MLK: Way Beyond Vietnam

Editor’s Note: Although this essay is a tribute to the life of a great prophet, it is even more a call to action. I invite each of you reading this to dedicate or rededicate yourself to Dr. King’s vision articulated in his essay, The World House, in which calls on us to “1) transcend tribe, race, class, nation, and religion to embrace the vision of a World House; 2) eradicate at home and globally the Triple Evils of racism, poverty, and militarism; 3) curb excessive materialism and shift from a “thing”-oriented society to a “people”-oriented society; and 4) resist social injustice and resolve conflicts in the spirit of love embodied in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.” 

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As we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., we would do well to contemplate just how far (and yet not so far) we have come since he invited us to build a better world for all people.

At a time when our nation continues to do damage (and damage control) in places like Afghanistan, supports totalitarian regimes like the Saudis as they destroy another nation (Yemen) and its people, and wonders why so many people in other parts of the world hate us, it is timely to consider the speech delivered by Dr. King over 50 years ago when our nation was immersed in yet another foreign misadventure. Dr. King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967. It was an extraordinary speech in which he questioned not only the role of the United States in the world, but also the very nature of our economic system.

When we hear about Dr. King – generally once a year around the time of his birthday, January 15th – the news media refers to him as “the slain civil rights leader.” But Dr. King was so much more than that, and our national news media have never come to terms with all that Dr. King stood for. The TV images the media convey are generally those showing him battling segregation in Birmingham in 1963; reciting his dream of racial harmony in Washington in 1963; and marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama in 1965.

In the early 1960s when Dr. King was challenging legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were sympathetic, showing footage of police dogs, bullwhips and cattle prods used against southern African Americans who sought the right to vote or eat at a public lunch counter.

That all changed when, after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965, Dr. King began challenging our nation’s fundamental priorities. He maintained that the civil rights laws meant nothing without human rights, including economic rights. He spoke out against the huge gaps between rich and poor, and called for “radical changes in the structure of our society” to redistribute wealth and power.

By 1967 Dr. King had become one of the country’s most prominent opponents of the Vietnam War as well as a staunch critic of overall United States foreign policy. In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Dr. King made a significant leap from fighting for civil rights for African-Americans to morally challenging U.S. dominion over the rest of the world. The “Beyond Vietnam” speech resonates as strongly today on every level as it did a half century ago.

Dr. King spoke of the difficulty of working for peace in an atmosphere of mass conformity. “Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men (sic) 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 are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.” He went on to say 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.” There is no other choice for us, because, “silence is betrayal.”

Dr. King saw the connection between war and the evisceration of social programs in this country. He “knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men (sic) and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.” Dr. King saw “war as an enemy of the poor”.

He was amazed that people would ask him why he was speaking against the war. “Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men (sic)—for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully he died for them?” He went on to say that as children of the living God, “We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers (sic).”

Dr. King spoke of “a far deeper malady within the American spirit” – greed. He said that it is our “refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments” that governs our foreign policy, and makes the United States the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” He called for a “radical revolution of values” wherein we “shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.” He said that playing “the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside…will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Dr. King was not afraid to give a dire warning to the American people that, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” He hammered away at the need for everyone to speak out and use the most creative methods of protest possible, not just against the war, but also for “significant and profound change in American life and policy.” He believed that, “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.” The sword that we carry is love. “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.”

Just the other day, President Trump referred to African nations, as well as Haiti and El Salvador, as “shitholes,” demonstrating, yet again, not only his own deep, underlying hatred and racism, but also the racism that runs deep within the fractured American experiment.

And worse, Trump has threatened the most extreme violence of all toward North Korea, bringing the world closer to nuclear war than any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. His rhetoric is deeply steeped in violence, and nuclear war is the ultimate expression of all violence, one that would surely bring an end of civilization, and possibly the entire human race.

Dr. King understood the immorality of nuclear war all too well, as Vincent Intondi describes in his book, African Americans Against The Bomb:

When asked in December 1957 about the use of nuclear weapons, King replied: “I definitely feel that the development and use of nuclear weapons should be banned. It cannot be disputed that a full-scale nuclear war would be utterly catastrophic. Hundreds and millions of people would be killed outright by the blast and heat, and by the ionizing radiation produced at the instant of the explosion . . . Even countries not directly hit by bombs would suffer through global fall-outs. All of this leads me to say that the principal objective of all nations must be the total abolition of war. War must be finally eliminated or the whole of mankind will be plunged into the abyss of annihilation.”

