“Our only hope lies in our ability to go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal opposition to the giant triplet of racism, economic exploitation and militarism.”
Today is a day to reflect on war and its impact on the world, humanity and each of us as individuals. 50 years ago today Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of the most important speeches of all time. It was prophetic in that his descriptions remain truer than ever as his warnings remain less heeded than ever. Exactly one year later, he was shot and killed. Today even those who hate him disturbingly try to claim something of his mantle. I bring MLK’s words up a lot because I think they get glossed over far too readily in favor of treating him as an icon (by people who want to dismiss him, but also by organizers who revere his memory). It is important that progressives seek out and bring to the fore new voices rising out of oppressed communities, and this I try to do. But sometimes, we must revisit the lessons of our elders and modern-day prophets to better turn their loss into an ultimate gain. (How about “One step back. Two steps forward,” for a change?)
As I wrote in one of my January Missives, I am inspired by a version of this talk that MLK gave, in Chicago, on August 31, 1967, at the first (and only) National Conference on New Politics. In that presentation he focused more on the “radical revolution of values” our society needs to undergo and less on the specifics of Vietnam. He spoke in detail about the “giant triplets” or “triple evil” of “racism, economic exploitation and militarism” (emphasis added). He gave examples that are eerily similar to fights for rights going on today.
In 1958 he spoke of the “inseparable twins of racism and economic exploitation.” His radical trajectory was pointed to confront militarism as an inseparably destructive, third tine of that demonic pitchfork, against which he implored us all to organize. Despite earlier attempts on his life, many commentators feel that his growing work against United States military aggression and racist, corporate greed was what led to his assassination on April 4, 1968. “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.”
People are starving in Yemen because of
racism, greed, and militarism.
Martin Luther King Jr is famous for saying, “Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.” Actually, I think he understated the point. Injustice anywhere diminishes justice everywhere. I feel less free because I know others are enslaved. I am typing from the office of Voices for Creative Nonviolence in Chicago. In the bathroom is a sign with a great quote by Eugene Debs: “While there is a lower class, I am in it. While there is a criminal element, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
And now, the United States is poised to throw even more of its military force against starving people in Yemen, people our nation has helped push to the brink of famine by our heartless support for Saudi military brutality there. How many times can the USA wear a people down and then attack them or goad a few of them to some desperately violent act and convince people that it was all their own fault?
Please check out this sign-on letter/action item produced by the Yemen Peace Project. Also, in New York, across from the United Nations, several groups including Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV) and Catholic Workers will be holding a week long vigil and fast for Yemen starting on April 10. Please join them if you can. For background ala one of my favorite people and fellow activists, Kathy Kelly, check out this VCNV post. And while I am mentioning VCNV, I must share this heartwarming video from the Afghan Peace Volunteers. The kite is a wonderfully ironic symbol of liberation, of something flying free. Ideally, a kite is held, tethered somewhat. Free but grounded. May we all be free, and grounded.
Who is the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today?”
Not Iran. Not Russia. Not North Korea. Not the Houthis. Not Hezbollah. Not even Saudi Arabia, France, Sweden or Mexico. Not refugees or asylum seekers. About half of all military spending in the world is by the United States, and over 60% of arms sales are brokered by the USA too. The United States gives 75% of its military aid to Israel and Egypt. The US military budget is about equal to the combined military budgets of the next seven or eight nations down the list behind us. “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government,” said Martin Luther King Jr, and that is only more true now than when he said it 50 years ago.
We have a duty to doubt every single justification and call to arms that comes from the White House or the halls of Congress. “We had to destroy the village to save it” was so Vietnam! History is repeating itself, although currently, there really seems to be shockingly little, if not blatantly dishonest, concern about saving anyone. (A sobering aside about forgetfulness: At the JVP National Member Meeting in Chicago, I was talking with Cindy Corrie, the late Rachel Corrie’s mother. She told me that many younger activists she met last weekend didn’t know who Rachel Corrie was or that she was killed by militarized, Israeli bulldozer in Gaza. And this was a gathering of 900 activists who focus on this issue! We need to watch our assumptions. What is old is still new, and what doesn’t seem that old, may be totally unknown to some people. May I keep learning new things until the very end too.
I still need some help with funds for my return to Palestine/Israel
with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence in May
Thank you to everyone who has responded to my various appeals for money so I can return to Palestine/Israel in May on another delegation with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence: End 50 Years of Occupation: “Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue”. I still need some support. If you have PayPal, you can easily send me money that way with a debit or credit card. (Paypal has terrible politics, but I have had it a while and don’t use it much.) Checks can be made out to:
15 Mirabel Ave.
San Francisco CA 94110
Last year I exceeded my minimum goal of $3000, and I really needed it for getting there and back, and also for some of the many follow ups I was able to do as a result of that inspiring if disturbing trip. There is so much to support and so much need; I appreciate everyone’s generosity.
For the past two years I have been helping care (part-time) for a stroke survivor in Oakland. He has finally decided to move into a care facility. I’m not sure what I will do to support my comfortable but precariously, minimally financed lifestyle. I will need some income or financial support, but I’m not sure exactly what I will do. I want to wish David and his family all the best moving forward. I think it has worked out very well for all of us. I prefer to stay in the Bay Area so as to be close to my mother, but we’ll see. Would I move for love or a job? for community? We’ll see what develops over the next couple of months. Hopefully I’ll have a plan before I leave for my trip on May 10. If not, I will surely come up with one on May 30 when I return!
And happy birthday to my mom! It’s the big 8-0 on April 15! I look forward to laughing out loud together and celebrating as we all grow longer in the teeth day by day, as long as they don’t fall out!