Satyagraha

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Yoga and Voting for Peace

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Art by Dan Morris

ONE definition of Yoga is the integration of the spiritual and material realms in the human being, making a union of Heaven and Earth.

Given this definition, it is possible to approach politics as a form of Yoga.  This would of course be very different from the usual practice of politics today.  Rather, it would try bring into social affairs and institutions of government divine and eternal principles of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

While we’ve grown accustomed to think of politics as selfish and egoistic, in truth it is something that can glorify the Divine.  Among the animals only human beings have devised such things as governments and elections — methods with which, if used rightly, we can greatly improve our lives and planet.

Today the world is in great peril, with a dangerous combination of growing populations, militarism and materialism, combined with threats to the environment and climate.  But since we believe in a benevolent and superintending Spirit, we remain confident that solutions will reveal themselves in due time.

Putting these two thoughts together, we may see that political institutions like elections and voting, if approached rightly, give us a means of shaping a positive future.

What does it mean to approach politics rightly?  Some basic guidelines are evident.  First we know that our choices should be governed by unselfish rather than selfish or egoistic aims.  Our goal as ‘yogic voters’ should be to better the condition of all, not only of some.  Further, it follows from the principles of Yoga, that our actions should seek to unify, not divide members of society.  In addition, right politics and voting should leave our mind more calm and peaceful, not agitated and angry. These principles alone would exclude perhaps 90% of usual politics.

Today we are faced with one great need above all, which is to end the terrible program of constant war that our country (that is, the government and corporations) has pursued.  To help you exert a countering and correcting force of Love, I have placed my name on the ballot in the June 7 primary as an independent peace candidate for US Congress in our district.  A vote for me will be recognized as a vote for peace.  In this way the ordinary process of an election is turned into a referendum against war and for peace.  Since we do not have direct referendums on war, this means of producing one appears promising and I hope others will follow the example in future elections.

Every vote for peace will have a positive karmic effect, helping to improve our country and world.  It is to enable you to gain positive karma for yourself and others that I am running.  The direct goal is not to win the present election, but to begin the journey to peace.

I may add that the alternative — to vote for a Democrat or Republican politician — would, in my opinion, have little effect, as both represent materialistic values and the differences between them are negligible; I also believe they habitually promote divisive issues with the aim of diverting public attention from more fundamental needs for change, such as ending war.

Therefore please let me ask that you visit my campaign website and consider voting for peace.

If you should like to share this information, that would also be appreciated as I am relying on grassroots means of reaching voters.

Namaste,

John Uebersax

 

Divided We Fall

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HERE’s my take on the ‘state of the union’ as we appear to be headed towards another 10 years (at least) of war: Our domestic politics is nothing more than a lot of highly circumscribed but fierce battles being fought by indignant special interests, and equally indignant groups that oppose them: gay marriage, Obama-care, fracking, etc.

Now if I were gay, sick and poor, living amidst fracking, etc., no doubt I would have similarly strong feelings about these issues. That’s normal human nature. And all of these are, in any case, legitimate social issues we should be trying to address. BUT the reality is that we are ALL being hurt MORE by having a failed society generally than by any one of these issues, or even by all of them put together!

It’s a matter of priorities. Things will get worse for everyone UNTIL more people place social unity and the ‘bonds of mutual affection’ AHEAD of these more limited interests.

