Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his most important speech exactly fifty years ago.

In my last post I pointed toward the dramatic end of Dr. King's life, which took place 49 years ago today. Exactly one year earlier, on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in Manhattan, he gave what very well may be the best and most important speech in his brilliant career.

The speech is commonly referred to as "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence." In 1967 it was a brave move to come out so strongly against the war, advocating (among other things) conscientious objection among draft-age men, an end to U.S. bombing and a unilateral cease-fire, but the speech was so much more. It would be just as radical, and just as timely, if delivered today, 50 years later, when we have a billionaire president looking to increase a bloated military by another 54 billion dollars while cutting programs for the poor and middle class to exacerbate atrocious economic inequality.

Please read Martin Luther King's whole text, but here's a taste from that historic speech...
... 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 than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
    A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. 
   A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. 
   America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. ...

Please read the whole thing here at Stanford's King Encyclopedia website.
Here's a story about the speech that was on NPR's All Things Considered tonight.
Here's The New York Times' "When Martin Luther King Came Out Against Vietnam."

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