On 4 April 1967 Dr Martin Luther King gave his first major public address regarding the war in Vietnam. The address was delivered to laity and clergy at Riverside Church in NYC. Sadly, he delivered this address only one year prior to his assassination. In the address, commonly known as “Beyond Vietnam,” Dr King spoke out harshly against the war. Many civil rights leaders at the time condemned him for his comments as they thought his comments would hurt their cause. His words angered President Lyndon B. Johnson at the time to the point that Johnson revoked an invitation to the White House for Dr King. MLK once said, “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.”
Dr King began his address by pointing to statements made by an organization of clergy and laymen concerned about the war. He referenced one statement in particular which said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” Dr King said that time had come for us in relation to the war in Vietnam but it is just as applicable today in light of the present state of our nation. The silence of the masses of Americans has come to betrayal! No longer can we afford to be silent as we watch the Corporatist pillage our nation economically and in terms of basic human rights! We The People MUST break our silence and SPEAK OUT in an effort to end this wholesale destruction of our nation and our society for the sake of PROFIT for the FEW! Many of us wish to THINK we are “patriotic” but just how patriotic is it to be silent when you sit and watch the destruction of America and American society? That’s NOT patriotic at all. That’s BETRAYAL! And that is exactly what Dr King was talking about because that is what many Americans were doing in the days of the Vietnam War.
Dr King went on to say that the mission to speak out is a “most difficult one.” He said, “Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy…”. Sadly, in America today we have an increasing system of Corporatism in which and through which government that is suppose to represent the people is used, instead, to do the bidding of the corporations. Government policy is becoming more and more bent towards the corporations and less and less towards the common American living on Main Street. We all know this because it is a truth within us that eats at us many times but, yet, we are reluctant to speak out, stand up, and oppose just as Dr King pointed out. He went on to note that the human spirit does not move without “great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought…”. Again, his words rang true and still ring true today. We Americans have become a reluctant people. A people perhaps with too much comfort and certainly a people with far too much apathy. Instead, conformist thought is embraced because we have deemed it too risky, too difficult, to speak out and oppose the greedy Corporatists who now own and control our nation. Sadly, conformism has never gotten a people anywhere worthy. In fact, conformism has usually ended with the end of a people and the end of a nation. Our spirits have been dulled and even quenched by our entertainments and we have become far to concerned about our cell phones and to less concerned about the plight of our fellow human being and our children! Is it any wonder Americans are so apathetic and lethargic to the issues that REALLY matter? Not really.
Dr King said, “But we must move on.” And indeed we must! Americans MUST stop the campaign of the Corporatists that is destroying the very fabric of this nation and society. Corporatism is a form of Fascism. In fact, the late WW2 Italian dictator Benito Mussolini defined Fascism as the marriage between the state and the corporation. He later redefined it as Corporatism. Further, how much more must the common American take of this corporatism? Do you not see how they are shrinking the sizes of food packages giving you less but for a higher price? Do you not see how these Corporatists rip us off every chance they get every time you fill up your car? Do you not see how Corporate CEOs and CFOs commit crimes yet NONE go to jail? This nation now has a double-standard justice system. One in which the Corporatist can do virtually anything criminal and get away with a slap on the hands. The other in which the average American is jailed, imprisoned, or even shot dead by some trigger-happy cop for the slightest infraction. And make no mistake about it where the interests of these Corporatists lay. In Arizona the newly elected Governor Ducey’s first act was to cut education funding even though he said he wouldn’t as a candidate for election. But he did cut education funding and INCREASED state prison funding! Now Ducey is scrambling trying to find funding for education because his education cuts angered many Arizona voters but that is the ONLY reason why he is seeking increased education funding now!
Dr King also said, ” For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.” And, indeed, Americans do need a NEW WAY! A way that will dispel the ever-increasing darkness cast upon us by the greed of the Corporatists because THEIR greed is suffocating those of us living down on Main Street! They are not only killing our planet via climate change but they are killing US as well! Silence sometimes becomes a betrayal just as Dr King said in his address. In America today decades after Dr King’s address once again our silence has become betrayal.
Dr King knew some people in the 60s civil rights movement were upset with him because he chose to speak out against the Vietnam War. He said some would tell him peace and civil rights do not mix. He said such people had misunderstood him and his message, sadly. And Dr King’s message was a message not only for black Americans but for ALL AMERICANS. And, here we are, decades later and Dr King’s message is once again relevant. Our silence has become betrayal.