“I demand gay marriage! And immediately! And everything else must come to a standstill until I’m satisfied!”
Why?
“Because I want my rights!”
Why?
“Because I deserve to be happy!”
Certainly. But would having gay marriage, but all other conditions unchanged, produce happiness?
“Well, I might be happier, relatively!”
Would it reduce the cost of living, create more jobs, end war, cure cancer, solve the environmental catastrophe, improve schools?
“No.”
Would you be happy, gaily married, if all these other problems remain unsolved; or would it be more likely you’d experience the same ambient level of unhappiness, malaise, discontent, poverty, frustration, ill-health, stress, pessimism, and near-despair as those who are heterosexually married or single evidently experience today?
“In honesty, the latter.”
Another question. Which would be better? (1) To substitute “civil union with the same rights as marriage” for “gay marriage” as an acceptable, if perhaps temporary, compromise, but with the results of achieving national unity and ending war; or (2) to have “gay marriage”, disunity, and perpetual war?
“The former, of course.”
Can we end war, or solve any of the other desperately urgent social problems already mentioned, without greater social unity?
“It would seem most unlikely.”
But if we were to achieve social unity, would it be likely we could solve these problems?
“There’s a good chance.”
And is it *possible* to achieve social unity?
“I don’t see why not. It seems in human nature to do so.”
If everyone placed as their *highest* social priority the achievement of unity, without abandoning their commitment to their individual interests, do you think it could happen?
“Seems likely.”
“Yet I must ask: why do you choose gay marriage as your example to illustrate this principle?”
Partly the choice is arbitrary. And partly because it seems to me that, unlike these other issues, the whole essence of “gayness” involves love and affection; so that, on the assumption that gay people have love and affection more salient in their minds generally, they should more readily grasp the importance of unitive, communal love.

united-we-stand~ * ~

Transformation of Society by the Power of Love

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Each year on Martin Luther King Day I try to write something related to the principles Dr. King stood for.  This year the topic concerns the work of the sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin.  Sorokin devoted much of the latter part of his career to what he called amitology, that is, a science of love — work which he pursued at the Harvard Center for Creative Altruism. This work was dismissed by the social science establishment as eccentric and unimportant.  But perhaps the time has come to re-examine Sorokin’s contributions and to consider whether he may have been ahead of his time.

The best literary production of this phase of Sorokin’s career is a book titled, The Ways and Power of Love.  The book has many important features, several of which I’d like to mention here.

The first is Sorokin’s theory that love can be understood and studied as a real force or energy.  This notion may seem like a silly or simple-minded idea – one  more fit for a pop song than for scientific discussion. But in Sorokin’s hands the concept is substantial and credible.  As to whether love is a cosmic, metaphysical force, perhaps we cannot know or determine with certainty scientifically.  But we can at least say with some confidence that  in many important and objective ways love functions in the same way that forces and energies act.  Love motivates activity.  Love can be transmitted.  Love is cumulative.  All of these concepts can be operationally defined and demonstrated in objective, observable ways.  We can remain fully scientific and still assert that love is, at the very least, something like a force or energy.

Transformation From a Hate Culture To a Love Culture

A second noteworthy principle of Sorokin’s amitology follows from the first: if love is something like an energy, then we can meaningfully consider the ways in which this energy may be (1) produced, (2) accumulated, and (3) distributed.  These considerations have very practical implications for the kind of cultural transformation needed  in the world today.  We clearly must do something (or at least try) to change the present cultural orientation away from hatred, anger, fear, and conflict as organizing principles.  Much as we might want this transformation to occur, merely wishing for it is not enough.  Something tangible must happen to produce the change.  There must be actual sources of the opposite energy — that is, love — creating and placing this positive energy into the social and cultural milieu.

Clearly the most  obvious way for this to happen is for individuals to become emitters of love energy in their immediate surroundings.  Such an idea is scarcely new.  This was talked about in the 60’s, but without much lasting success. However, if, following Sorokin’s lead, we allow ourselves to see this as a scientific issue, new possibilities emerge.  One example is to see the problem in terms of mathematical chaos theory. We could quite plausibly suppose that the rate of positive cultural change in relation to the number of love emitters is something like exponential.  Imagine certain individuals who see it as their task to go out into their communities spreading love – through their own actions, by setting positive examples, and by teaching others about love.  One or two people alone can accomplish only so much.  But at some point, as the number of love emitters increases, a critical mass is reached, and suddenly the entirely social fabric of the community changes direction — no longer being conflict-, competition-, and fear-based, but love based.

