Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr and Vietnam

Every year on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, the media usually plays portions of the "I have a dream" speech.

As good of a speech as that is, a few years ago on the holiday, I found out about this little gem:


It is called "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam" and it was given in April 1967.

Whatever the viewpoints on the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan one holds, every American should give this speech an honest read and honest consideration. I believe it has much to say about the current mind set and state of this country in 2008. There are some differences to be sure, but this speech can be used as a "template" to see how we might be doing as a nation in our current wars.

A lot of Americans will say that all of these things that Dr. King said don't apply because Vietnam was different and "9/11 changed everything".

9/11 was a horrible tragedy, there is no question of that. But, contrary to government and media spin, it did not "change everything".

Those who really believe that 9/11 changed everything believe those that don't believe it are naive about "the way the REAL world works".

Those who don't believe 9/11 changed everything believe those who do believe it just haven't had the imagination to SEE the world at peace, and our role in it.

Make no mistake, I personally understand there are BAD people in the world who sometimes need to be dealt with. With all of the hatred and killing, it is certainly difficult for a lot of people to see how peace could be possible.

For myself, I always come back to certain questions. Have these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made this country safer? Have they made us a better people? Have they influenced OTHERS in the world to view the American idea as a good way of life? Why has no one articulated what it REALLY means to "win" in Iraq?

One of the very eloquent takeaways for me in the speech was when Dr. King says the following:

"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 hearts 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.”

I think every American must decide what those words mean to them.

In 2008, is the US still a beacon of freedom and democracy? Or the image of violence and militarism.

Makes you think doesn't it? Or maybe not.

1 comment:

Vince Patton said...


Great job as always. I'm going to say this publicly to the few who I know read this, and I hope they chime in -- you really should be writing some of this stuff as op-ed material and have published!

Okay, I'll be quiet now!