FOOD FOR THOUGHT AND ACTION Given this day of the Anniversary of King's assassination, this speech reiterates so well the message of Journey which we can easily apply to our concern for alternatives to the death penalty. Alternatives must involve what we are doing to the poor, to decent folk who are losing homes, jobs and children. We must ask as a nation and as people of faith: how are we angering and hurting others in our attempts to make life easier and better for ourselves?
From BEYOND VIETNAM by Martin Luther King
They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees...So far we may have killed a million of them --They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded...selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
What do the peasants think ... as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps...?
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation...We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?
Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases...
Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies...What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty...which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group...? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? ... How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence ... while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts...They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded.
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
...When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered...They remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.
I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to... 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 (the people),and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create 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. 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 (abroad). I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.
King then quotes from a Spiritual Leader:
"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the (people) and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions...It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy... If we do not stop our war against the people...immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.
The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure ...and that we have been detrimental to the life of the ...people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.
In order to atone for our sins and errors...we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.
Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways...We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.
As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role...and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection.... I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war..The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation...We will be marching for these and a dozen other (wars on other places)...unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond (this war), but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
(King Quotes John F. Kennedy) "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
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 investment.
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...are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, 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...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 is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that 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 Latin 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 hands 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 veins of people 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. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense...War is not the answer...our greatest defense ...is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice...
...We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate.
"Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."