Because such a transformation process is non-linear, the benefits of each additional love-emitter are that much more important.  That is, if you choose to become a love emitter, your added contribution might make the crucial difference; there might already be nine love emitters in your community, but if you become the tenth, the total number may achieve critical mass at which a transformative revolution takes off.

Love and Social Media

It also occurs to me how this principle could be applied to such social media as Facebook.  Unfortunately, the networking potential offered new social media has, thus far, all-to-often been directed negatively. People of every political stripe use Facebook and email for hate campaigns.  Someone will post a derogatory picture and comment about President Obama or Sarah Palin.  Then others will forward it to a dozen of their contacts.  Within a day thousands of copies are circulating — the negative energies of hate, anger, resentment spreading exponentially across the web and around the country.  This scenario is being played out perhaps hundreds of times every day.

But now consider an opposite scenario.  What if people began spreading love and positive energies in precisely the same way?  What if it became our ‘custom’ not to send a hate email to five or ten contacts, but some article concerning love, compassion, generosity, and optimism?

A third noteworthy aspect of Sorokin’s science of love is the importance, and perhaps the central role, of groups and organizations. As a sociologist, Sorokin had a keen awareness of the interplay between society and the personality of the individual.  In place of Freud’s primitive tripartite model of human personality (id, ego, superego), Sorokin understood human personality as a dynamic interplay between a large number of alternative egos or sub-egos within the same person.  Among these egos, Sorokin gave prominent place to those associated with our social roles.  Each group we belong to, and each stratum or role we occupy within that group, has associated with it in our psyche a separate ego.  Thus, for example, as members of a religion, say the Catholic Church, one may have a “Catholic ego.”  And as American citizens, we have a “US citizen ego”, and so on.  To the extent that our social institutions themselves conflict (as when Catholic moral principles teach that war is wrong, but national pride or competitiveness urges a war), then this conflict necessarily manifests itself within our own personalities.  Until such time as our social institutions are themselves harmonized with each other, we will be individually conflicted; and because of these conflicts, we will continually be a cross-purposes within ourselves, never being able to rally all our mental, emotional, and physical resources to accomplish anything productive.

There is much more to this part of Sorokin’s theories, but the main point is that if we wish to increase the number of love emitters in our society, we should give some thought as to how we might develop new social institutions, or adapt old ones, to organize this effort.

Fourth and finally, Sorokin explained how love and altruism should be understood as creative activities — in just the same way that we understand art, literature, and (to some extent at least) scientific activity to be creative.  True creativity comes from a source other than our individual egos and rationalistic minds.  It comes, rather, Sorokin insisted, from a higher source — what he called the supraconscious.  Whether we understand the supraconscious in a religious sense of a grace or inspiring energy from God, or as coming from some kind of collective unconscious, or something else entirely is unimportant.  The mere fact that we have such works as those of Shakespeare, Plato, Beethoven, Mozart, and Michelangelo proves without doubt there is such a thing as creative genius.  And just as there are creative geniuses in art and literature, there are creative geniuses in morality and ethics — people like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Mother Teresa.

Moreover, each one of us can creatively assist in the growth and spread of love. Our best ethical contributions, however, come not from our egoistic strivings and rationalistic schemes.  No.  If we are to be agents of a ‘love revolution’, then it is essential that we surrender our egoistic plans to a higher source of inspiration.  Great accomplishments require great humility.

Such then, are several if the key points of Sorokin’s science of love and social transformation.  Does it sound unrealistic?  If so, maybe that’s due to heavy conditioning by our cynical and materialistic culture.  Nobody can be happy in a hate- and conflict-dominated culture.  A change is necessary.  And how else could a cultural transformation occur except by the means outlined by Sorokin?

Quotes from Martin Luther King, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”

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Quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Delivered at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., on 31 March 1968.

