Martin Luther King

A martyr for peace

www.jfkmoon.org/mlk-vietnam.html - MLK on Vietnam

www.jfkmoon.org/mlk-assassination.html - "An Act of State" - the victim of the federal government with a federal holiday

"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. ....
"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 nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. (Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967)

 

On March 31, 1968, five days before his assassination, Martin Luther King gave a speech called "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," based on the story of Rip Van Winkle, who slept for 20 years and woke up after the American Revolution had happened. King urged citizens not to sleepwalk in the midst of the great changes sweeping the world. Midway through the speech, King denounced the construction of urban bypasses, stating that they worsened economic injustices:

"These forty million [poor] people are invisible because America is so affluent, so rich; because our expressways carry us away from the ghetto, we don't see the poor."

It is therefore strange that many highways around the US are named after someone who opposed urban sprawlways, especially in communities dependent on military spending with severe racial and economic injustice problems.

Most citizens are familiar with King’s most famous speech -- "I have a dream" -- delivered at the 1963 March on Washington. King's April 4, 1967 speech "A Time to Break Silence: Declaration of Independence from the Vietnam War" was much more profound and a stark warning against endless war.

"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. ....
"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 nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. (MLK, April 4, 1967)

King was killed exactly a year to the day after his greatest speech - against the War on Viet Nam (in case anyone missed the symbolism). It is sad that the leaders of the civil rights movement and the peace movement stay silent on this, since it suggests that the empire does not play by democratic rules.

When King was killed, the crime was blamed on James Earl Ray, who was said to be a lone gunman motivated by racism. However, the facts show that Ray was framed as a patsy, and was railroaded into pleading guilty to avoid a death sentence. Ray spent nearly three decades in prison for a crime he did not commit, and was repeatedly denied the right to have a trial to evaluate the evidence against him. It is little known that the King family publicly stated that the federal government killed Martin and that James Earl Ray was just a patsy who was framed (Dexter King even met with Ray in his prison and they sought, without success, to get Ray the trial he never had).

In 1967, a young journalist named William Pepper showed photos he had taken in Viet Nam to King, who was shocked and disgusted by the racist atrocities. This material spurred King to publicly oppose the war. After King's assassination, Pepper dropped out of politics and eventually became a lawyer. Pepper became the attorney for James Earl Ray, and spent years trying to get him a trial. Pepper wrote extensively about the truth of the assassination in two books: Orders to Kill and An Act of State: the execution of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1999, after Ray's death in prison, the King family won a federal lawsuit against some of the perpetrators of the assassination. This astounding jury verdict is rarely mentioned by the media, even by the liberal alternative media that opposes most federal policies.

One example of this avoidance strategy is an essay about the "Media Reform Conference" held in Memphis, Tennessee that was published on Common Dreams on January 15, 2007 by Danny Schechter, the "News Dissector" for MediaChannel.org:

Published on Monday, January 15, 2007 by MediaChannel.org
What Next for Media Reform?
by Danny Schechter
I felt the presence of Dr King this past weekend in Memphis. Of course, this is the city in which he gave his life, and as America marks his birth, it was hard not to be reminded of his death when you visit the scene of the crime, the fully restored Lorraine Motel.
It was there that he was shot down by a cowardly sniper. Was it James Earl Ray? Did he act alone? There are more conspiracy theories on that than eyewitnesses but it almost doesn’t matter because most of the people who studied the matter remain puzzled by so many contradictions and unanswered questions.

There are not "more conspiracy theories than eyewitnesses" on this scandal - the facts are fairly straight forward, confirmed by a federal jury verdict and endorsed by the King family.

Given the myopic, misleading approach in this article, it is surprising to read an expression of dissatisfaction with the "Media Reform" conference the author participated in:

How can we have 3000 people assemble in one place and leave with no clear focused plan of what we do next, how we work together, what’s the next step? I felt the same way when I left earlier conferences in Madison and St. Louis. They were cool events--and heady networking opportunities, but now what?

