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January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King is Reborn for Our Times

It is sometimes said that every generation has it's own "George Washington"  or "Abraham Lincoln" or "Thomas Jefferson".  It's particularly clear with Thomas Jefferson, what with absorbing the reality of his liaison with Sally Hemmings (on top of his owning slaves, period, and not freeing them at his death despite his clear angst at his own actions and his awareness of the terrible legacy his generation had left for others to solve).

Anyway, I'm hearing way different MLK speeches this year.  I am not hearing the "I Have a Dream" speeches.  I am hearing hard-hitting speeches from the last year of his life, speeches like, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" or "A Time to Break Silence". 

These were speeches from 1967 when King was stepping out to build a coalition to bring all poor people together, white, black and other.  And for King, other meant Vietnamese and Guatemalan and Nigerian people, among others.  From that very deeply-felt place of resonance with his God, he moved increasingly against the Vietnam War.  He truly believed in the shared person-hood of all people everywhere.  He listened to the young black men who were in the war or had been in the war;  he saw them being killed.  He couldn't fathom why we were spending so much money to kill people across the world rather than building schools and paying people a decent wage to work here.   "It is estimated that we spend $300,000 to kill each enemy soldier.  We only spend $53 dollars per year on each person in poverty." 

Here are some more of his words I jotted down as I listened to MLK's incredibly inspiring speeches while I was doing some paperwork.  The following quotes all came from one or another of these speeches:

Silence is betrayal, not only of one's personal convictions, or even of one's country alone, but also of our deeper obligations to one another and to the brotherhood of man.

America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.

I oppose this war because I love America.

Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war – use it.

We are reaching back this last weekend to an earlier time and playing the speeches of King's that make one's heart break because we so wish he were here with us right now.  It's as if King was speaking right to us today, we who are in the exact situation we were when he first spoke them forty years ago. 

Take a listen or read just one of these:   

Video of "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" 

Audio of King's Speech - "A Time to Break Silence"

Transcript of "A Time to Break Silence" 

What I love is that he was ministering to all of us, speaking to the terrible disappointment in America we felt then, as now.  He was calling out the best in each of us and asking us to do what was right.  Just like now.  Except this time, we are calling it out of each other.  There are many voices - John Edwards, Wes Clark, John Murtha, James Webb, Barbara Boxer, Chuck Hagel, Markos, Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy, Arianna Huffington, Jane Hamsher, Christy Hardin Smith, .Cindy Sheehan, Lt. Ehren Latada, Arthur and Lietta Ruger, Dan Kirkdorffer, Jim McDermott, Adam  Smith, Jay Inslee, Norm Dicks, Brad Newsham (the man who organized the Impeach on the Beach event in SF) Goldy, you, me and many, many, many more.

Martin Luther King's voice is so remarkably powerful because, in addition to the truth of the words he spoke, his voice carried all manner of emotions in it - disappointment, love, compassion, devotion, hope, sadness, and so much more.

Between us, perhaps we can fill up the voice he had and do what needs to be done right now.

Posted by Lynn Allen on January 15, 2007 at 11:02 PM in National and International Politics, Taking Action | Permalink

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