[Note:  We should bear in mind that what Dr. King calls for is radical new attitudes and ways of doing things, not to merely to repeat the errors of the past.   Revolution in sense of violence, hatred, divisiveness, and tearing down is not the solution.  King stood for a revolution of Love — including love of enemies.  The revolution begins, in other word, when you decide to renounce all forms of violence and hatred.]

“One of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.”

“No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution.  The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.”

“For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”

“Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time and realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

“We are challenged to rid our nation and the world of poverty. ”

“Something within me cried out, ‘Can we in America stand idly by and not be concerned?’ And an answer came: ‘Oh no!’ Because the destiny of the United States is tied up with the destiny of India and every other nation.”

“We must find an alternative to war and bloodshed.”

“God grant that we will be participants in this newness and this magnificent development. If we will but do it. “

On ‘The Amazing Race’ in Bangladesh

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Last night I happened to see ‘The Amazing Race’ on television.  This week’s episode took place in Bangladesh — and amazing it was, an eye-opening witness to the utter poverty and privation of the people there, and their determined energy. The vividness was heightened by having the opportunity to watch the episode on  HDTV.

It made me want to go there myself, on the rationale that such an experience would change me.  When considered from vantage point of our living rooms or dens, the suffering of the third world seems merely an abstraction.  It elicits a mild concern — maybe enough to send a check to a charitable organization, but not much more than that.  In contrast, to actually live in a place like this brings the full force of human misery, and our instinctive urge to help, to the surface.  If one has any skill at all, anything to offer other human beings by way of service, one could not face these people in person without the conscience commanding one to think or say, “How can I help?  How can I be anything like a complete human being if I do not commit myself to assisting such people with my all!”

Yet, I imagine that if I were to go there and ask some sage elder, “How can I help?”, the answer might well be:  “Why travel here?  Could you not do more in your own country?  Can you not apply yourself to changing hearts and minds there?”

Indeed, tonight two presidential candidates will posture and pretend to meaningfully address the foreign policy of the United States.  Both represent a pitiless status quo which thinks nothing of killing thousands or millions of Iraqis, Afghans, or Pakistanis in pointless wars.  And more telling:  we spend trillions of dollars on war, when for 1/10 that amount in humanitarian assistance we could attain complete national security by winning the friendship, admiration (and imitation) of every nation on earth.

It is fitting that we should recall the words of that great American practitioner of satyagraha, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who spoke as follows in 1965:

All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main… And then he goes on toward the end to say: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. And by believing this, by living out this fact, we will be able to remain awake through a great revolution. (“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution“, Commencement Address for Oberlin College, June 1965, Oberlin Ohio)

The beginning of change is education.  Despite its potentially negative aspects, modern technology is making the world one.  If you’d like to get a picture of life in Bangladesh, you can see the episode (complete or clips) at the CBS website, here.

Written by John Uebersax

October 22, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Martin Luther King Jr. – Beyond Afghanistan

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There has recently come into my possession a letter from the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr that addresses the war in Afghanistan. It is miraculous, indeed, that the Martin Luther King should be writing a letter to you and to me more than 40 years after his death.  How this is possible is something of an enigma wrapped in mystery. The important thing, however, is that we can imagine him writing a letter to Americans in 2010.

Some may notice that the letter corresponds almost word for word to his famous 1967 speech against the Vietnam war.  Perhaps this means Dr. King sees the issues as little changed since then.

Yet clearly we must let Dr. King speak in his own words.  Here is the letter as it stands before me.

JSU

Beyond Afghanistan

I write now because my conscience leaves me no other choice.  “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Afghanistan.