Perhaps these events are less than they could be because the peace movement is hesitant to "connect the dots" to explain the misbehavior of the Empire - and that understanding is needed to formulate effective strategies for positive transformation.

Many peace activists are willing to mention King's peace activism while carefully avoiding the evidence that forces in the federal government silenced his voice, dealing a crippling blow to social justice movements. A good example of this combination of courageous focus on King's words against war and blindness to the meaning of his murder:

www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/04/04/304/
Published on Wednesday, April 4, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
The Martin Luther King You Don’t See on TV
by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon

This article by Cohen and Solomon highlights the mainstream media's allergy to mentioning King's activism in the final years of his life (economic justice and peace), but is in alignment with the official consensus to ignore the evidence - endorsed by the King family - that James Earl Ray was not the assassin. OilEmpire.US's page on Norman Solomon shows how that writer was a leading liberal defender of the official "surprise attack" story in the months after 9/11 -- which helped keep the peace movement from understanding how 9/11 was allowed to happen to create the pretext for a war to seize the Middle East oil fields.

One sad lesson of the murder of Dr. King is waiting for a charismatic leader to inspire social change that challenges the status quo is a mistake. These people are easily turned into martyrs, and a movement dependent on such leaders is easily squashed. A better structure would be to emulate mycellium threads (they form mushrooms), which spread widely without a definite center. A more just society would be less hierarchical by definition, so social justice efforts need to be more decentralized than the model offered by our celebrity obsessed culture. In theory, the internet has this pattern, although the world wide web does include central computers that control allocation of DNS numbers and routing (when you type in a website address these computer translate it into a 12 digit number that is actually the location of a specified server hosting a website).

The best way to celebrate King’s legacy is not to name large swaths of concrete after him, or whitewash the crimes of Empire (at home and abroad), but to work for a world beyond militarism, for non-violence and economic justice.

 

 

"For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions ... Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values."

"There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life."
-- Martin Luther King

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"We have committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride, and our arrogance as a nation."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968

 

Every Black soldier ought to say, "I am not going to fight. This is not my war."
-- Martin Luther King, III (his son), January 18, 1991 (on the occasion of the 1991 US attack on Iraq)

http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/multimedia_contents

 

"Pilgrimage to Nonviolence," Christian Century, April 13, 1960

If we assume that mankind has a right to survive then we must find an alternative to war and destruction. In a day when sputniks dash through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, nobody can win a war. The choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.

 

"The Drum Major Instinct"
February 4, 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church

Because through prejudice and blindness, you [white people] fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you're so poor you can't send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.

Now that's a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position--where through blindness and prejudice, he is forced to support his oppressors, and the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he is superior because his skin is white. And can't hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out.

And not only does this thing go into the racial struggle, it goes into the struggle between nations. And I would submit to you this morning that what's wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy. And if something doesn't happen to stop this trend I'm sorely afraid that we won't be here to talk about Jesus Christ and about God and about brotherhood too many more years. If somebody doesn't bring an end to this suicidal thrust that we see in the world today, none of us are going to be around, because somebody's going to make the mistake through our senseless blundering of dropping a nuclear bomb somewhere ...

But this is where we are drifting, and we are drifting here, because nations are caught up with the drum major instinct. I must be first. I must be supreme. Our nation must rule the world. And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I'm going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.

God didn't call America to do what she's doing in the world now. God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war, [such] as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We have committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride, and our arrogance as a nation.

quoted in "A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.," James. M. Washington, ed., New York: HarpersCollins, 1986. Contains virtually everything he wrote and all major speeches, including "I Have a Dream" (1963 March on Washington), Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963) and "I've Been to the Mountain Top," the speech he gave the night before he was assassinated.

 

"Where do we go from here?"
King's last, and most radical, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) presidential address

I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about "Where do we go from here," that we honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, "Why are there forty million poor people in America?" And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?" You begin to ask the question, "Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?" These are questions that must be asked.

Now, don't think that you have me in a "bind" today. I'm not talking about communism.

