In this time when there are threats all around us, we should remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He reminded us of our duty as people when he said: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” Dr. King certainly walked the talk and was an icon of the civil rights era as well as a tireless worker for economic justice.
For some reason, King’s strong anti-war position is less celebrated than his other positions. In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech on April 4, 1967, King spoke about U.S. aggression. A few short passages are included here:
“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”
“Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over.”
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
“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 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, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Unfortunately, these words ring true today as many of the issues that King valiantly and heroically struggled against are still with us.
For example, although we have wasted trillions on weapons and wars of choice, our politicians and military chieftains claim we are still insecure and we must spend more on the military. They are unable or unwilling to see that their approach has failed miserably, creating chaos and devastation around the world while creating more enemies.
They also don’t understand that we are insecure when our basic needs for housing, food, education, health care, child care, and a clean and sustainable environment are unmet. We can achieve this real security by focusing on being constructive nationally and internationally rather than on being destructive.
We honor the legacy of King by loving all our neighbors and by working with others to build a movement for a radical revolution of values that leads to a “person-oriented” society instead of a racist, materialistic and militaristic society.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.