President Barack Obama is no Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Beyond Vietnam”

 

Listen to Dr. Martin Luther King's Statement Against the War in Vietnam:  "Beyond Vietnam."  Please know that in no way would Dr. King approve of President Barack Obama's targeted assassinations, drone warfare against innocent civilians, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and torture--all military policies begun by his predecessor, but expanded by him. Read the text below and know in your heart and your mind that President Barack Obama is no Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Text of "Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence"
By Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. - April 4th, 1967
Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a
meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City.

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience
leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in
deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has
brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent
statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and
I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes
when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call
us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth,
men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy,
especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great
difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own
bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as
perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are
always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have
found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must
speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our
limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely
this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of
its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth
patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of
conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among
us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner
being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new
way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own
silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called
for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have
questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns
this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war,
Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights
don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask?
And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern,
I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the
inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed,
their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal
importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe
that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery,
Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary
tonight.
I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved
nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation
Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.
Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and
the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it
an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons
of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution
of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious
of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent
testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful
give and take on both sides.
Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to
my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in
ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.
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The Importance of Vietnam
Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have
seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision.
There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between
the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in
America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It
seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and
white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new
beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program
broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a
society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the
necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as
adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some
demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the
war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
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.
My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out
of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years --
especially the last three summers. 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.
For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and
thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further
answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were
convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black
people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free
or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed
completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with
Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!
Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for
the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If
America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read
Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of
men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that
America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for
the health of our land.
As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were
not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and
I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a
commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood
of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but
even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my
commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this
ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at
those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do
not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and
capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for
revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in
obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them?
What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful
minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share
with them my life?
Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads
from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid
if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all
men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or
nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I
believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and
helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.
This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem
ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper
than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and
positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for
victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from
human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
Strange Liberators
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to
understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people
of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the
junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the
curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too
because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there
until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
They must see Americans as strange liberators. 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 reconquest of her former
colony.
Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for
independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that
has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic
decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination,
and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the
Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that
included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real
land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.
For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of
independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their
abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.
Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war
costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to
despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our
huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had
lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic
attempt at recolonization.
After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform
would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the
United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided
nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most
vicious modern dictators -- our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants
watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported
their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with
the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S.
influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help
quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was
overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military
dictatorships seemed to offer no real change -- especially in terms of their
need for land and peace.
The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in
support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without
popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received
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 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. 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 our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested
out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe?
Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is
it among these voiceless ones?
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. What liberators?
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. These too are our brothers.
Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those
who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation
Front -- that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must
they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the
repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a
resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the
violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in
our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the north" as if there
were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we
charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them
with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land?
Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their
actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their
violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction
simply dwarf their greatest acts.
How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less
than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket
name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their
control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow
national elections in which this highly organized political parallel
government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections
when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And
they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help
form without them -- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They
question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement
from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly
relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then
shore it up with the power of new violence?
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it
helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know
his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic
weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow
and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and
our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable
mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western
words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi
are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the
French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were
betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial
armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at
tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they
controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary
measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent
elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united
Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.
When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be
remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the
presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the
initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops,
and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of
supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.
Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the
earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that
none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as
America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely
heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an
invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are
doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense
of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of
the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor
weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last
few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand
the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about
our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are
submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that
goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are
adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short
period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really
involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them
into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize
that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell
for the poor.
This Madness Must Cease
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.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one
of them wrote these words:
"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the
Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The
Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is
curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities
of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring
deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never
again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of
violence and militarism."
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the
world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear
that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men
will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a
war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war
against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no
other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game
we have decided to play.
The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to
achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning
of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of
the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to
turn sharply from our present ways.
In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the
initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest
five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the
long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish
conflict:
1.      End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
2.      Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will
create the atmosphere for negotiation.
3.      Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast
Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in
Laos.
4.      Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has
substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any
meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
5.      Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in
accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.
Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to
grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime
which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we
can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is
badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.
Protesting The War
Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we
urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We
must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse
ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking
out every creative means of protest possible.
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 seventy 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. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of
draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as
conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false
ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our
nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must
decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all
protest.
There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us
all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war
in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say
something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far
deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering
reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned
committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala
and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be
concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these
and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a
significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts
take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living
God.
In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him
that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past
ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has
justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need
to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the
counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why
American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why
American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against
rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late
John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who
make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution
inevitable."
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 investment.
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. n 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.
This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against
communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the
use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war
and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish
its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise
restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or
an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and
who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the
problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative
anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing
that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in
behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse
conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil
in which the seed of communism grows and develops.
The People Are Important
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against
old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail
world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and
barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who
sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these
revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a
morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the
Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the
modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven
many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore,
communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and
follow through on the revolutions we initiated. 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. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the
status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley
shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the
crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that ourloyalties
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. This oft misunderstood and
misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the
world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity
for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some
sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the
great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is
somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This
Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is
beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of
God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If
we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no
longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of
retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising
tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and
individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee
says : "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life
and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first
hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last
word."

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 deperately 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.

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.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter --
but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons
of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the
odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our
message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival
as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another
message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of
commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though
we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human
history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.
martin luther

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