If Dr. King was alive today, he would ask why every nation has not yet signed and ratified the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. He would ask how nations can put selfish, and misguided, self-interest ahead of the interests of humanity. He would ask why nations continue to squander their people’s wealth on militarism and nuclear weapons while ignoring their people’s basic needs. He would ask, “Why, Mr. Trump, is your heart filled with hate?” Of eliminating the threat of nuclear war that looms over humanity he would ask, “If not now, when?”

As he neared the end of his Beyond Vietnam speech Dr. King stated that, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” Time does not stop for us to sit and ponder our actions. The time is now. “Now let us begin. Let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”

Dr. King’s words continue speak to us today, and with that same great sense of urgency. The odds are great and the struggle is hard. But we have no other choice if we are to build a better world for all. We must act, whatever the cost. To be successful, we need to be in solidarity with each other, in our communities as well as with people throughout the world.

Martin Luther King Jr. left us a beautiful and important legacy of love and nonviolence. He lives on through his words, and beckons us to continue the work of building a just, peaceful world. The best way that we can remember and honor him is to work to build bridges of peace and understanding in our families, communities, and around the world.

And may Love have the final word!

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End Note: Click here to read the entire Beyond Vietnam speech. 

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MLK Seattle Rally & March

Please join Ground Zero Center and the thousands of people who will attend the 36th Annual MLK Seattle Celebration on Monday, January 15th at Garfield High School!

Seattle Celebration starts at Garfield High School
23rd Ave at E Jefferson, Seattle
opportunity fair in the Commons 8:30-11:30 a.m.
workshops in classrooms 9:30-10:50 a.m.
rally in gymnasium 11 a.m.
march at 12:30 p.m.
rally at end of march at Westlake Park,
4th & Pine, downtown Seattle
shared meal back at Garfield High School, Commons

Go to mlkseattle.org for full information on the day.

You will find the Ground Zero Center contingent out in front of Garfield High getting ready for the march around noon. We welcome you to join us marching, holding banners and signs, and handing out leaflets. 

 

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GZ New Year E-News: Get Involved/Take Action

Dear Friends of a world free of nuclear weapons,

Welcome to the Mad, Mad, Mad world of 2018! A world that could be reduced to cinders in less time than it would take to watch the movie Dr. Strangelove, a film that is ironically, to quote Daniel Ellsberg in his new book, The Doomsday Machine, “essentially, a documentary.” The ultimate madness of the past 70-plus years is that those responsible for nuclear war planning knew all along (or should have known) that they were planning for the probable extinction of life on Earth.

Nearly a quarter century since the beginning of the nuclear age, and well past the time of Kings, the world is still at the mercy of the Thermonuclear Monarchs, the anointed ones who have their fingers on what people like to call the “nuclear button.” Of course, as Ellsberg explains, it is even worse than that. Not only in the United States, but probably in most other nuclear-armed nations, the authority to use nuclear weapons has been delegated to countless others (besides the President) principally in the military chain of command. The ability to start a nuclear war is (and always has been) much easier than anyone would expect.

The current crisis with North Korea has been compared with and considered (by some) as the closest we have come to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Whatever the parallels, there is one key difference. We currently have (in the U.S.) a president who appears to have no concept of the potential consequences of his cavalier statements toward North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un. Whatever his underlying motives are, his actions speak for themselves, and they threaten not only North Korea, but all of humanity.

Even a limited nuclear war with North Korea would likely result in the deaths of millions on and near the Korean peninsula, and horrific and lasting environmental effects and human suffering lasting many generations. As the drumbeats continue to drone on, there is another way.

This month we honor and celebrate the birth of the prophet and peacemaker Martin Luther King Jr.  Although widely known for his civil rights leadership, after the passage of the Civil Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965 Dr. King began challenging our nation’s fundamental priorities. He maintained that the civil rights laws meant nothing without human rights, including economic rights. He spoke out against the huge gaps between rich and poor, and called for “radical changes in the structure of our society” to redistribute wealth and power.

By 1967 Dr. King had become one of the country’s most prominent opponents of the Vietnam War as well as a staunch critic of overall United States foreign policy. In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Dr. King made a significant leap from fighting for civil rights for African-Americans to morally challenging U.S. dominion over the rest of the world. His was a strong, prophetic voice for peace, and clearly understood the madness of nuclear weapons. As Vincent Intondi, author of African Americans Against the Bomb, stated:

When asked in December 1957 about the use of nuclear weapons, King replied: “I definitely feel that the development and use of nuclear weapons should be banned. It cannot be disputed that a full-scale nuclear war would be utterly catastrophic. Hundreds and millions of people would be killed outright by the blast and heat, and by the ionizing radiation produced at the instant of the explosion . . . Even countries not directly hit by bombs would suffer through global fall-outs. All of this leads me to say that the principal objective of all nations must be the total abolition of war. War must be finally eliminated or the whole of mankind will be plunged into the abyss of annihilation.”

