Today we celebrate the life and times of Martin Luther King, Jr a great civil rights activist….as important as that is I remember him more for his opposition to war especially the Vietnam War….a war that I know all too well.
So my post will be about the man and his anti-war thoughts and speeches…..
On July 2, 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. stood behind President Lyndon Baines Johnson as the Texan signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although not the first civil rights bill passed by Congress, it was the most comprehensive.
King called the law’s passage “a great moment … something like the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln.” Johnson recognized King’s contributions to the law by gifting him a pen used to sign the historic legislation.
A year later, as Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, King again joined the president for the occasion.
But by the start of 1967, the two most famous men in America were no longer on speaking terms. In fact, they would not meet again before King fell to an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968.
King was foremost a minister who pastored to a local church throughout his career, even while he was doing national civil rights work. And he became concerned that his political ally Johnson was making a grave moral mistake in Vietnam. Johnson quickly escalated American troop presence in Vietnam from 75,000 to 125,000 in 1965. And by 1968, more than a half a million troops were stationed in the Southeast Asian nation.
I remember his words and after experiencing war first hand I too became an anti-war activist…..
America is not in the habit of remembering King as an anti-war resister. We prefer to hold him up as a peace lover in a vacuum, a pacifist taken out of context from the time and place in which he lived, in the midst of what he deems to be an unjust war in Vietnam. But in his radical 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam,” given before a crowd of 3,000 people crammed into New York City’s Riverside Church, the reverend shored up two years of protests into his most comprehensive statement against the war. He called for a worldwide fellowship that moved beyond tribe, race, class and nation, and he condemned a war that sent young black men 8,000 miles to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not yet found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.
Even as King spoke of the need for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind, he knew that his words would be dismissed as cowardice and weakness. `I am not speaking of some sentimental response,’ he insisted. `I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as a supreme unifying principle of life.’
MLK was a great man and a great civil rights leader but he should also be celebrated for his work as an anti-war activist as well.
Have a great day…..
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”