In Response To Bush’s State of the Union, Remember MLK
I’m going to respond to President Bush’s State of the Union, but not in the way every blog is. As always, I want to be atypical and different. 🙂
In response to Bush’s weak, conservative agenda to address problems at home (tax deductions will enable everyone to buy health care? the severely disabled, those who need it most, don’t even pay taxes!) and his tired war rhetoric to address problems overseas, I invoke the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, who we memorialized last week.
From his last speech in New York:
“A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I 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 and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”
We cannot be silent.
Serious anti-war arguments and sweeping criticisms of the cancerous greed rotting the underpinning foundations of the American dream are rarely heard. We don’t have any MLKs anymore.
What we have is an entire Congress clapping like those wind-up monkeys for more and more war.
As this column pointed out, you have to wonder if Martin Luther King would even be welcome at his own memorials these days. Danny Glover almost got uninvited from an MLK event for his anti-war comments.
Did America forget the words of the hero they honor every January? He decided to vociferously oppose the Vietnam war not just because it was so obviously an unjust war, but because it “eviscerated” spending on social programs. He was killed while bringing his nationwide “Poor People’s Campaign” to Memphis to coordinate support for sanitation workers on strike for a living wage. Each year, Bush, who ran on an anti-union platform and has slashed social programs, honors Dr. King. How can he compartmentalize that much? Are we now a nation of mass, collective cognitive dissonance?
I exhort you all, as we mark Rev. King’s life, as we listen to Bush’s State of the Union address and other speeches, do not forget Dr. King’s words.
Keep the dream alive.
Abraham, Martin and John – Dion and the Belmonts