Beyond Vietnam

Today, on the 47th anniversary of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King’s famous speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, there are many who want to wrap themselves in the aura of a struggle for justice that has been blessed by history.

Since we have short memories and the truth is not always comfortable, it’s important to remember that Doctor King was not murdered for having a dream. He confronted and provoked the powerful and goaded the consciences of many who would gladly have stopped at the gradual advance of racial justice in our own country, and rested on that. Doctor King was fiercely criticized for his stand against the Vietnam War and the politics behind that war.

Before we tie another yellow ribbon, and have another picnic to honor our troops, we should read his speech, ‘Beyond Vietnam–A Time to Break Silence’. Here is Doctor King on ‘the troops’…

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.

Compare and contrast. How do we restore America’s honor? By seeking some standard of political and religious ‘purity’ that makes enemies of our fellow Americans and chases around the world to defeat an enemy that has no uniforms or borders? An enemy that is not a nation, but an idea?

Or do we restore honor by ending the hopeless foreign wars that entangle us? By restraining our corporations from playing robber-baron here and abroad? By working for justice so that our troops will come home to a country that values its citizens? By restoring our safety net so that there will be no more homeless veterans?

Doctor King said in a speech that he had a dream, but in his life’s work he was wide awake, too awake for comfort and hated by many. He was considered a threat to the white race, and after many attempts on his life a white man succeeded in taking him away.

Now others claim to speak for him, but his words remain. Compare and contrast.

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