Monday, January 15, 2007

In honor of Dr. King.....

There's a lot of good stuff on the web today that we can talk about. Importantly though, we do need to take the time to seriously observe that this is the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Day. To those of us coming of age in the '60s, Dr King was a towering figure in our lives. He seemed to be everywhere at all times and he held up a mirror to us through which we could examine ourselves, and, in a broader sense, our society.

I was, as most of you know, raised in the South where Dr. King was not ....shall we say....respected? The Yaaa-hooooos! (rednecks in other areas) hated three people vehemently: John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Earl Warren. (I can still close my eyes and see the "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards in my home town.) And when our town saw the "outside agitators" came to town, the locals decided to prevent an incident by virtually ignoring them; that included the newspaper, radio and TV outlets who literally conspired to keep them out of public site. Some of the ....ummmmm....."less enlightened" (probably FkA, or Future Klansmen of America)***guys at the high school walked the hallways chanting "Ignore the Niggers with Vig-ha (vigor)" Thus insulting Kennedy and the civil rights movement in a one chant. Sort of a "two-fer".

(***No, there really isn't such an organization, I'm taking extensive literary license)

Most of the younger generations have heard the famous "I have a dream" speech in Washington D.C.. It is perhaps his most famous work. I've given a link to a video of it below. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day. See the video of the "I have a dream" speech here

But there was another speech that was important then and perhaps forgotten until now. We tend to forget that Dr. King saw the war in Viet Nam as a civil rights issue on a scale much, much grander than the movement in the United States. He gave a speech, entitled "Beyond Viet Nam" and it is as relevant today as it was back then. Here are two "snippets" to show you what I mean.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

That bears repeating: "The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours."

Is that true of the Iraq war?

Certainly the "great initiative" was/is ours. So does it follow that it is also our initiative to stop it? The alternative, of course is to get caught up in the cycle of Jacobian Tragedy I wrote about last week and seek revenge for revenge, blood for blood until we destroy not just our enemies, but ourselves.

Maybe that's the lesson of Dr. King. Maybe what he wanted us to know all along that we had to have the courage and wisdom to reject the path of violence.

He did.

It cost him his life, but he personally rejected violence.

on edit: I found a link..(video link) that the "Beyond Viet Nam" speech here.

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