Monday, January 18, 2010

President Obama is No Martin Luther King

Democracy Now! had a marvelous program about Dr. Martin Luther King for this holiday in his honor. If people were ever confused enough to think that Barak Obama was another Martin Luther King, listening to the speeches and other information in the DN! program will surely disabuse them of such a faulty notion. As I listened once again to Dr. King's speeches, It was impossible to not compare them to the words and actions of Barak Obama, and the reactions that both men have evoked from so many people in their time. While Barak Obama stands as a symbol of Dr. King's civil rights accomplishments, it was the actual sacrifice, and not mere words, of people like Dr. King, that allowed him to become that symbol. While Barack Obama called for hope and change, we have seen by his actions that he actually stands for expediency and cynicism. Dr. King, on the other hand, while preaching hope and change, showed through his actions that he stood for conscience, courage, and compassion.

While Dr. King was excoriated by the right for his views on Vietnam, Amy Goodman reminds us that he was also chastised by the so-called "Liberal" mainstream media at the time as well. When King noted that America was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” [it still is], he was blasted by both "Time" and the "Washington Post." Obama on the other hand is generally applauded by the same outlets for conducting three and one half wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, while he plays a disingenuous game with the victimized Palestinians.

Speech Excerpts:

From “Beyond Vietnam”

[On dishonesty as a pillar of American Foreign Policy-]

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 8,000 miles away from its shores.

. . . .

[On the destruction of the minds of American Soldiers-]

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 the 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.

[On stopping the madness-]

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 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.

. . . .

[On the need for protest-]

Meanwhile, we in the 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 Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible. 

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—and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. [Talks about future aggressions] 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. So such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God. 

[On the need for a Revolution in Values]

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 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.

There is much more to be heard from Dr. King on this program. You can obtain a transcript at:


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