March 3, 2011
“There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal,” said Martin Luther King Jr in speech, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.” The speech is a revelation of the moral power of truth. If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today he would not hesitate in supporting a new investigation into the 9/11 attacks, which spawned the two evil wars in the Middle East.
King was the greatest kind of shepherd that a nation can be blessed with during a time of political and spiritual upheaval. He was an unwavering beacon of light. He was a moral giant in his own day, and he would be a moral giant if he were alive today.
His speech on Vietnam has stood the test of time. Nobody else spoke as eloquently for peace as he did, and with as much force and clear-sightedness. He said:
Now, let me make it clear in the beginning, that I see this war as an unjust, evil, and futile war. I preach to you today on the war in Vietnam because my conscience leaves me with no other choice. The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. 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 blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. “Ye shall know the truth,” says Jesus, “and the truth shall set you free.” Now, I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.Imagine King saying these words about the war on terror, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He would’ve been the greatest voice in the war for knowledge and information because he knew how to cut through the military and government propaganda about war. He knew that the human spirit cannot move “without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world.” He was saying these amazing things not as a fringe pastor but as the chief moral voice in America. He had the whole nation at his feet, and he was using his power to uplift his country, and all of mankind. I can’t believe the things that King said. No wonder the criminals in Washington killed him. We like to throw the word “hero” around a lot, but King deserves to be called a hero. If President, he could have totally transformed America, and thereby the entire world.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. 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 apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing, as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we’re always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony. But we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.
When we look back now, we rightly see President Johnson as a criminal and a traitor, and John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King as true patriots and prophets.
King professed his love for America in the speech:
Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love.King was not fooled by the propaganda that speaking out against war makes you a traitor, or questioning government claims makes you a conspiracy theorist or a fool. He would not buy the official story of 9/11 which in part relies on racism towards Arabs and the Muslim world for its popularity. And, most of all, King was a man of boundless courage because he spoke the truth. Even members of his own flock were uneasy with King’s position against the Vietnam war. But King knew better because he equated dissent with morality, and righteousness. To remain silent is to be complicit in the government’s crimes. King said:
It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.I’m sure you’ve read King’s Vietnam speech, or heard parts of it, but you should read all of it because it is so good, and so truthful. Imagine if mankind was blessed with his voice today! The war criminals in Washington would find a way to get rid of him, but I think they would be unsuccessful today because the American people have wised up. This is not the 1960′s anymore. The days of government assassinations and government cover-ups are over. Killing political and moral leaders like MLK and JFK will backfire. People are awake and vigilant. Real change is coming to America. As King said, “people are not going to be silenced.”
King’s speech on the Vietnam war will be remembered as one of the greatest speeches in all of human history. He is the reason why I have faith in America, and why I believe America will redeem herself. The fact that a man with the moral caliber, courage, and political astuteness of Martin Luther King Jr. can rise in American society speaks a lot about the goodness of American society. America is far from perfect, but it is capable of being great at certain periods of its existence. That is what sets America apart from other nations – the courage, and revolutionary vision of its leaders. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. were all revolutionary in their time. They fought for the rights of man, and spoke the truth. None of them were perfect in their personal or political lives, but so what? They stuck out their heads for their country, and for humanity when it mattered most, and when it was most dangerous to do so. If Washington, Jefferson, and Adams were alive in the 1960s and spoke out forcefully against the corrupt forces in Washington D.C. they would’ve all been killed as Kennedy and King were killed.
But death at the hands of the powers that be doesn’t have to be the fate of revolutionary men. Jefferson, Washington, Adams, and the rest of the Founding Fathers of America won their revolution. Their victory remains an inspiration for all men who are fighting for liberty around the world.
Kennedy and King failed to win the fight for universal peace on Earth, but the fact that they laid out their vision for peace, and stated it so passionately is still a victory. In this generation we can pick up where they left off, and make this world a true kingdom with peace and justice for all.
King’s closing remarks in his speech on the Vietnam war:
It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back home. Come home, America. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.” I call on Washington today. I call on every man and woman of good will all over America today. I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book may close. And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, “You’re too arrogant! And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still and know that I’m God.”
Now it isn’t easy to stand up for truth and for 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…means being abused and scorned. It may mean having a seven, eight year old child asking a daddy, “Why do you have to go to jail so much?” And I’ve long since learned that to be a follower to the Jesus Christ means taking up the cross. And my bible tells me that Good Friday comes before Easter. Before the crown we wear, there is the cross that we must bear. Let us bear it–bear it for truth, bear it for justice, and bear it for peace. Let us go out this morning with that determination. And I have not lost faith. I’m not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order. I haven’t lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. I can still sing “We Shall Overcome” because Carlyle was right: “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant was right: “Truth pressed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell was right: “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.” Yet, that scaffold sways the future. We shall overcome because the bible is right: “You shall reap what you sow.” With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when the lion and the lamb will lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid because the words of the Lord have spoken it. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!” With this faith, we’ll sing it as we’re getting ready to sing it now. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore. And I don’t know about you, I ain’t gonna study war no more.