Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence





Forty-seven years ago today, “the Vietnam Moratorium Committee staged what is believed to be the largest antiwar protest in United States history when as many as half a million people attended a mostly peaceful demonstration in Washington. Smaller demonstrations were held in a number of cities and towns across the country. 




Approximately 31 months earlier, Rev. Martin Luther King gave one of his greatest speeches about Vietnam:


“…Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.
So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor…

“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam?
They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent…

“Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. 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 in Vietnam. 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.

“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…

“War is not the answer. These are revolutionary times… A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men…


“We are now faced with the fact 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 the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue 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. ‘The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on...’ We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation…” 

This speech was delivered at a meeting of Clergy and Laity at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967.

Click Here for the entire transcript.



1 comment:

  1. from Rosemary Schroeder:

    "MLK Speech. At 85, still makes me cry to read this speech. I was one of the millions that marched; sang 'We shall overcome.' It's an on-going battle, a way of 'life,' a never solved situation to contain and hold on to liberties, freedom, and dignity. When I can hobble around & rally for justice and peace, it's THIS group that never falters, always works silently to defend our rightful legacy on this planet: the Fox Valley Citizens for Peace & Justice group.

    "Everyone is distracted, busy living and surviving with economic and health issues. We did not realize what life was like at this age 'til we got here. It's devastating now that Trump and his evil ones are in the limelight. BUT maybe that's good IF ALL of society catches on & sees how we are manipulated. But it's scary, nonetheless. May we ALL be truthful, educated and kind to one another because that is the only way we are going to survive.

    "Thanks for all you do to keep the human race educated."

    -Rosemary

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