We have a desperate need in today's world, of King's words back then. How can we build a successful peace movement for Iraq today, while media glorifies even Vietnam veterans as heroes. Everyday we hear congressmen, senators, and candidates for office at the local or national level proudly mention, unsolicited, their being a Vietnam War veteran - having served our country by fighting in the French colonies of Indochina to protect our freedoms - seemingly oblivious to our having lost the war - a war now recognized as a mistake - a mistake that led to the deaths of three million in Vietnam alone, not counting another million that our bombs killed in Laos and Cambodia.
Before we can deal with the press and TV networks' indiscriminate praise of military action and praise of those involved in bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq in spite of the fact that most Americans think it is wrong, we would seem to need to expose the earlier gross absurdity of glorifying service in Vietnam, for it now just automatically follows that todays veterans must also be heroes. How can we embarrass both media and politicians for feeding us this pap? We can expose it by constantly reminding everyone out loud of King's undeniable words of truth: quote:
"So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. 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 by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers. What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? ... 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's only non-communist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call "fortified hamlets." The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. ... All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. 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. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong*-inflicted injury. [*People's Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam] Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones? " MLKjr., April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church, New York
Now-a-days we witness the continuing destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. If we get King's words of yesterday out there into the jargon of today's war time talk, a lot of people are going to look silly if not worse. If one believes King's words, is Presidential candidate Senator McCain a hero for bombing Hanoi 29 times? McCain must have read what Eisenhower wrote of Ho being the choice of the Vietnamese people. Ike confessed that Ho would have won by more than 80% if we had allowed an all Vietnam election.? Does the Senator know how many people his bombs killed and maimed? How can he be a war hero if the war was unjust? And why is no one bombing today? The same communist government is still in Hanoi. Millions died and no change was effected apart from the destruction we brought. Don't think of that, our mass media tells us; McCain is a hero.
A lot of dangerous crazies are saying killing Iraqis in Iraq and Afghans in Afghanistan, even those we once officially supported, is protecting us in America. At the same time our entertainment/news industry still tells us that killing in Indochina was protecting American freedoms at home, and the same network programing portrays military service in Iraq as something glorious and again protecting us at home. It is just more of the same. Swallow that capitalism didn't create communism and swallow that neo-colonialist injustice didn't create wild suicide terrorists. Don't listen to King and the Nobel laureates lecturing today on the seeds of discontent and the half of mankind living on less that $2 a day. Listen to Bush, while he shrugs his shoulders, "There is evil in the world! We are good."
Most Americans now consider the invasion and occupation of Iraq wrong. Incongruously, media has indiscriminate praise for fellow Americans ordered to participate in this invasion and occupation as meaningful and wonderful, hailing our boys for enlisting for participation in this wrong.
In 1967 King said, "As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than 70 students at my own Alma Mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest." (This sounds like the sentiments expressed by another famous American, Henry Thoreau, during the Mexican war.)
We don't talk about killing Vietnamese communists anymore. After millions of Vietnamese have been put to death, now we enjoy trade arrangements and are arranging Communist Vietnam's entry into the World Trade Organization, though in the U.S. we Still hear some occasional bull about defending a fake nation we created and named South Vietnam. King had said: quote: "The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945, after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its re-conquest of her former colony." Truman declined to answer eight letters from Ho Chi Minh.
How can we get a peace movement going now for Iraq when we are still hearing how proud we are about murdering millions of people just to postpone temporally the election of a communist as president of Vietnam.
February Quote Rev. MLKjr Day happens to fall within hours of St. Valentine's Day, and this is very appropriate. Those of us who deeply love(d) King will remember that his words were always addressed to us, his fellow citizens, perhaps even especially to those of us with him, but half-heartedly so in terms of willingness to march in protest with him.
King's words were not directed at those in power and the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity he so explicitly detailed in his New York "Beyond Vietnam" address and in other speeches during that last year of his life of organized protest.
In a court of law the criminally insane, as a rule, are not held accountable for their actions, so King, with his compassionate insight, did not personally hold particular government officials accountable for the genocide that was our 'Vietnam War', which the Vietnamese, by the way, call the 'American War'. King "trembled", as he said, for all of us caught up in these crimes against humanity.
He spoke to these spirit crushing crimes and made us imagine a simple absence of these crimes as a natural, and eventually coming turn of events. As a minister, King spoke to us as 'we the people', who, by our silence, were permitting these monstrous crimes to take place. And for lack of knowing how to bring about the cessation of our silence, King anguished; anguished for his own past silence, and anguished for our complicity through our silence.
Ah but King's anguish! King's anguish was 'beyond'! "Beyond", as in the title of the now famous speech at Riverside Church: "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence". 'Beyond' not meant to mean simply 'after' or 'further on',' but rather 'above and beyond' Vietnam, for he laid out in detail the horrific inhuman and duplicit foreign policy of which the U.S. wars on the Indochinese population of the French Colonial Empire, was only one manifesting part of an national intention to subjugate people everywhere to world-wide corporate interests.
Substitute 'Iraq' for 'Vietnam' and notice the relevance of King's words uttered 40 years ago: quote: "The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, ... During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investment accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. ... Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken: ... by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. ... 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.
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. 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 the veins of peoples 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 against communism. [in 2007 substitute 'terrorism' for 'communism'] War is not the answer."
Whew! Come on, lets use these powerful words of MLKjr., and use them as a yardstick for judging ourselves and our response to the incredible mayhem, lies and thievery in which we are presently engulfed, and not allow our 'Big Brother' media corporations to try to continue to limit King's influence to a sound bite from his "I have a Dream" speech.