Jan. 18, 2002

MLK celebration honors 'lives of significance'

"What do they think of our condoning the violence ... how can they trust us when we charge them with violence ... while we pour every new weapon of death unto their land?" These were the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. back on April 4, 1967 in an address delivered to the clergy and laymen concerned about Vietnam, called "Beyond Vietnam." He speaks about how difficult it is to speak against our government in times of war. But, even though these are words from over 30 years ago, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King are very relevant this very moment, in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 200 1. Since September 11, our country has been engaged in war, "A War Against Terrorism." This is a fight (supposedly) for justice and freedom worldwide, President Bush would say. Dr. King would've been proud of the fact that we are united in the fight to end terrorism, but the method that America is taking to bring about change would sadden Dr. King if he were alive today.

Whenever Dr. King spoke, he preached nonviolence. Dr. King was against war altogether. During the Vietnam War, he went into the neighborhoods telling people violence wasn't the answer. He would probably do the same thing today. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech King said that people were trying to exclude him from the movement for peace, because he was "just" a civil rights leader. But his work wasn't just for blacks, it was meant for everyone around the world, a factor for his winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. King was a patriot and a humanitarian. In Dr. King's vision he wanted unity in America, but not at the expense of people's lives. We are all brothers and sisters, and we are killing our brothers in Afghanistan, and hating Afghan immigrants here at home. If we don't stop the fighting we will end up killing each other. As Dr. King said to the clergy and laymen in New York, "We can no longer afford to worship the God of hate and bow before the alter of retaliation." We must all come together and take notice of Dr. King's visions, as thousands did in Washington, DC that day.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in our nation's capitol, on August 28, 1963, he told thousands of people, of all races and creeds, his vision of unity without violence, a vision that he probably would still be working to see happen today. He told everyone, "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred ... we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence." These important words should be in the mind of every American whether the person is black or white, rich or poor, from Afghanistan or any land, and so on. In King's vision, he is saying don't go and hate a man from Afghanistan because he looks like the people that flew the planes on 9/11. He is saying don't hold a grudge against any person that feels that what America is doing in Afghanistan, dropping bombs around the clock and hunting down human beings as if they are animals, is wrong. In his dream, he wanted the United States of America to "be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together..." He stresses that we are all God's children, so we can't distrust all people from Middle Eastern families. Just as white people had to realize that their destiny is intricately connected to that of blacks back in the 60's, American must see that now our destiny is tied up with Afghanistan's. We can't act as if they don't exist, when we just bombed them yesterday. It's obvious that our hate is creating the chaos of today. As King said, "we cannot walk alone."

In conclusion, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision of a unified nation and a warfree world is still seemingly as far away as it was 30 years ago, but it is still as useful as it was when he described it. The dream he had is universal, and it is especially relevant in today's world. Men are at war with other men, brethren fighting when they could break bread together without spilling one drop of blood. Dr. King did not want God's children to have so much hatred in their hearts. His dream was that you and I would join hands. He had a dream then, I have a dream today.

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