Quotes from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from his speech on April 4, 1967 (one year to the day before he was murdered).
Beyond Vietnam / A Time to Break Silence
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 bind us to our sins.
There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.
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 conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we're always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty.
Polls on war reveals millions have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism, to the high ground 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.
It seemed that there was some real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in Vietnam. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America woud never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube, so I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and attack it as such.
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. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action; for they write and ask me, "So what about Vietnam?" They ask if our 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 first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.
There's something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, be non-violent toward Jim Clark, but will curse and damn you when you say, Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children. There's something wrong with that press.
To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men, for communists and capitalists, for their children and ours, for black and white, for revolutionary and conservative.
When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism, and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.
True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries and say, this is not just.
The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them 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.
It is a sad fact that because of our comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated.
I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no disappointment where there is no great love.
Every man has rights that are neither conferred by, nor derived from the State - they are God-given.
Now it isn't easy to stand up for truth and justice. Sometimes it means being frustrated. When you tell the truth and take a stand, sometimes it means that you will walk the streets with a burdened heart. Sometimes it means losing a job. being abused or scorned.