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.” 

****************

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!

###

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

Share widely

When will we learn the lesson of war?

Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece was written by Ground Zero member Marianne Mabbitt, and published in the Kitsap Sun on September 19, 2017. 

Sunday’s opening episode of the new Ken Burns documentary airing on PBS this week, “The Vietnam War,” exposed some history of Vietnam that was never common knowledge in the United States.
Most Americans knew that it was once called French Indonesia and that the French had a long embattlement and defeat in Vietnam. However, most of us never read of Hoh Chi Min’s experiences in the United States and England, or that he’d written letters to American presidents expressing his values as similar to many in the U.S. Constitution: of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, of freedom and independence. That was his goal for the people of Vietnam. Five American presidents, from Truman through Nixon, stated at one time or another their aversion to war there, and yet it continued.
The documentary reviews the horrors of war, the waste of lives and resources, the humiliation of our televised defeat after so long a struggle and the agony survivors endured and still do today. We are repeating similar painful experiences in the Middle East, the United States having been in Afghanistan for over 14 years with no end in sight.

Certainly, we as Americans have doubts about our mission and effectiveness in fighting foreign wars and we are tired of these unending wars that squander the lives and talents of our servicemen and women. The money, technology, research and energy should be redirected to life sustaining projects. The enormous tax dollars we spend on the military budget is obscene compared to the budget of our social programs needed at home such as schools, housing, energy, transportation, agriculture and preserving natural resources. The legislators and corporations that make up the war machine continue to lie to us so they can continue to rake in huge profits.

Various pieces of the military industrial complex are in every state in our nation. We are told we must keep supporting them for the jobs they provide us. But the money is siphoned from programs we need, from jobs we’d rather be doing that are constructive to our own society, not destructive to others. In the end, we are the ones we destroy as well. We bring home the guerrilla military tactics, the weapons, the nightmares and violence. The United States continues to escalate the level of violence in our own land in our media, in our schools, our games, our sports, on our streets and in our homes. “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.”

When will we learn that war only begets more wars? When will we deny the war machine our tax dollars and demand that we build up our own nation again? Democracy demands an informed electorate to vote rationally but we have so limited our real news sources and dumbed down our schools that the future looks very bleak for the youth of the United States. Who is paying attention to the next war on the horizon?

Resist a first strike of North Korea! We must resist the litany of atrocities committed in our name in any country. Today we are on the brink of another war with North Korea. This one involves a nuclear weapons exchange that could annihilate the earth’s atmosphere as we know it. The planet cannot withstand any more nuclear explosions. Tell your representatives to support the Senate bill, ‘Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017.’ It requires Congress to authorize nuclear weapons strikes rather than the President alone. We must stop the cycle of violence our country imposes on others and on ourselves.

We must stop the bleeding and bind our wounds. We must dialogue and plan for the near future and envision a country that believes and ACTs towards liberty and justice for all. If not now, when? If not us, who will do it? If we don’t act, will we even be here after a nuclear war North Korea?

M.G. Mabbitt lives in Silverdale.

Share widely

If We Can Risk Nuclear War, We Can Risk Nuclear Disarmament

Save the Dates: August 12th through August 14

Ground Zero Center will hold its annual remembrance of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a full weekend of events.

Starting on Saturday, August 12th we will have the second annual Boats By Bangor in which a full flotilla will sail by the Bangor Trident submarine base. Boats will launch from King Spit, and following the flotilla will be a beach picnic, followed by an evening concert at Ground Zero Center by folksinger Tom Rawson.

On Sunday, August 13th we have a full day that will include nonviolence training, updates on nuclear weapons issues, music, and preparation for Monday’s action.

On Monday morning we will have a vigil and nonviolent direct action at the Bangor base.

Ground Zero will also participate in the annual From Hiroshima to Hope lantern ceremony at Seattle’s Green Lake on August 6th.

Click here to view and download the full-page event flyer. A quarter-page version is also available, and is great for handing out. Click here for the quarter-page version. 

Send your questions to info@gzcenter.org.

Ground Zero August 2017 SCHEDULE
IF WE CAN RISK NUCLEAR WAR, WE CAN RISK NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
72nd Anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombings

Wednesday, August 2
Peace Fleet greets US Navy on Seattle waterfront; noon on the water; 1:00 PM on land; location TBD

Sunday, August 6
From Hiroshima to Hope, Green Lake Park, Seattle

Friday, August 11
6:00 PM – GZ Center house open; BYO dinner
7:00 PM – Private screening of Helen Young film “The Nuns, the Priests, and the Bombs” for cast, crew & GZ community

Saturday, August 12 “Boats By Bangor”
9:00 Continental breakfast
(Activity managers oversee watercraft transfer from Ground Zero Center to Kings Spit, Old Bangor)
10:00 Welcome, registration, review of safety procedures for “Boats By Bangor” activity; sign-up list for GZ House chores
11:00 Welcome gathering for arriving Peacewalkers
11:30 Potluck lunch
12:30 Carpool to Kings Spit
1:00 Launch kayaks with powerboat support
4:00 Kayaks/boats return to Kings Spit; barbecue picnic
5:30 Post-picnic cleanup & packout
6:00 Move boats off beach
6:30 Coffee and dessert at Ground Zero Center
7:00 Tom Rawson concert
Post-Concert: Collective Cleanup