King remained committed to the antinuclear cause throughout the Civil Rights Movement. In 1959, five months after being stabbed in Harlem, King addressed the War Resisters League’s thirty-sixth annual dinner, where he praised its work and linked the domestic struggle for racial justice with the campaign for global disarmament: “Not only in the South, but throughout the nation and the world, we live in an age of conflicts, an age of biological weapons, chemical warfare, atomic fallout and nuclear bombs . . . Every man, woman, and child lives, not knowing if they shall see tomorrow’s sunrise.” He asked, “What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and White, are merely free to face destruction by strontium 90 or atomic war?”

While many people are concerned about North Korean nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Russia still hold 13,800 of the world’s nuclear warheads, while North Korea is estimated to have about 10. Kim Jong-un will not use his nuclear weapons unless his regime is threatened by military action. There is absolutely NO acceptable military option in the standoff with North Korea. Nonviolent conflict resolution (in the form of sustained diplomacy) is the only way to resolve this crisis. Nonviolence is the answer.

It is, perhaps, perfect timing that the 2018 Winter Olympics will be hosted by South Korea, beginning on February 9th. North Korea and South Korea (at the South’s invitation) will also engage soon in official talks in what will be the first high-level contact between the two countries in more than two years. And it is quite probable that the North will send athletes to compete in the winter games. It is critical that the U.S. not undermine any of these efforts. It is time for President Trump to cease his violent threats toward North Korea and reduce the risk of nuclear war. Oh, and it would also help if we just called off (rather than postponing till after the Olympics) yet another military drill with South Korea!

Please join us in continuing to push for nonviolent solutions to the crisis with North Korea, a situation that should never have gotten to this (boiling) point. Here are a few current actions we can all take to make our voices heard:

SUPPORT THE OLYMPIC TRUCE:  The United Nations has asked member states to observe an Olympic truce between February 2nd and March 25th. South Korea has also asked the U.S. to delay its war rehearsal flights over South Korea until after the truce. Please sign the petition urging all nations to support the Olympic truce (and to continue it indefinitely thereafter).

Sign the People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea: Alarmed by the threat of a nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea, Peace Action, joined by other U.S. peace groups have come together to send an open message to Washington and Pyongyang that we are strongly opposed to any resumption of the horrific Korean War. What we want is a peace treaty to finally end the lingering Korean War!

Tell Congress: Open Vital Channels to North Korea:   Several unresolved humanitarian issues between the U.S. and North Korea must be addressed urgently – and offer diplomatic avenues for stabilizing relations with Pyongyang. Issues such as repatriating the remains of U.S. servicemen left in North Korea following the Korean War and reuniting divided Korean and Korean American families should be priorities in the U.S. policy toward North Korea.  Contact Congress and urge them to open these channels and to pursue diplomacy, not war, with North Korea.

Beyond the Bomb has written an Open Letter to Congress about how President Trump is moving us closer to nuclear war. I suggest that we all take that letter and visit our members of Congress or their local staffers, demanding that they reign in this loose cannon who occupies The White House. Click this link to find your members of Congress, and find the nearest office where you can meet with staffers to present your case.

Tell Twitter: Crack down on @RealDonaldTrumpTwitter has recently cracked down on some groups using its platform to “promote violence against civilians to further their causes,” but had the nerve to say that Donald Trump is not violating its terms of service, even in the wake of his last Tweet about having a “much bigger & more powerful Nuclear Button” than Kim Jong-un. This could be, by far, Trump’s most egregious and testosterone-laced Tweet toward North Korea, and it’s high time he stops threatening nuclear war. Since most of Congress doesn’t seem to have the courage or conviction, perhaps we can at least convince Twitter to do something about this. Tell Twitter: Crack down on @RealDonaldTrump.

As for all of us at Ground Zero Center, we haven’t been resting through these turbulent times. Check out what we’ve been up to in the January 2018 Ground Zero Newsletter that just went to press. While you’re there, you can subscribe to our E-Newsletters is you aren’t already on the mailing list.

