Friday, April 26, 2013

Wanda Coleman to Be Honored at California State University, Los Angeles, May 9

We hope you will join us when Wanda Coleman is honored as the 2013 Jean Burden Poet at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, in the Golden Eagle Ballroom at California State University, Los Angeles.


Ms. Coleman will be accompanied during her poetry reading by David Crittendon on piano and Tracy Wannomae on saxophone and flute.


The Jean Burden Series began in 1986. Since its inception, this endowed annual event has featured such figures as Adrienne Rich, Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton and British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion.


This poetry reading is free of charge, open to the public, and will be followed by a book signing. Doors open at 5:45 for a buffet reception.


The press release for Wanda Coleman's Jean Burden Reading is here:


Further information is here:

The PDF flyer for this event is attached.


We hope to see you on May 9. Please contact us with any questions. You are welcome to share this notice with others who would enjoy sharing this special occasion to honor Wanda Coleman.


Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics

California State University, Los Angeles

5151 State University Drive

Los Angeles, CA 90032

Lauri Ramey, Director


It is has been requested that you be informed of this event only. Your name is not on our mailing list. If you wish to be notified of future events at California State University, Los Angeles, please reply to let us know.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

John Nichols: Barack Obama Charts an Arc of History, Critique by Chris Hedges of Truthdig

Barack Obama Charts an Arc of History That Bends Toward Justice

Barack Obama, the president who publicly swore his second oath of office on the Bibles of Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., used his inaugural address to chart an arc of history from the liberation movements of the sixteenth president's time through the civil rights movements of a century later to the day on which hundreds of thousands of Americans packed the National Mall to cheer for the promise of an emboldened presidency.

Obama charterd that arc in a remarkable soliloquy that spoke of a fundamental America duty to provide "hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice":

Not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes; tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice. We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

The recalling of the honored ground where Americans refused anymore to accept the diminishment of women, of people of color, of lesbians and gays were meaningful. They recognized Dr. King's recollection at the close of the Selma to Montgomery march that abolitionist Theodore Parker had promised: "Even though the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice."

With his mentioning of the Stonewall protests, where the gay rights movement took form, Obama went further than any president in the country's history to complete a circle of inclusion. But Obama, often and appropriately criticized for his caution, did not end on that high note. He went further still.

The president linked the historical reference, the rhetorical flourish, with contemporary struggles over specific issues.

It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.

Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.

Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.

Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.

Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

That is our generation's task, to make these works, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.

Amid the poetry, there was a muscular agenda: pay equity, voting rights, immigration reform, gun control. In other sections of the speech, there were specific reference to addressing climate change—an issue too long neglected by leaders of both parties—and to renewing a frayed commitment to education. And in others, still, not just to ending wars but to a renewed faith that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. This is a long way from "swords into ploughshares." But it was also a long way from "the Bush doctine." Perhaps long enough to be an Obama doctrine defined by "the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully—not because we are na├»ve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear."

And there was more, much more. There was the vital recognition that poverty is form of oppression—not a moral failing. "We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal not just in the eyes of God but also in our own," said Obama. A beautiful statement, yes. Significantly, in a time of debate about the future of governing commitment to those whose dreams have been so long deferred, Obama completed the arc from FDR and LBJ to today, not just mentioning but defending Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.

But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.

For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative.

They strengthen us.

They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great.

That last line referenced the "makers versus takers" language of Congressional Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who as his party's presidential nominee suggested that the 2012 election was in many senses a battle between an imagined majority and a dismissed 47 percent.

As it happened, Ryan and Mitt Romney won just 47 percent of the vote on November 6. Barack Obama and Joe Biden won 51 percent, and with it a mandate that Obama seems willing finally to embrace. The Barack Obama who began his first term as a remarkably popular figure who seemed almost overwhelmed by the challenges left over from the failed president of George W. Bush begins his second term as a confident leader who knows well that he made mistakes of strategy and position in his first term and who is determine this time to chart a different course.

Will Obama disappoint in this second term? Yes. Will he need to be poked and prodded, chastised and challenged by Americans who demand that the progressive language of his inaugural address be—in Obama's words—"made real"? Absolutely. More so now than ever.

