King's timely words about Vietnam prove to be prophetic about Iraq
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
by Larry Simons
January 15, 2007
Today, Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 78 years old if not for our own government silencing him with a bullet on April 4, 1968. Other than today just being a day off of work for Americans, we all, in some way should remember and reflect on the many famous speeches and sermons King delivered from the pulpits and the podiums. I felt that it would be most appropriate today (not only because today is King's birthday, but also because of the fact that we are in a very similar quagmire (Iraq) that we were in when King lived) to reflect upon one in particular sermon King delivered on April 30, 1967 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. This sermon displays King's wisdom, in that it shows that he is aware of the fact that many were clueless about then, and especially now, that even our founding fathers knew the importance of dissent and how patriotic it is. This sermon displays King's bravery, in that knowing how much President Johnson wanted to be seen as a compassionate advocate of civil rights, King had to know how much Johnson despised the message of dissent about the war in Vietnam.
What is sad is, that if King were still alive today, to some extent he would be treated the same way he was in 1968. FOX News would vilify King as a traitor or a communist, or both. How do I know? We've already seen this happen with others. O'Reilly would tell him to shut up repeatedly, cut his microphone off and boot him off his show. Mike Gallagher would want him sent to an detention camp. Sean Hannity would call him a left-wing, liberal, American-hating kook and agree with Gallagher that he should be locked up until the war ends. I'm sorry to say, Dr. King, that things haven't changed too much since you once graced the streets of America with your presence. You are truly missed by those of us who still know what America stands for, what the Constitution says, what liberty means, what dissent means and what patriotism really is. The O'Reillys, Gallaghers, Hannitys and Coulters of the world will mourn you out of false homage because they know it's the right thing to do....but we know for a fact, as we look at the following segment from one of your finest sermons, that they don't give a damn about one thing you ever said.
(In honor of the great Martin Luther King, Jr.)..........
".....I preach to you today on the war in Vietnam because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. "Ye shall know the truth," says Jesus, "and the truth shall set you free." Now, I've chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence is betrayal.
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 perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we're 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 in all our history there has never been such a monumental dissent during a war, by the American people.
Polls reveal that almost fifteen million Americans explicitly oppose the war in Vietnam. Additional millions cannot bring themselves around to support it. And even those millions who do support the war [are] half-hearted, confused, and doubt-ridden. This reveals that millions have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism, to the high grounds of firm dissent, based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It's a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition...."