Peace and Civil Rights Don’t Mix?
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. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam Speech
As we saw in an earlier post, the national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., does not just have to be a day off from work, but a reminder to incorporate his message of loving humanity and spreading nonviolent action into our own communities. In addition to taking action, this time of year gives us a perfect opportunity to truly reflect upon and absorb his teachings, especially in light of our nation’s current attitude of violence and war.
King’s controversial Beyond Vietnam speech, urged anyone, especially those advocating for a shift in domestic policy and civil rights, to also question our nation’s relationship with war. Upon re-reading his speech this week, I couldn’t help mentally substituting all the “Vietnams” to “Afghanistans.”
The national attitude around the war in Vietnam may seem hard to argue now, but when King delivered this speech in 1967, a year before his assassination, many in the civil rights movement challenged King's stance on the war. He was questioned, “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?" and "Peace and civil rights don't mix.” "Aren't you hurting the cause of your people?" they asked.
King has taught us so many lessons, but one that is especially timely now is the necessity to bring the War in Afghanistan to a serious debate. Later in his speech he declared, “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.”
The withdrawal date for Afghanistan keeps extending. 2010 carried the highest troop and civilian death rates since the start of the war, and it has cost the city of Oakland alone, close to $470 million. And it is no longer just ‘liberals’ who question the war strategy. An Afghan Study Group poll, found that “more than two-thirds of conservatives have particular worries about the war’s high financial cost.”
King’s speech also reminds us how all of humanity, regardless of our policy decisions, are wrapped up in each other’s struggle. We can correct the mistakes of the civil rights fighters before us who didn’t see the inevitable connection between our rights at home and our practices of war abroad. Make the War part of our modern day civil rights movement by educating yourself and others about the war. Here are some resources to get started:
Emily is a new volunteer for the Heal the Streets campaign.
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