“SILENCE IS BETRAYAL” January 22, 2008Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
On 4 April 1967, Martin Luther King delivered a speech at the Riverside Church, New York in which he said among other things that the US was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”. The speech was entitled, “Beyond Vietnam – A time to break the silence”. The mainstream media turned on him, and as I understand it have drawn down the cone of silence since that time. At Time Magazine the speech was described as “a demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” The Washington Post commented “King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.” They were prescient. To the day and one year later MLK was assassinated.
With reference to the actual speech, either the audio or the transcript, it can be heard and seen to be far more substantial and significant than the reports would suggest. The significance of what King is saying is suggested by this extract on you tube:
King makes the connection between the war in Vietnam then and the living conditions of people in the United States. The same connection that many commentators, but worst political candidates, do not or dare not state publically now.
Martin Luther King said that night he had “seven reasons for calling Vietnam into the field of his moral vision”. He outlines the history of Vietnam from the declaration of independence in 1945, the French recolonization and the role of the Americans, firstly bankrolling the French and then assuming the role as protector and promoter of the various dictatorships from Diem and afterwards. He outlines the steps for ending the war, for American disengagement. He says that Vietnam is “a symptom of a far deeper malady in the American spirit” and calls (drum roll) for “a revolution in values”.
King said: “The choice between “nonviolent coexistence, or violent coannihilation”. The media have some difficulty in reporting either option, although as the world grapples with global warming and climate change, their tenuous grasp on reality will be increasingly seen for what it is. Still just over forty years later, following the example of South Africa, we know more about the importance of the measures taken to resolve conflict, and those measures of reconcilation, as James Reston suggested, are necessary for the protagonist, as much as they are for the victim countries, now of course Iraq, spreading outwards in all directions to the Middle East and across Afghanistan to Pakistan.
In retrospect the rush to war and murder, can be seen as incredibly foolish. And, as the King speech might remind us, it is not as if there was not a previous case.
Juan Cole reviews the MLK legacy in relation to war and his proposal that peace was a practical measure. The democratic question at issue, as one commenter alludes to, is that the interests of the many at the expense of the few, but that is an economic analysis, and perhaps a necessary one.
Michael Nagler discuses this King speech with his students at Thu 11/16, “Kings last years II”, at UC Berkeley Webcasts at Metta Center. (Begins at 15 minutes into the lecture.)