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'Beyond Vietnam'-- Martin Luther King's Message of Compassion for Today

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MLK in Washington DC

It struck me again, as it does every time I listen to Dr. King's speech 'Beyond Vietnam' (see excerpts below), which he delivered exactly one year before his assassination on April 4th 1967, that our nation is still structured so that as Dr. King observed, the US is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

Unfortunately if Dr. King were alive today, he would be justified in making that same observation and it would be even more true today than it was in the 60s.

But unlike President Obama's Nobel speech that offered only violence as the solution to the lack of Peace. Dr. King in his 'Beyond Vietnam' speech criticized "the Nietzsches" of the world who saw Love as a weak and cowardly force.

We can not continue to adopt the stance, like President Obama did in his Nobel Speech, that Love and Compassion are simply nice words to honor and make us feel good, while the real force of the future is 'just' violence and 'just' wars.

Instead a Just and Compassionate society makes 'just' wars unnecessary. Therefore as Dr. King observed in his 'Beyond Vietnam' Speech, in order to move past the American War Machine based on seemingly endless enemies, we need to restructure society into a Just and Compassionate System in which the economy and the political and social structures work for the people.

Unless, as Dr. King noted, we have real systemic change based on real Justice and Fairness, then we will be lost in an endless cycle of violence and wars that will continue on in to the future.

Dr. King warned of a future in which Compassion has been rejected and Hatred and Greed fuel the profit motive. This future is our lot today and has brought us to a place of endless 'just' wars and a welfare economy for the super rich.
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But Dr. King offered a humane vision of the future that still waits to be adopted by the United States and much of humanity. That vision is based on a systemic approach that restructures society based on humane values and human need. Quite simply, Dr. King's vision is a vision of Love in action.

Recently we have been told by President Obama and the "Nietzsches" of the world that Love must move aside so that power and military might can make us safe. But a world based on violence and the abuse of humanity by the super wealthy of the world, in the name of freedom and capitalism, will only offer us more of the same fear and the same 'just' violence and wars.

We can see the results of economic exploitation and subjugation of governments in the name of market capitalism today. Presently, we live in a world in which a billion people are starving. We live on a polluted and sick planet being poisoned and chocked by our own greed. Billions of people around the world are being exploited and abused for the profit of a very few. The United States continues to create Weapons of Mass Destruction and Deception so that the starvation, exploitation, and abuse can continue. Under this inhumane system we continue to see more of the same. We declare Love and Justice are nice sounding words but have no real place in human systems. Only might will make us right and make us safe.

Yet the world doesn't have to continue on the same path. We can make real systemic change and begin to grasp Dr. King's vision for humanity. We can demand that societal systems be organized around Compassion and Justice. If we join Dr. King in his bold vision for the future by demanding a Just society in the present, then we will not have to live in a world of 'just' wars, 'just' violence, , 'just' occupations, 'just' exploitation, and 'just' abuse, and 'just' terror.


In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 'Beyond Vietnam' (Excerpted from Democracy Now)

....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 investments.

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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, extreme 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. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. 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 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 South 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.

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I work as a school counselor and mental health counselor in Gallup New Mexico.

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