision so eloquently described by Dr. King. You can return support in kind by paying your respects and, if you can, opening your pocketbooks, to The King Center, a center built by the family and dedicated to carrying on the work of the late Dr. King. I get no commission. I simply know that if we don't pay for what we value, others will pay to destroy what we value.

On Monday, Martin Luther King day, I plan to spend some time reviewing this man's life and the tragic circumstances surrounding his most untimely death.


Blogger hardCore said...

finally...some truth

5:06 PM  

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