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MLK was a leader against violence | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To the editor:
On this birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., coinciding this year with the murders and attempted assassination in Tucson, we are reminded of Dr. King’s April 4, 1967 speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” in which he made the connection between war abroad and violence at home, saying:
“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 ... But 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.”
Dr. King called for “a true revolution in values” that would “lay a hand on the world order and say of war ‘this way of settling differences is not just’ ... A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. ... 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.”
Dr. King’s popularity plummeted following this speech.
More than 55 percent of black Americans and three quarters of the American people turned against him. Newsweek magazine labeled him “anti-American.” He was assassinated exactly one year to the day after this speech. Many people have observed that he was not killed because he was a civil rights leader, but rather because he spoke his conscience and exposed the connection between American militarism, poverty and social injustice.
We celebrate Martin Luther King as the greatest American who has ever lived because of his courage and truthfulness in rejecting hypocrisy and denouncing our national policy of violence worldwide.
M. Jane Miller and Jim Hyde