... the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.
I usually spend a bit of time around the birthday of Martin Luther King dusting off the turntable and sitting down to listen to LP's of the man talking, sharing his hopes, his dreams - most importantly his vision for a nation, a world consonant with the righteous and just God revealed in Judeo-Christian scripture. For what is our society, our cultural if not a manifestation of a peoples most dearly held values, those core values given form through the accrual of our daily collective actions.
There is a massive distance between the values many folks loudly proclaim adherence to and the reality of our national tenor; you surely don't need me to point this out. I'd ask you to consider this for a moment though. The reality of who we are as a nation is revealed through facts, not platitudes, through our collective actions, not the rhetoric of our leader; a leader that reads a speechwriters script, who mouths words written at the direction of a committee. Talking points are not an individuals personal values- they may be in the same idealogical neighborhood but they are part of a script designed not to inform, but to persuade.
Mr Bush was loudly booed while visiting Martin Luther King's grave last year. I will not touch on Vice President Cheney's votes against the MLK holiday, or the freeing of Nelson Mandela, pertinent examples of actions speaking more clearly than words.
What the Bush administration does on the world stage reflects the spirit of our nation if we just sit on our hands, bug eyed and mindless staring into the screen, wondering what's for dinner. Unless we stand up the world sees us as complicit. And the world would be right.
I admire Martin Luther King because he called us to be true to our national values: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were to be examined in our national context- where the ideals fall short they are to be strived for. And strive he did, his example brought masses of people to their feet in the name of justice and truth.
His Beyond Vietnam speech should be noted, we need a reality oriented figure to deliver a speech to the American people today that deals with the history of Iraq and the West, just as Reverend King offered us a primer on Viet Nam. Listen to him give the speech, realaudio format.
A speech that points out the basics of "moral values" seems applicable today more than ever, now that it seems strident voices of hate and derision are claiming the Prince of Peace for their political own.
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this often misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu, Moslem, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:
'Let us love one another; for love is God and everything that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth no knoweth no God; for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.'
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the God of Hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: 'Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.' Unquote.
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The 'tide in the affairs of men' does not remain at flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: 'Too late.' There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Kayam is right, 'The moving finger writes, and having written moves on...' We still have a choice today, non-violent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.
We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Now let us begin. Now let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
Beyond Vietnam is still a timely speech. It was given a year to the day before Martin Luther King was assassinated.
You haven't heard the "Beyond Vietnam" speech on network news retrospectives, but national media heard it loud and clear back in 1967 -- and loudly denounced it. Time magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post patronized that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."
Note how the media spun his speech. As I read it I am impressed by its breadth- imagine, a public speaker giving us information to actually draw our own conclusions, a leader who asks us to think. Martin Luther King gave us facts and called us to be true to our founding father's vision for America. He gave us hope.
He was to the powers that be, to the corporate military industrial complex a dangerous man. Not a mere soundbite passion stirrer, but a fellow who knows that with context, with information, people will do what is right.
Assassination or Execution?
I come out here pretty strongly against government violence, whether it concerns the illegal war in Iraq or the government of Israel doing to the Palestinian people what our government did to the Native American population in it's hunger for land and resources. Anyone more than casually familiar with the murder of Martin Luther King knows that it seems a remote possibility he committed the murder on his own.
COINTELPRO head William C. Sullivan responded in a letter: "We must mark [King] now, if we have not before, as the most dangerous Negro in the future of this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security . . . it may be unrealistic to limit [our actions against King] to legalistic proofs that would stand up in court or before Congressional Committees."
The FBI bugged Kings phones and hotel rooms. Hoover despised King. Here is the note that accompanied a tape the FBI made of King, scheduled to arrive just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize:
The FBI provided the Committee with a copy of a letter which was found in Sullivan's office files following his discharge in 1971. 348 The letter stated in part:
King, look into your heart. You know you are a complete fraud and a greater liability to all of us Negroes. White people in this country have enough frauds of their own but I am sure they don't have one at this time that is any where near your equal. You are no clergyman and you know it. I repeat that you are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that....
King, like all frauds your end is approaching. You could have been our greatest leader. . . . But you are done. Your "honorary" degrees, your Nobel Prize (what a grim farce) and other awards will not save you. King, I repeat you are done....
The American public, the church organizations that have been helping -- Protestants, Catholics and Jews will know you for what you are -- an evil beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done.
King, there, is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.
King and his associates took the letter to imply suicide would be in Kings best interest.
William Pepper, a friend of Kings has amassed a wealth of information on the killing of Martin Luther King. I'm going to point you to some resources that you can utilize if you are interested.
First, look at this timeline. Here's just a tease:
# Carthel Weeden, captain of Fire Station 2, is on duty and is approached by two U. S. Army officers carrying briefcases who indicate they have cameras and state they want a lookout for the Lorraine Motel. Weeden shows them the station roof and leaves them at the edge of its northeast corner behind a parapet wall, from where the officers have a clear view of King's balcony and also can look down on the brushy area adjacent to the fire station.(12)
# Members of the Army's 111th Military Intelligence Group, who had previously been associated with the Phoenix assassination program in Vietnam, are in Memphis and have been keeping King under 24 hour a day surveillance.(13) In addition to military intelligence agents, Army personnel present in Memphis include Green Berets.(14)
Had you heard that there even was a civil case dealing with the King murder?
According to a Memphis jury's verdict on December 8, 1999, in the wrongful death lawsuit of the King family versus Loyd Jowers "and other unknown co-conspirators," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a conspiracy that included agencies of his own government. Almost 32 years after King's murder at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968, a court extended the circle of responsibility for the assassination beyond the late scapegoat James Earl Ray to the United States government.
Doug Valentine in Counterpunch
William Pepper talk at Modern Times Bookstore
Washington Free Press Part 1 and Part 2
TUC Radio Pepper at Modern Times Bookstore
Transcription of the King Family Press Conference
We have pressing matters to deal with, Social Security, the ability of citizens to have lawsuits against corporations, the rise of the Christian right in government, the Iraq war, the environment- the list goes on. But we should know about our government and how it has dealt with those who question it. You'll find the case of the King execution chilling.
It is not just about information, it is about how we use it. Martin is dead, but I feel him alive in history as we stand up for truth, for decency.
For what we know America to be capable of. For our kids, and theirs.
Martin Luther King is a hero to me.