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.  Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

As I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Afghanistan, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?  Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

I now make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. It is not addressed to Kabul or to the Taliban. It is not addressed to Iran or to Pakistan. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Afghanistan. Neither is it an attempt to make al Queda or the Taliban out to be paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Now, however, I wish not to speak to al Queda and the Taliban, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

I have several reasons for bringing Afghanistan into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Afghanistan and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the wars in the Middle East, and I watched the programs broken and eviscerated as if they were some idle political playthings of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Afghanistan continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

People asked me if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. 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 to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Afghanistan. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America _will be_ are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

Another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Muslim and Christian, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to al Queda or to bin Laden as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

And as I ponder the madness of Afghanistan and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that region. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the government in Kabul, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

Our government felt then that the Afghan people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.  Now the Afghan people languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Afghans — the real enemy.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of al Queda – and that strangely anonymous group we call the Taliban?  How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions.

They question our political goals. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

We are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now.

Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save bin Laden when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried here so far to give a voice to the voiceless on Afghanistan and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Afghanistan 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 peril, for they must know after a 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 amongst Afghans, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Afghanistan. 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 Afghanistan. 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 out own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

An Buddhist monk living in Afghanistan recently wrote this to me:

“Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Afghans and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Afghanistan. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony, and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad Iran into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Afghanistan immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Afghanistan, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Afghan people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Afghanistan, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

  1. End all bombing in Afghanistan
  2. Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
  3. Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in the Middle East and elsewhere.
  4. Realistically accept the fact that the Taliban has substantial support in Afghanistan and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Afghan government.
  5. Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Protesting The War

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 if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Afghanistan. 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.

I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Afghanistan is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Iran and Pakistan. They will be concerned about Somalia and the Sudan. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. 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. Such thoughts take us beyond Afghanistan, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

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. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against Islamic extremism. War is not the answer. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone an extremist or an appeaser who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-Muslim attitude, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against extremism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of radicalism grows and develops.

The People Are Important

It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Islamic extremism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, Islamic extremism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect.

Omar Khayyam wrote:  “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Afghanistan and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

There has recently come into my possession a letter from the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr that addresses the war in Afghanistan. It is miraculous, indeed, that the Martin Luther King should be writing a letter to you and to me more than 40 years after his death.  How this is possible is something of an enigma wrapped in mystery. The important thing, however, is that we can imagine him writing a letter to Americans in 2010. 

Some may notice that the letter corresponds almost word for word to his famous 1967 speech against the Vietnam war.  Perhaps this means Dr. King sees the issues as little changed since then.

Yet clearly we must let Dr. King speak in his own words.  Here is the letter as it stands before me.

JSU

Written by John Uebersax

January 13, 2010 at 4:54 am

Martin Luther King Jr. – Quotes on Peace and War

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Martin Luther King Jr. – Quotes on Peace and War

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Quotes are organized into thematic sections titled Forgiveness and Reconciliation, Urgency, Vision, Love of Enemies, Nonviolence, and Psychology and Culture.

Most of the quotes come from these speeches:

Paul’s Letter to American Christians (November 1956)
Loving Your Enemies (November 1957)
Loving Your Enemies (1963)
I Have a Dream (August 1963)
Nobel Lecture (December 1964)
Beyond Vietnam (April 1967)
A Christmas Sermon on Peace (December 1967)
The Drum Major Instinct (February 1968)
Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution (March 1968)

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Upheaval after upheaval has reminded us that modern man is traveling along a road called hate, in a journey that will bring us to destruction.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

How do we love our enemies? First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the cancelling of a debt.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

There will be no permanent solution to the race problem until oppressed men develop the capacity to love their enemies. The darkness of racial injustice will be dispelled only by the light of forgiving love.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

Hate scars the soul and distorts the personality.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

We must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy but to win his friendship and understanding. At times we are able to humiliate our worst enemy. Inevitably, his weak moments come and we are able to thrust in his side the spear of defeat. But this we must not do. Every word and deed must contribute to an understanding with the enemy and release those vast reservoirs of goodwill which have been blocked by impenetrable walls of hate.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

We must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy-neighbor, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses all that he is. An element of goodness may be found even in our worst enemy. Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves. A persistent civil war rages within all of our lives…. This simply means that there is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