But with this inaugural address President Obama has offered an indication that he heard the American people on November 6. They were not re-electing him merely because they liked him as a man. They were re-electing him to dispense with the fantasy—entertained not just by Republicans but by too many Democrats—that "freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few." And to complete the journey from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall and to the place of economic justice where every citizen has that basic measure of security and dignity that can and must be America's promise.  

* * * 

(This is one of many responses you can read on the URL at the top.  Hedges full article is at  -Ed) 

  • Here's a scorcher of a Link o' the Day, hot off the presses:
  • A Time for 'Sublime Madness' By Chris Hedges at Truthdig

    The planet we have assaulted will convulse with fury. The senseless greed of limitless capitalist expansion will implode the global economy. The decimation of civil liberties, carried out in the name of fighting terror, will shackle us to an interconnected security and surveillance state that stretches from Moscow to Istanbul to New York. To endure what lies ahead we will have to harness the human imagination. It was the human imagination that permitted African-Americans during slavery and the Jim Crow era to transcend their physical condition. It was the human imagination that sustained Sitting Bull and Black Elk as their land was seized and their cultures were broken. And it was the human imagination that allowed the survivors in the Nazi death camps to retain the power of the sacred.

    It is the imagination that makes possible transcendence. Chants, work songs, spirituals, the blues, poetry, dance and art converged under slavery to nourish and sustain this imagination. These were the forces that, as Ralph Ellison wrote, "we had in place of freedom." The oppressed would be the first—for they know their fate—to admit that on a rational level such a notion is absurd, but they also know that it is only through the imagination that they survive. Jewish inmates in Auschwitz reportedly put God on trial for the Holocaust and then condemned God to death. A rabbi stood after the verdict to lead the evening prayers....

    "Will Obama disappoint in this second term? Yes."

  • Make that a resounding one. By the way, weird situation that it's the right-wing nutters who are up in arms --pun, sort of, intended-- over Obama's essentially right-wing shenanigans, and it's the African-American community which remains the most loyal to Obama, even as they are poised to take the brunt of the worst of what austerity will soon bring.

    As much as it perhaps strains cedibility to think it, there really ought to be some sort alliance formed between the tea-partier types who recognize that civil liberties are on the verge of being obliterated, and the occupiers who understand more intelligently why that is.

    It's going to be an interesting year, 2013.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Beyond Vietnam - Martin Luther King, April, 1967

