Today marks the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech. I urge you to listen to it, or to read it. The argument he makes is very strong, and still very applicable to our world today. You could easily replace the words Vietnam with, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, or any of the other countries that we are militarily involved with throughout the Middle East; as we have put profits over human lives. We continue to perpetuate hate and advance militarism. This is not an issue of left or right, but rather an American sickness, as both major political parties have continually worked to expand wars; both parties have profited greatly from the military industrial complex, and; both parties have worked to make you afraid so that they could remain in power.
But it is not just the political system that has given consent to the expansion of militarism, but we are just as complicit in all the bombs dropped, the lives lost, and the continual fear evoked. Why are we complicit, because we look the other way, because we are comfortable, and because we like our cheap shit. Would you feel the same if you had to see the true cost? I would like to think not, but we live here with our heads in the sand, out of sight, out of mind. That's the beauty of his speech, he chooses to stop being silent, to stop being complicit. Dr. King decided to speak out against the war, even though it was massively unpopular for him to do so. Many within the Civil Rights Movement did not want him to give this speech. Many believed that it would distract from gains that were taking place, and that it may hurt those gains. Why worry about people on the other side of the planet? We face the same questions today. Why worry about people on the other side of the planet when we have a fascist like Trump constantly working to undermine the gains of the Civil Right Movement. This is the same challenge Dr. King faced, we too must not forget that this expansion of militarism is one of the most dangerous things we face today.
The intersection of poverty, racism, and militarism that Dr. King is focused upon is a challenge that effects us all. While the first two would seem very apparent to most, we have utterly failed at addressing the last. Our everyday life has become embedded with militarism, from fashion to all the media we consume. Our non-critical attitude towards the military, how we still push this idea that we fight for freedom and democracy, and how we don't talk about the ways in which we reap what we sow. We forget how it is the poor we send to war, and how subordinated groups serve at higher rates, only to come home and be treated like shit, as it has always been. On the flip side, we kill other countries poor, we use racism to justify it, all while our rich get richer on both theirs and our dead. Dr. King saw this, and he stood up to militarism. I implore you to take a critical view, to stand up, to speak out!
Here are 3 of my favorite quotes from his Beyond Vietnam speech!
"A true revolution of values will lay hand 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."
"Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism"
"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."
You can read the full speech here: http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_beyond_vietnam/
And you can listen to the speech here: https://youtu.be/3Qf6x9_MLD0