Today marks the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr's assassination. A tragic loss for our nation and for the world. I was reflecting on some of his speeches this morning and came across "Beyond Vietnam - A Time to Break Silence" (you can download the mp3 to listen to the speech) delivered on this very day, exactly one year before his death. The speech makes many points that parallel our current war in Iraq. Writer Juan Cole outlined his analysis of King's stance against the war in Vietnam with what he assesses as "10 Things Martin Luther King would have done about Iraq" here. Below are some very wise, forthright, and challenging excerpts from King's speech:
"But they ask -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They ask 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."
"Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition."
"If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war."
King closes with a statement of hope, eloquently saying:
"If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."