One statement Dr King made was when he told the audience, “…I am a preacher by calling.” Dr King did not see his career as a pastor or civil rights leader as a career as some see themselves today in such positions. He seen both as a calling from the God he believed in. For Dr King it was far more than a career or simply job. His was a life of CALLING and being called. To bad so many preachers today don’t see it that way as they see their jobs as preachers simply as JOBS with no real calling. Just another job!
Dr King went on to say and a few years prior there was a “shining moment” as it seemed there was “a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program.” However, when the conflict in Vietnam came about those programs became broken as America’s attention was focused on Vietnam not poverty. Isn’t it funny how so many times we seem to have demonstrated that we are a people with very short attention spans? So Dr King came to view the Vietnam War as “an enemy” because it took away from the campaign to help the poor and discriminated against and, suddenly, all the money was pumped into America’s never-ending horrendous WAR MACHINE! And how many times has that happened again and again since Dr King delivered his address? Many!
During his address Dr King pointed out the blatant hypocrisy of the Johnson Administration and the government in general. He said that we sent our black and white young men to Vietnam to secure the freedoms of the people living there yet we had not even secured those same freedoms for our own people (the poor and marginalized) here at home. What HYPOCRISY Vietnam was and EVERY WAR SINCE!!
Dr King made yet another VERY IMPORTANT statement during this address. He said, “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.” He said he believed that SOCIAL CHANGE “comes most meaningfully through NONVIOLENT ACTION.” But, he was confronted with the fact of our nation using violence to achieve its ends in Vietnam and Dr King told the assembled audience that reality hit home with him and never again could he raise his voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos of America without first speaking against the violence employed by our own government.
Dr King believed he not only had a mission but a commission. And that commission was to work harder than ever before for the “brotherhood of man.” He wasn’t just talking about blacks, whites, or Americans. He saw his commission as applying to ALL PEOPLE in ALL NATIONS! Dr King, further, believed that God was/is deeply concerned for the suffering, helpless, and outcast. He said that he and people like him are called to SPEAK out for the weak, the voiceless, and the victims.
Dr King also made reference to the “deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.” An arrogance that has cost America greatly time and time again in the international community and STILL is today. Where did we get this idea that we (America) knows best? Where did we get the idea that we’re the best and all other people and nations in the world want to be just like us? The answer is clear. All this comes from our own egotism and arrogance! Yet, egotism and arrogance is just as poisonous as the Fascist Corporatists and their unbridled greed in my estimation! So what is the difference between them and us, then?
Dr King then spoke about American atrocities committed by America in Vietnam. Atrocities that we’ve seen repeated again and again in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, et al. During the Vietnam War we supported the French in their quest to retake Vietnam as a French Colony while ignoring an emerging independent Vietnamese government that had the support of the working people. That emerging government even borrowed from our own Declaration of Independence and Constitution and, yet, we refused to recognize that government and instead supplied the French occupation with weapons and endless amounts of US taxpayer dollars in order to keep the status quo of TYRANNY in charge of Vietnam. In short, what we did even after the French lost their will to fight and we replaced them in the War was to support the Corporatists and shun the common people of Vietnam. And we did the SAME thing time and time again since then too! And all this talk of “freedom and democracy”? BAH! It’s just empty words mostly. I STRONGLY encourage you to read the full text of Dr King’s address at the link below and pay particular attention when he speak of American atrocities during the Vietnam War.
Speaking of our own troops put in Vietnam, Dr King said that our troops must realize that their own government put them in a war in which America is “on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.” What a sad statement about the REAL America that was and still is today. And that’s why the greed ridden Corporatists have come to own and rule America. And that is also why the increasing numbers of poor in America today are living in yet another hell of our own American creation. King called this “madness” and that is exactly what it is because it sure as hell isn’t even remotely sanity! And, despite all of our lip service to the big JC in the sky, I can’t help but wonder…..”is this what Jesus would do…..really???”. Create a hell on earth for the poor, rejected, and marginalized in our society today? Somehow I think we are very much as odds with JC despite our flapping lips!
And then Dr King said this:
“I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam…..I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours, the initiative to stop it must be ours.”
And, indeed, the world does today stand aghast at the path we have taken as a nation and as a people. In fact, some stand in horror of us mesmerized by complete disbelief of what we’ve done to ourselves and where we’ve put ourselves in America today. All of our talk has come to not and the world knows it! We are just blowing whistles in the wind and, now, not many people in the world are even listening to America anymore as they well should NOT in my opinion. For, we have not only become a people in which our silence is self-betrayal but we have become a nation of hypocrisy! Saying one thing and doing the opposite! Claiming we are this and that when, in fact, we are just the opposite and everyone on the planet seems to know it but us! We fool NO ONE but our own American selves.