Good morning. Here's the Sunday sermon of my generation - maybe yours.
But whether you read it with a heart full of remembrance, a look into the
thinking-in-process of great person or just for concepts to guide in our own
time of turmoil, you will be startled, then amazed at the breadth and depth
of the essay. Then, really saddened. It's long, but eminently worth while.
This is, after all, a holy day.
Audio file:
"Beyond Vietnam"
by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Address to the Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam,
Riverside Church, New York City
April 4, 1967
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very
delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you
expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by
turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a
great honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi
Heschel, some of the distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation.
And of course it's always good to come back to Riverside Church. Over the
last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every
year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to
come to this great church and this great pulpit.
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience
leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in
deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has
brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The
recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own
heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A
time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation
to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they
call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner
truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's
policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without
great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's
own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at
hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful
conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty.
But we must move on.
Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have
found that 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. And we must rejoice as well, for surely
this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of
its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth
patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of
conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among
us. If it is, let us trace its movement, and pray that our own inner being
may be sensitive to its guidance. For we are deeply in need of a new way
beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own
silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called
for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have
questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns,
this query has often loomed large and loud: "Why are you speaking about the
war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent?" "Peace and civil
rights don't mix," they say. "Aren't you hurting the cause of your people?"
they ask. And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of
their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean
that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment, or my calling.
Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which
they live. In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of
signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I
believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church-the church in
Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate-leads clearly to this
sanctuary tonight.
I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved
nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation
Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to
overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective
solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North
Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to
overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the
problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of
the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent
testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful
give and take on both sides. Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with
Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans.
Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I
have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral
vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection
between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging
in America. 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 this 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 a 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 hardly live on the same block
in Chicago. 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 ghettos 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 the hundreds of thousands trembling
under our violence, I cannot be silent.
For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and
thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this
further answer. In 1957, when a group of us formed the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of
America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain
rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America
would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its
slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way
we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who
had written earlier:
O, yes, I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath-
America will be!
Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern
for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If
America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read
"Vietnam." It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes
of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined
that "America will be" are led down the path of protest and dissent,
working for the health of our land.
As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America
were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in
1954.* And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a
commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before
for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national
But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning
of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship
of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes
marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it
be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men-for
communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for
white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my
ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he
died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao
as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must
I not share with them my life?
Finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads
from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid
if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all
men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race
or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood. Because I
believe that the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering
and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I
believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves
bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than
nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and
positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the
victims of our nation, for those it calls "enemy," for no document from
human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways
to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the
people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not
of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but
simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost
three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to
me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is
made to know them and hear their broken cries.
They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people
proclaimed their own independence in 1954-in 1945 rather-after a combined
French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in
China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American
Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to
recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of
her former colony. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were
not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western
arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With
that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-
determination and a government that had been established not by China-for
whom the Vietnamese have no great love-but by clearly indigenous forces
that included some communists. For the peasants this new government
meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.
For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of
independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their
abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were
meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French
were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless
action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and
military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will.
Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at
After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land
reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there
came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily
divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the
most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants
watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported
their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification
with the North. The peasants watched as all of this was presided over by
United States influence and then by increasing numbers of United States
troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had
aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the
long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially
in terms of their need for land and peace.
The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments
in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without
popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received
the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they
languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the
real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land
of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are
rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.
So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we
poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must
weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the
precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty
casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So
far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into
the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes,
running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children
degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children
selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as
we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform?
What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the
Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration
camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim
to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the
village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated
in the crushing of the nation's only noncommunist revolutionary political
force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the
peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed
their men.
Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid
physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in
the concrete of the concentration camps we call "fortified hamlets." The
peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such
grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must
speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are
our brothers.
Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those
who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation
Front, that strangely anonymous group we call "VC" or "communists"? What
must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we
permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them
into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our
condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can
they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the
North" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they
trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign
of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of
death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we
do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we
supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own
computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less
than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the
blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are
aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready
to allow national elections in which this highly organized political
parallel government will not have a part? They ask how we can speak of free
elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military
junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we
plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the
peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a
peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are
frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth
again, and then shore it up upon the power of a new violence?
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it
helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know
his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic
weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and
grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the
So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and
our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable
mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in
Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In
Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese
and the French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth
and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the
colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French
domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land
they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a
temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem
to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power
over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When
we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.
Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of
American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial
military breach of the Geneva Agreement concerning foreign troops. They
remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even
supplies into the South until American forces had moved into the tens of
Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the
earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed
that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched
as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has
surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an
invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are
doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense
of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation
of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a
poor, weak nation more than eight hundred, or rather, eight thousand miles
away from its shores.
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last
few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand
the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned
about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what
we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process
that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy.
We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a
short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are
really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent
them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely
realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we
create a hell for the poor.
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of
God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose
land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is
being subverted. I speak for the poor of 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.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one
of them wrote these words, and I quote: Each day the war goes on the hatred
increases in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of
humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into
becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so
carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in
the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The
image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and
democracy, but the image of violence and militarism. Unquote.
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the
world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop
our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left
with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and
deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of
America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that
we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we
have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation
is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In
order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the
initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.
I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do
immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating
ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action
will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast
Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in
Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has
substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any
meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.
Five: Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in
accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement. [sustained applause]
Part of our ongoing [applause continues], part of our ongoing commitment
might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who
fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front.
Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done.
We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in
this country if necessary. Meanwhile [applause], meanwhile, we in churches
and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to
disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise
our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in
We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every
creative method of protest possible.
As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for
them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative
of conscientious objection. [sustained applause] I am pleased to say that
this is a path now chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma
mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American
course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. [applause] Moreover, I
would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial
exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. [applause] These
are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment
when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its
own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that
best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and
sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade
against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish
to go on now to say something even more disturbing.
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the
American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality [applause], and if
we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy
and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be
concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand
and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa.
We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies
without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American
life and policy. [sustained applause] So such thoughts take us beyond
Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him
that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the
past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has
now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela.
This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the
counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why
American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and
why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active
against rebels in Peru.
It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy
come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful
revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." [applause]
Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has
taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by
refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the
immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to
get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo
a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must
rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented
society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights,
are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism,
extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and
justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are
called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only
an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road
must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten
and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion
is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice
which produces beggars needs restructuring. [applause]
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 South
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 hand 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 the veins of
peoples 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. [sustained applause]
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.
This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against
communism. [applause] War is not the answer. Communism will never be
defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join
those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United
States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are
days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not
engage in a negative anticommunism, but rather in a positive thrust for
democracy [applause], realizing that our greatest defense against communism
is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive
action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and
injustice, which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows
and develops.
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against
old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a
frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The
shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before.
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West
must support these revolutions.
It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of
communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations
that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have
now become the arch antirevolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that
only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment
against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the
revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to
recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile
world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With
this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and
unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be
exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low [Audience:] (Yes);
the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain."
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our
loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation
must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to
preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond
one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an
all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft
misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the
Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an
absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not
speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I'm not speaking of that
force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all
of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life.
Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate
reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate
reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: "Let
us love one another (Yes), for love is God. (Yes) And every one that loveth
is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for
God is love.... If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is
perfected in us." Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the
We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar
of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising
tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and
individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold
Toynbee says: "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice
of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore
the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have
the last word." Unquote.
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are
confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of
life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination
is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and
dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not
remain at flood-it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in
her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the
bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written
the pathetic words, "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that
faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right:
"The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on."
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent
coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new
ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing
world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely
be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for
those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and
strength without sight.
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter,
but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of
God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds
are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our
message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival
as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another
message-of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of
commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and
though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment
of human history.
As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide, In the strife of
Truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side; Some great cause, God's new
Messiah offering each the bloom or blight, And the choice goes by forever
'twixt that darkness and that light. Though the cause of evil prosper, yet
'tis truth alone is strong Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon
the throne be wrong Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim
unknown Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform
this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make
the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our
world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the
right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all
over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness
like a mighty stream. [sustained applause]
* King says "1954," but most likely means 1964, the year he received the
Nobel Peace Prize.
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV, Address correction and reminder of 'From Protest to Resistance'