An overflowing love which seeks nothing in return, agape is the love of God operating in the human heart. At this level, we love men not because we like them, nor because their ways appeal to us, nor even because they possess some type of divine spark; we love every man because God loves him. At this level, we love the person who does an evil deed, although we hate the deed that he does.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

Now we can see what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your enemies.” We should be happy that he did not say, “Like your enemies.” It is almost impossible to like some people. “Like” is a sentimental and affectionate word…. When Jesus bids us to love our enemies, he is speaking neither of eros nor philia; he is speaking of agape: understanding and creative, redemptive goodwill for all men.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

Time is cluttered with the wreckage of communities which surrendered to hatred and violence. For the salvation of our nation and the salvation of mankind, we must follow another way. This does not mean that we abandon our righteous efforts. With every ounce of our energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” from Strength to Love (1963)

Urgency

In his own Nobel Prize speech, president Obama expressed the view that we’re stuck with war and there’s nothing we can do about it. Contrast that with the statements of Martin Luther King, who believed that destiny is ours to choose.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy…. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”, 28 August 1963, steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”, 28 August 1963, steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message—of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

God grant that we will be participants in this newness and this magnificent development. If we will but do it, we will bring about a new day of justice and brotherhood and peace.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 10 December 1964, Oslo

So man’s proneness to engage in war is still a fact. But wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminated even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1964, Oslo

Here also we have ancient habits to deal with, vast structures of power, indescribably complicated problems to solve. But unless we abdicate our humanity altogether and succumb to fear and impotence in the presence of the weapons we have ourselves created, it is as imperative and urgent to put an end to war and violence between nations as it is to put an end to racial injustice.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1964, Oslo

At Oslo I suggested that the philosophy and strategy of non-violence become immediately a subject for study and serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, including relations between nations. This was not, I believe, an unrealistic suggestion. World peace through non-violent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Non-violence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.

Racial injustice around the world. Poverty. War. When man solves these three great problems he will have squared his moral progress with his scientific progress. And more importantly, he will have learned the practical art of living in harmony.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Dreams Of Brighter Tomorrows”, Ebony, March 1965, p. 35.

A time comes when silence is betrayal. That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that 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 this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

One of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

The time is always ripe to do right.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

In Bombay more than a million people sleep on the sidewalks every night. In Calcutta more than six hundred thousand sleep on the sidewalks every night. They have no beds to sleep in; they have no houses to go in. How can one avoid being depressed when he discovers that out of India’s population of more than five hundred million people, some four hundred and eighty million make an annual income of less than ninety dollars a year. And most of them have never seen a doctor or a dentist.

As I noticed these things, something within me cried out, “Can we in America stand idly by and not be concerned?” And an answer came: “Oh no!” Because the destiny of the United States is tied up with the destiny of India and every other nation.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

And this can happen to America, the richest nation in the world—and nothing’s wrong with that—this is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

We read one day, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.

We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” The world must hear this. I pray God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Vision

Vision is not the same as wishful thinking or sentimental fantasy. Vision is the ability to see truths etched in the human heart and soul.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”, 28 August 1963, steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, 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 are free at last!”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”, 28 August 1963, steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 10 December 1964, Oslo

So we must fix our vision not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but upon the positive affirmation of peace. We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody that is far superior to the discords of war. Somehow we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world. In short, we must shift the arms race into a “peace race”. If we have the will and determination to mount such a peace offensive, we will unlock hitherto tightly sealed doors of hope and transform our imminent cosmic elegy into a psalm of creative fulfillment.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1964, Oslo

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. [Sustained applause]
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?

