In the year before his assassination, Dr King began to express his opposition to the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. That opposition cost him support from his white allies, namely President Johnson, union leaders, and print publishers, such as Life and the Washington Post. It’s all very well and good, until the Black man speaks about more than social injustice.
Dr King, like many people today, would rather have the vast amounts of money expended on a useless war, spent on the social safety net.
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh? Especially for poor Americans. Things have changed a lot for rich Americans — they’re more obscenely wealthy than ever.
Dr King wrapped up his speech against the Vietnam War as follows:
Now it isn’t easy to stand up for truth and for justice. Sometimes it means being frustrated. When you tell the truth and take a stand, sometimes it means that you will walk the streets with a burdened heart. Sometimes it means losing a job…means being abused and scorned. It may mean having a seven, eight year old child asking a daddy, “Why do you have to go to jail so much?”…
Before the crown we wear, there is the cross that we must bear. Let us bear it — bear it for truth, bear it for justice, and bear it for peace. Let us go out this morning with that determination. And I have not lost faith. I’m not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order…
With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all over the world we will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!” With this faith, we’ll sing it as we’re getting ready to sing it now. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nations will not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore. And I don’t know about you, I ain’t gonna study war no more.
Less than a year later, Dr King paid the ultimate price for speaking out, not just against the war, but all manner of social injustice — his life was ended by an assassin’s bullet.
Today, we are at a similar point in history. Similar injustices are taking place, social and economic; one unjust war is ended, but another rages on. Although we have come far enough in this country to have elected an African American President, we have not come so far that the vile and ugly racism hidden deep inside so many of us, socially unacceptable for decades, would be prevented from bubbling to the surface, scarring our society like acid burns. We deal with a shocking redistribution of wealth in this country that divides us — rich vs poor — as much or more than it did 100 years ago. That redistribution of wealth is from the middle and bottom to the top, but still the wealthy cry that they are victims of “class warfare!”
I imagine Dr King shaking his head in disgust…
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