From: []

Sent: Saturday, January 19, 2013 3:00 PM

The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV April 4, 2007

It's become a TV ritual: Every year on April 4, as Americans commemorate Martin Luther King's death, we get perfunctory network news reports about "the slain civil rights leader."

The remarkable thing about these reviews of King's life is that several years — his last years — are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

What TV viewers see is a closed loop of familiar file footage: King battling desegregation in Birmingham (1963); reciting his dream of racial harmony at the rally in Washington (1963); marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama (1965); and finally, lying dead on the motel balcony in Memphis (1968).

An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn't take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.

Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV.


It's because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.

In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" — including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

Noting that a majority of Americans below the poverty line were white, King developed a class perspective. He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for "radical changes in the structure of our society" to redistribute wealth and power.

"True compassion," King declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

By 1967, King had also become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 — a year to the day before he was murdered — King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." (Full text/audio here.

From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

In foreign policy, King also offered an economic critique, complaining about "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."

You haven't heard the "Beyond Vietnam" speech on network news retrospectives, but national media heard it loud and clear back in 1967 — and loudly denounced it. Time magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post patronized that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

In his last months, King was organizing the most militant project of his life: the Poor People's Campaign. He crisscrossed the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington — engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be — until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. Reader's Digest warned of an "insurrection."

King's economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America's cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its "hostility to the poor" — appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity," but providing "poverty funds with miserliness."

How familiar that sounds today, nearly 40 years after King's efforts on behalf of the poor people's mobilization were cut short by an assassin's bullet.

In 2007, in this nation of immense wealth, the White House and most in Congress continue to accept the perpetuation of poverty. They fund foreign wars with "alacrity and generosity," while being miserly in dispensing funds for education and healthcare and environmental cleanup.

And those priorities are largely unquestioned by mainstream media. No surprise that they tell us so little about the last years of Martin Luther King's life.



American Friends Service Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace-LA, Valley Greens, Valley Socialists

 From Protest to Resistance 

Monday January 21, 2013 , 7 PM


Peace Center West

3916 S. Sepulveda Blvd 

(Bet. Washington & Venice)

Culver City, 90230


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