Dr King quoted from a Buddhist priest in Vietnam in which the priest wrote that “The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.” And, indeed, that has been our image since Vietnam ended yet we continue to spout mindlessly about “freedom and democracy.” Why do we not see that the entire world sees right through our HYPOCRISY? And they have for a long, long time now. We delude no one but our own selves America. We can spout all we wish but the world ALREADY knows our words are empty and mean nothing because, in reality, we support the tyranny and oppression of the rich upon the poor!!
Back in 1957, Dr King pointed out in his address, an overseas American official said that it seemed to him that America was on the WRONG SIDE “of a world revolution.” He said that over the course of the prior 10 years we’ve seen the emergence of a pattern of suppression geared towards maintaining social stability “for our investment accounts.” King then quoted President John F Kennedy who once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Dr King then said what our nation is badly in need of is a “radical revolution of values.” He went on to state, “We must rapidly begin …the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.” And, yet, here we are decades later and we are STILL a thing-oriented society consumed with our trinkets like i-pods and cell phones! We speak of caring about our fellow human but we are content with allowing our fellow human to live in squalor with no hope barely making ends meet! Is that not hypocrisy? Are we not hypocrites then? King said that when things become more important than people then racism, extreme materialism, and militarism become incapable of being conquered. And is that not the point we are at today? We like to blame government and elected officials for our nations woes but, in reality, We The People are just as much to blame if not more so.
“There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us (America) from reordering our priorities…” Dr King said and, sadly yet, we have NOT reordered our priorities in this nation. Instead we have clung to our arrogance and egotism as if our lives dependent on it. Instead we have embraced even more our own greed and love of materialism over our fellow human being! Instead we have grown silence and now our very own silence betrays us and our nation along with the whole world! And we have embraced hypocrisy on a scale not even seen in Sodom and Gomorrah and, yet, we think no one else in the world has noticed. The world LAUGHS AT US! They MOCK us! They HATE US! And why should they not?
King went on to say, “We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation.” I would add this is still true today and also add that we can no longer afford to grovel at the feet of the greedy!
Dr Martin Luther King was a man I admired when I was a kid and still admire him today. He is one of many I admire and have admired such as people like migrant farmer worker activist Caesar Chavez, former Arizona Governor Raul Castro, and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, et al. These people all had/have one thing in common. They all speak or spoke for those who had no voice in our society including the poor, the marginalized, the rejected, the oppressed. Their fight continues today and it is up to YOU to continue that fight. Our silence has betrayed us BUT we can break that betrayal by STANDING UP AND SPEAKING OUT! And if not? If not, then I guess that means Americans are content with being the HYPOCRITES we have shown the world we are for the past 100 years now! All talk, all blowing smoke in the wind, but NO ACTION! If that be the case then let us wear that badge with SHAME not pride!
Prices go up and packages give us less as we are forced to pay more for less. Our politicians are nothing more than professional liars and con-men/women promising one thing but all delivering to us the SAME thing (ie: just more gross greed and Corporatism no matter what political party they belong to). The people up on Wall Street (figuratively used) live high on the hog while the people down on Main Street do with less and increasingly struggle to make ends meet with mere necessities for life, food, and shelter. The gap between rich and poor in this country is no longer simply a gap but has now become an ABYSS! Justice is dispensed fairly and justly to the highest bidder and those with no money to bid don’t get any justice at all. Corporate crimes go unpunished while crimes committed by the average person are prosecuted without mercy! Our nation has been on a quest of Empire building motivated by greed and the almighty PROFIT and, frankly, we haven’t given the people of those foreign lands, their welfare, or their futures one damned thought!! Americans, like those at Disney, have been not simply laid off from jobs they’ve held for 10-20 years or more but have been humiliated by being forced to train their foreign replacements brought into America by outsourcing or consulting companies thanks to glaring loopholes in the US workers Visa program and STILL government does NOTHING about it!! Senator Bernie Sanders a few years ago delivered a speech on the Senate floor stating there is a war on in America being waged by the rich against the middle class and poor in this country and he couldn’t have been more RIGHT. And despite all this and much more still we are SILENT? And our silence has betrayed us and turned us over to a growing tyranny that seeks to reduce us from being human beings to mere and mindless consumer machines oblivious to any and every thing EXCEPT that special product for sale that will make our lives just like in the fairytales all nice and fuzzy if we will just spend our last cent to get it. BULLSHIT! Here’s a revelation for a lot of you….LIFE IS NOT A FAIRYTALE AND SELDOM DOES IT HAVE A HAPPY ENDING FOR ANYONE!! Get a clue!
Our silence has betrayed us America.
The full text of Dr King’s address can be found and read at: