Monday, January 17, 2005


PBS aired an episode of American Experience, Citizen King,* last week. It focused on the later years of King's activism in which he became more radical as far as the relationship between economics and social change, rather than the major emphasis on creating change through the state. Only recently has King's opposition to Vietnam War and support for a "poor people's movement" been a point of focus. I highly recommend it if it is replayed.

An Alternet article MLK Jr. In His Own Words highlights some of King's sentiments on violence, war, American values, and American foreign policy. King still has lessons for us today, especially with regard to the discourse on values.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. ... A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: 'This is not just.' It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: 'This is not just.' The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: 'This way of settling differences is not just.' This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

*If you go to this site, you can see video of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and a personal hero of mine, James Baldwin**
**"We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it."--James Baldwin


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