Sunday, August 13
9:00 Breakfast & registration
10:00 Welcome & orientation to Ground Zero by Marianne Mabbitt
10:10 Briefing by Ground Zero and WPSR member Dave Hall on Trident issue
11:00-11:45 Keynote speech: Video presentation by author/antiwar activist David Swanson with follow-on discussion moderated by Elizabeth Murray
12:00 Lunch
12:45 Cleanup
1:00 Nonviolence training
2:00 Choosing roles, discernment & action planning for those considering risking arrest
Letter-writing, sign-making, or peace crane-folding, possible vigil in Silverdale (TBD)
4:00 Role-playing scenarios to rehearse for action
5:00 Affix peace cranes to fence bordering naval base
5:30 Dinner & cleanup
6:30 Hank ‘n Claire concert

Monday, August 14
5:30 Light breakfast & cleanup
6:15 Check-in for those risking arrest
6:30 Gathering Circle
7:00 AM Action at naval base
9:00 AM Closing circle/debriefing

 

Share widely

Peace Fleet Meets War Fleet

Local activists will stage a water-based nonviolent protest against the glorification of weapons of war at the Seattle Seafair festival. Peace activists will meet the U.S. Navy fleet in Elliott Bay.

Other peace activists will meet on land at Waterfront Park on the Seattle waterfront at the same time for a nonviolent demonstration against weapons of war. The rooftop of Pier 66 is closed to the public this year, and Piers 62/63 are construction areas.

All are welcome to participate, either on land or on the water.

What: Peace activists at Seafair. This is the sixteenth year for this demonstration.

When: Wednesday, August 2, noon, Peace Fleet in Elliott Bay. Demonstration on land at Waterfront Park (just south of the Seattle Aquarium) at 1 PM.

Where: In Elliott Bay, near Pier 66. Demonstration on land at Waterfront Park (just south of the Seattle Aquarium.)    

Email info@gzcenter for details on participating on the water. Boats may be docked earlier in Bell Harbor Marina on August 1 or in the morning before the Navy fleet arrival on August 2.

Share widely

14 cited at anti-nuclear weapons demonstration

55 people were present on May 13, at the demonstration against Trident nuclear weapons at the Bangor submarine base.  14 demonstrators attempted to block the main highway entrance into the base and were cited by the Washington State Patrol.

At around 3:30 pm on Saturday, six demonstrators entered the highway carrying a large banner stating, “THE EARTH IS OUR MOTHER—TREAT HER WITH RESPECT”, and briefly blocked traffic at the Main Gate at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.  They were removed from the highway by the Washington State Patrol.

After a short period of time, eight other demonstrators entered the highway with a full-size replica of a Trident D-5 missile and were removed by the Washington State Patrol.

During the event, some demonstrators were threatened by the Washington State Patrol with arrest and a weekend in jail with an arraignment in court on Monday.  In the end, all 14 demonstrators were cited for violating RCW 46.61.250, Pedestrians on roadways, and released within an hour.

Those cited by the Washington State Patrol:  Margarita Munoz, Kim Loftness, and Paul Kikuchi of Seattle; Elizabeth Murray of Poulsbo; Ed Digilio of Shoreline; Ramon Nacanaynay of Lynnwood; Lisa Johnson and Mack Johnson of Silverdale; Chris Rogers and Tom Rogers of Keyport; Cliff Kirchmer of Fircrest; James Brecht of Tacoma; Michael Siptroth of Belfair; and Susan Crane of Redwood City, California.

Mother’s Day in the United States was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe as a day dedicated to peace.  Howe saw the effects on both sides of the Civil War and realized destruction from warfare goes beyond the killing of soldiers in battle.

The Trident submarine base at Bangor, just 20 miles from Seattle, is home to the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the US.  More than 1,300 nuclear warheads are deployed on Trident D-5 missiles on SSBN submarines based at Bangor or stored at Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) at the Bangor base.

Trident SSBN submarines at Bangor are estimated to carry about 108 nuclear warheads. The W76 and W88 warheads at Bangor are equal respectively to 100 kilotons and 455 kilotons of TNT in destructive force. Each of the eight submarines deployed at Bangor is capable of producing a destructive force equal to more than 1,400 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs.

At the demonstration on Saturday, Susan Crane, a longtime antinuclear peace activist, spoke of Daniel Berrigan and his warning–that a nuclear war will be legal; that the courts and judges will approve.  But our faith and conviction reminds us of the command: no killing, and no war.

Susan Crane stated, “We are here to act for the next generations, and we are here for active nonviolent solutions and actions.  And we are not alone.  There are many signs of resistance, signs of hope around the world.  Every nonviolent action, no matter how small, creates hope.  And together, these small instances of hope are precursors, a taste, a glimpse, of a nonviolent world.”

Ground Zero member Tom Rogers stated, “our kids deserve to grow up in a world without nuclear weapons.  It is a failure of our generation that they must live in fear of nuclear annihilation and bear the cost of a massive modernization of our nuclear weapons complex.”

The Seattle Peace Chorus Action Ensemble provided demonstrators a strong voice and music for the day.  Members of Veterans for Peace, the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order, and other peace groups in the area provided additional support for the event.

Throughout the day, Ground Zero members were mindful of the recent passing of friend and colleague Mira Leslie.  A small redwood tree was planted near the Gendai Hoto in honor of Mira.

The next planned demonstration will be the annual Ground Zero Peace Fleet demonstration on August 2, 2017 in Elliott Bay.

The next planned demonstration at Bangor will be on August 12, 2017, a Boats by Bangor event in Hood Canal.  The next planned direct action will be on August 14, 2017 at Bangor in commemoration of the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action was founded in 1977.  The center is on 3.8 acres adjoining the Trident submarine base at Bangor, Washington.  We resist all nuclear weapons, especially the Trident ballistic missile system.

See photos and raw video at https://1drv.ms/f/s!AjLnSR8uJSzyjRtJmZlhJd_M1-ki   Please download and allow time to see four videos.

Share widely