Remembering Dr. King

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Thirty-six years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech that changed my life. I was a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1967, during the peak of the Vietnam War. Almost by accident a friend invited me across the street to hear Dr. King deliver a comprehensive anti-war address at Riverside Church.

It is not the way history later vindicated King's teachings on war—everything he predicted came to pass—that makes his 1967 address so memorable to me. It is the vitality of his teachings for our own lives, the immediate relevance to the arrogance and jingoism of our time, that compels me to recall and reread the Peacemaker's masterpiece once again.

The economic and moral crisis we are facing today—the ubiquity of violent crime, the endemic clutch of drugs, the growing poverty of the working poor, the ruin of the Bill of Rights, the suffocation of millions of decent lives in the ghettos of our cities—all date back to that fateful turn when American leaders, pressured by big corporations, chose war over peace, empire over civil rights and social progress.

Dr. King saw our crisis coming. “A few years ago,” he began from his well-lit pulpit, speaking in reference to the anti-poverty programs, when America was moving forward—

“A few years ago, there was a shining moment in our 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 the programs broken. I was compelled to see the war as the enemy of the poor.”

As Dr. King analyzed the hope-wrecking nature of war, I put down my pen, stopped taking notes, and listened with my heart, as he described, not only the devastation abroad, the injuries and scarred lives of the working class youth returning home, but the spiritual costs of imperialism—the mendacity of our leaders, the disillusionment of youth. “A nation,” he said, “that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

King reminded his listeners that U.S. lawlessness abroad breeds violence within the United States as well. “As I walked among the desperate, rejected angry men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. But they ask, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? Wasn't our own nation using massive doses of violence to solve its problems? 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 against the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today—my own government.” His message was clear. When America sows the wind, it will reap the whirlwind in due time.

The Vietnam War is past. The Cold War is over. But King's teachings about the sorrows of empire, the moral and social costs of militarism, are as timely today as they were 36 years ago. There is still no jobs program for our youth yearning for hope and direction. The near-$400 billion military budget is a mockery of social justice.

Americans pay more for “defense” than all potential adversaries combined. According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal deficits over the next five years will hit $1.08 trillion, a military induced deficit that is robbing our children of housing, education, health care and chances for a better life.

U.S. corporations now globalize weaponry and violence for profit, and the U.S. has become the primary font of arms proliferation in the world. Subsidized by American taxpayers, U.S. corporations—Lockheed Martin, General Electric, General Dynamics, Mcdonnell Douglas, Boeing, Hughes Aircraft, to name a few—sell lethal weapons to more than 40 countries. Assault helicopters, tanks, 50-caliber machine guns, hellfire anti-armor missiles, land-mine dispensing pods, Stinger missiles, fighter jets, rifles, guns—mechanized violence has become the main currency of American foreign policy. U.S. companies, along with France, helped Iraq build its arsenal of poison gas and chemical weapons in the 80s.

King's 36-year-old speech still sears my soul because my own country is still the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.

Bill And The Benefits

During Bill Richardson's campaign for governor he made promises in order to gain votes that he has now ignored and in some cases completely reversed his position.

In the Aug. 1-7, 2001 Alibi, Billy Sparks, Richardson's spokesman, stated “We want to bring respect back for state employees” in an effort to sway the over 4,000 state employees in New Mexico. What has he done since being in office?

One of Bill's first actions was to revoke the long standing physical fitness policy implemented by the state. He stated in his justification that he could find no benefit from this program. In numerous studies, like one by Stanford University (accessible at it has been found that the number of hospital days for those employees using an employer sponsored exercise program dropped 66.6 percent and the healthcare costs for those using an employee sponsored exercise programs were 23 percent lower than non-participants. How can Bill state that there is no benefit to the state?

Over the past three to four years the cost of living has steadily increased and state employees have received no increase in pay. State employees work to protect the air and water, provide safe and usable highways, safeguard the health care in our state, serve to protect consumers from fraud along with many other activities. In order to accomplish these goals, many state employees must have advanced education like masters and doctorate degrees. They must have professional licenses like certified public accountant, professional engineer, or certificate to practice law. I support attracting and keeping skilled teachers; however, if that is done while losing highly skilled state employees, our health, environment, legal system and transportation capabilities will suffer and deteriorate.

Is the governor serving the citizens of this state? Has he ignored his promises? Is he acting like a conservative vice-presidential candidate? If he cannot keep his word and manage the issues affecting this state, how can we support him to handle large scale international concerns?

Why Do They Hate Us?

[RE: Letters, “All in a Day's Work”, Dec. 18-24]: Thank you Mr. Flynn for telling it like it is. It galls me to constantly hear the news broadcasts telling us that our “heroes” overseas are there to protect our freedom, and defend our country … ha! The United States started an unauthorized war; Iraq was no threat to America. It did so against the wishes of the U.N. The United States is the aggressor and Bush is an international war criminal, as are his cronies. How trivial by comparison seems the romp in the feathers with Monica by our former President Clinton, for which he was dragged through the courts and impeached because he lied. So far, Bush and his henchmen have told nothing but lies. Why is this man still in office?

Saddam Hussein is referred to as the Butcher of Baghdad. How about the butcher Ariel Sharon, who is responsible for the murder of thousands of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps during the Israeli invasion in 1982? If any measure of peace and an end to so-called terrorism is to be achieved, then the Jewish state must be forced to retreat to originally established borders, the occupation of Palestinian territories must be terminated and Jewish settlements on Arab land vacated; a Palestinian state should be established now. It is beyond comprehension how the Israelis—with American support—continue to humiliate and murder Palestinians under any pretext. The Palestinian suicide bombers are not terrorists, but martyrs and freedom fighters. They cannot fight the oppressors with conventional weapons, hence, the martyrdom. If America wanted to, it could put a stop to all this. The Jewish state yearly receives some $3 billion of American taxpayers' money. Any U.N. resolution against Israel is vetoed by America. And still, it wonders why the world hates it so. If the injustice meted out to the Palestinians is stopped and reversed, maybe the world would finally become a safer place for all of us.

Westside Wars

{RE: Letters, “Screw the Westside”, Dec. 18-24]: Screw you, Charles and Lillian Chodl. As we concede to allow whiners like the two of you to breathe, kindly return the favor with respecting our heritage. I understand many people are unable to see past their beloved Wal-Marts and Starbucks, we too lack the same farsight with regard to our sacred “graffiti” monuments. After all, no one would dream of building a Super Wal-Mart on Mt. Rushmore, let alone a fourlane highway. Not unless, I suppose, Marty Chavez was on the committee.

Letters should be sent with the writer's name, address and daytime phone number via e-mail to They can also be faxed to (505) 256-9651. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium; we regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter.

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