What I'm saying to you this morning is that communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problems of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together.

 

from "A Christmas Sermon on Peace," 1967

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can't leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that's handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that's given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that's poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that's poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you're desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that's poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that's given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you've depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren't going to have peace on Earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.

....

It's one of the strangest things that all the great military geniuses of the world have talked about peace. The conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, were akin in seeking a peaceful world order. If you will read Mein Kampf closely enough, you will discover that Hitler contended that everything he did in Germany was for peace. And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means. All of this is saying that, in the final analysis, means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.

http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/2007/01/spiritual-death.html
"ENLARGING ON MARTIN LUTHER KING'S PROFOUND TRUTH THAT MILITARIZED AMERICA IS APPROACHING SPIRITUAL DEATH"
by Dr. Gary G. Kohls, an American physician, writer and peace activist.
1/15/2007


www.registerguard.com/news/2007/01/15/
printable/ed.edit.king.phn.0115.9LbAqk0i.phtml?section=opinion

Of King and the war
A Register-Guard Editorial
Published: Monday, January 15, 2007

As President Bush prepares to send another 21,500 U.S. troops into the strife-torn neighborhoods and bomb-lined roadsides of Iraq, it's worth remembering on this Martin Luther King Day what the civil rights leader had to say four decades ago about another controversial and tragic war.
King spoke out publicly against the Vietnam War for the first time at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his death. By the time the war ended in 1975, nearly 60,000 U.S. troops had been killed and 153,000 wounded. As many as 2 million Vietnamese lost their lives.
King's words still speak to us across the years, as if eerily gauged for our times and another U.S. conflict, this one in the Middle East. His moral clarity still resonates with Americans deeply troubled by an Iraq war that appears increasingly senseless and unwinnable - and that claims the lives of more young men and women every day.
He opposed the Vietnam War for many reasons, starting with its debilitating impact on the unfinished domestic fight against poverty and discrimination.
"A few years ago, there was a shining moment in that struggle," he said. "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 destructive suction tube."
So it is today that the Iraq war devours billions of dollars every month that could be used to help Americans at home. So it is that federal funding for programs ranging from public education to post-Katrina reconstruction is languishing, while the Bush administration prepares to ask Congress for billions more to fund an escalation that it euphemistically calls a "surge."
King noted that low-income and minority Americans were fighting and dying in disproportionate numbers in Vietnam - an imbalance ameliorated, but not eliminated, by the change to all-volunteer armed forces.
"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," King said. "It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and 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 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia, which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem."
King also understood that war invariably takes the heaviest toll on civilians, whose fates are reported as nameless statistics in generic daily news roundups - when they're reported at all.
"And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond with compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula," he said. "I speak not of the soldiers of each side ... 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."
Many other observations by King about Vietnam still have relevance. At a time when Haliburton and other well-connected contractors are reaping billions of dollars in reconstruction contracts in Iraq and wealthy Americans are enjoying generous tax breaks, King's remark that "we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor" still rings piercingly true.
King's admonition against "the Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others" brings to mind the Bush administration's efforts to impose Western democracy, values and institutions on Iraq at gunpoint. But his most haunting words were those calling for a swift end to a war that dragged on for another five years after his death, needlessly claiming 30,000 more American lives.
One cannot read King's plea for an end to the Vietnam War without wondering how long it will take for the United States to end its war in Iraq - a war that already has cost more than 3,000 U.S. lives and that will claim many more if it is not soon brought to an end.
"We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today," King reminded his audience in 1967. "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.' "
Finally, there was King's clarion call to action and individual responsibility. He understood that unwise and unjust wars end only when average citizens heed the call. When they arise from their moral slumber and cry out with a single voice that shatters all resistance.
"Somehow this madness must cease," he said. "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 in 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."
King was unequivocal on the consequences, for the nation and for its citizens, of failure to seize this initiative:
"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.' "

 

 

last updated: 2014-11-20


JFKMOON.org by Mark Robinowitz, who was born the day after JFK's last speech to the UN