I recently finished reading The Doomsday Machine, and on the last page he quotes Dr. King’s prophetic warning (related directly to nuclear weapons) that, We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” Speaking of Ellsberg, he will appear in Seattle on January 9th to speak about The Doomsday Machine. Tickets are sold out, and I expect that we will have a video to share if you miss it. And here’s a special offer to any of your who will be in Seattle that evening and would like to attend, but missed out on tickets. The first person to email me at outreach@gzcenter.org will receive two free tickets to the Ellsberg event. I will email you direct links from which you can print your tickets. I will also announce the lucky winner in our next E-Newsletter.

On Saturday, January 13th Ground Zero Center hosted a vigil at the Bangor Trident base, our way of honoring Martin Luther King Jr’s life and works. We will have news and photos from that event available soon.

The monks of the Bainbridge Island Nipponzan Miyohoji Temple are currently on their annual Peace Walk honoring Dr. King from January 10th through the 15th. You are welcome to join any portion of the walk. Click here to see the schedule and find contact information.

And finally, if you’re in Seattle on January 15th, join us at the 36th Annual MLK Seattle Celebration at Garfield High School. Ground Zero Center will be in the march, and we welcome you to join us marching, holding banners and signs, and handing out leaflets. This year’s theme is Take a Knee for Justice! Click here to learn more.

You can check out all Ground Zero events at our Events calendar at gzcenter.org, and in between E-Newsletters you can keep up with the resistance at our Facebook page. And please share this E-Newsletter with at least two (or more) people who aren’t already engaged in the movement to abolish nuclear weapons. This is shaping up to be a watershed year for our work, and we need to build a groundswell of support for abolition. As Dr. King once said:

“We must recognize the fierce urgency of now… Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.”

On behalf of Ground Zero Center,

Leonard Eiger

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Honoring Martin Luther King Jr’s Legacy

In honor of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action will hold a vigil at the Main Gate of the Trident Submarine Base at Bangor Saturday, January 13, at 11 am.

According to Vincent Intondi, author of African Americans Against the Bomb, King believed that civil rights are inextricably linked to peace.

When asked in December 1957 about the use of nuclear weapons, King replied:

“I definitely feel that the development and use of nuclear weapons should be banned. It cannot be disputed that a full-scale nuclear war would be utterly catastrophic. Hundreds and millions of people would be killed outright by the blast and heat, and by the ionizing radiation produced at the instant of the explosion . . . Even countries not directly hit by bombs would suffer through global fall-outs. All of this leads me to say that the principal objective of all nations must be the total abolition of war. War must be finally eliminated or the whole of mankind will be plunged into the abyss of annihilation.”

King remained committed to the antinuclear cause throughout the Civil Rights Movement. In 1959, five months after being stabbed in Harlem, King addressed the War Resisters League’s thirty-sixth annual dinner, where he praised its work and linked the domestic struggle for racial justice with the campaign for global disarmament: “Not only in the South, but throughout the nation and the world, we live in an age of conflicts, an age of biological weapons, chemical warfare, atomic fallout and nuclear bombs . . . Every man, woman, and child lives, not knowing if they shall see tomorrow’s sunrise.” He asked, “What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and White, are merely free to face destruction by strontium 90 or atomic war?” 

We invite everyone interested in honoring Dr. King’s prophecy and legacy to attend the vigil.

Participants will gather at 10:00 am, Saturday, January 13, at the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, 16159 Clear Creek Rd NW, Poulsbo, and will leave at 10:30 am to walk to the base for a vigil which will include songs, signs, banners and quotes from Dr. King.

For more information contact info@gzcenter.org or call Mary Gleysteen at 360 297 3894.

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GZ Celebrates MLK Day

Ground Zero Center will be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr’s nonviolent legacy by joining with thousands of others at the 2016 MLK Seattle Celebration on Monday, January 18th. The event begins at Garfield High School in the morning, and culminates with a march (starting at Garfield High and ending at the Federal Building) that starts around noon.

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 This year’s theme is WE HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE CHANGE.

We will be joining the march with banners and signs, and will be handing out leaflets about our work to abolish nuclear weapons. We will gather shortly before noon along 23rd Avenue on the grassy knoll in front of the school.

 

Here is the schedule:

Workshops: 9:30 to 10:50
Rally: 11:00 to 12:30
March 12:30

Please plan to join us if you can; this is so much more than a national holiday. Dr. King was a prophet who, nearly half a century ago, was warning us about the folly of our ways. Today his words ring as true as they did in 1968 when, just hours before he was assassinated, he gave his “Mountaintop” speech in which he said, “It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence.” Help us bear witness to those words.

Here’s the link to the MLK Seattle Celebration website.

Send questions to info@gzcenter.org

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