Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m a week late. But I went to the “Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Multicultural Choir Festival” at All Saints Church, Pasadena thanks to the invitation of my friend L. The music was spectacular, but my favorite part were the readings between the musical performances—MLK on racism, on economic justice, on militarism.

Here’s a link to Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence By Rev. Martin Luther King, 4 April 1967. This speech is 40 years old and still relevant on so many levels. An excerpt:

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, 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 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.

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One Response to “Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.”

  1. Miss Havisham Says:

    I am an absolute fan of Dr. King and of his speeches. He was so brave and beautiful. I learned from him the real truth of the wrongness of our Vietnam involvement.

    Many of the candidates have stated “winning” a war. There are never any winners in war, some retired generals will agree.

    Recently on Cspan, they aired an interview with John McCain’s mother. A handsome, and articulate woman in her late nineties. She inadvertently revealed the philosophy of the military family in which John is a product. It is a belief system of never questioning the military action one is called upon to serve. There is a multigenerational belief in winning a war.

    It’s as if those that hold to this philosophy are immune to the words of people like MLK. I marvel at their ability to ignore the emotional and physical costs, and their seeming inability to see beyond what is for them a family tradition.

    The world changes, people hopefully learn from their mistakes and revisionist historians help to keep humans from evolving. I don’t know how else one can live almost a century and remain so unwaivering in their views. She still believes the Vietnam war was one of our shining moments, and maintains that our involvement there was absolutely just, not unlike some that are still cheering Mr. Bush, and the prospect of war with Iran.

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