Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Martin Luther King Day

Seems like a good time to consider what this progressive would say if he were here today. He envisioned a world free of violence, oppression, and crippling poverty, with a commitment to economic and social justice for all of humankind.

Listen to the "Beyond Vietnam" speech of 1967 (download or stream, mp3 or Real Player), in which he declared the US, "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." This speech is quite stirring, and still holds so much meaning now. At the time it was called "demagogic slander" (Time Magazine):
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. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: "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." Unquote.

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood-it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on."

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

This speech is particularly relevant in light of the current state of the world. The imperialist war in Iraq has many parallels to that in Vietnam, there are sharp divides between rich and poor (often along racial and ethnic lines), hate mongerers have too much control... Almost begs the question: What would Martin Luther King have done about Iraq? or should I say Vietraq?

Topics: Iraq, Racism, Politics

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