There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right. I believe today that there is a need for all people of goodwill to come with a massive act of conscience and say in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “We ain’t goin’ study war no more.” This is the challenge facing modern man.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Love of Enemies

As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Paul’s Letter to American Christians”, 4 November 1956, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

In your struggle for justice, let your oppressor know that you are not attempting to defeat or humiliate him, or even to pay him back for injustices that he has heaped upon you. Let him know that you are merely seeking justice for him as well as yourself.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Paul’s Letter to American Christians”, 4 November 1956, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Paul’s Letter to American Christians”, 4 November 1956, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words,
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing self.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Isn’t it true that through our Western powers we have perpetuated colonialism and imperialism? And all of these things must be taken under consideration as we look at Russia. We must face the fact that the rhythmic beat of the deep rumblings of discontent from Asia and Africa is at bottom a revolt against the imperialism and colonialism perpetuated by Western civilization all these many years. The success of communism in the world today is due to the failure of democracy to live up to the noble ideals and principles inherent in its system.

And this is what Jesus means when he said: “How is it that you can see the mote in your brother’s eye and not see the beam in your own eye?” [Matthew 7:3]  Or to put it in Moffatt’s translation: “How is it that you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and every time you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

So somehow the isness of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal oughtness that forever confronts us. And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals.
–Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of….  No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never slough off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it…. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape. And agape is more than eros; agape is more than philia; agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Now for the few moments left, let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. [tapping on pulpit] It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

I would rather die than hate you.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

We must realize so many people are taught to hate us that they are not totally responsible for their hate.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” in Strength to Love (1958)

Nonviolence

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”, 28 August 1963, steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 10 December 1964, Oslo

I would like to suggest that modern man really go all out to study the meaning of nonviolence, its philosophy and its strategy.

We have experimented with the meaning of nonviolence in our struggle for racial justice in the United States, but now the time has come for man to experiment with nonviolence in all areas of human conflict, and that means nonviolence on an international scale.

Now let me suggest first that if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Christmas Sermon on Peace”, 24 December 1967, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

Now let me say, secondly, that if we are to have peace in the world, men and nations must embrace the nonviolent affirmation that ends and means must cohere.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Christmas Sermon on Peace”, 24 December 1967, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

You can’t reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Christmas Sermon on Peace”, 24 December 1967, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Psychology and Culture

Martin Luther King Jr., fifty years ago, recognized that America and modern culture generally was on a downhill slide. He warned of greater perils ahead unless the trend was reversed. Not only have things, as predicted, deteriorated, but now no public leader will confront the issue of a government and society gone mad. But insanity is an illness, and illnesses can be healed. A renewal of values is still possible. This must begin with individuals.

You have a dual citizenry. You live both in time and eternity; both in heaven and earth. Therefore, your ultimate allegiance is not to the government, not to the state, not to nation, not to any man-made institution.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Paul’s Letter to American Christians”, 4 November 1956, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

You have made tremendous strides in the area of scientific and technological development. But America, as I look at you from afar, I wonder whether your moral and spiritual progress has been commensurate with your scientific progress. It seems to me that your moral progress lags behind your scientific progress. Your poet Thoreau used to talk about “improved means to an unimproved end.” How often this is true. You have allowed the material means by which you live to outdistance the spiritual ends for which you live. You have allowed your mentality to outrun your morality. You have allowed your civilization to outdistance your culture.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Paul’s Letter to American Christians”, 4 November 1956, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

But American Christians, I must say to you as I said to the Roman Christians years ago, “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” [Romans 12:2] Or, as I said to the Phillipian Christians, “Ye are a colony of heaven.” [Philippians 3:20; For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. NKJV] This means that although you live in the colony of time, your ultimate allegiance is to the empire of eternity. You have a dual citizenry. You live both in time and eternity; both in heaven and earth. Therefore, your ultimate allegiance is not to the government, not to the state, not to nation, not to any man-made institution. The Christian owes his ultimate allegiance to God, and if any earthly institution conflicts with God’s will it is your Christian duty to take a stand against it. You must never allow the transitory evanescent demands of man-made institutions to take precedence over the eternal demands of the Almighty God.

I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Paul’s Letter to American Christians”, 4 November 1956, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul. And there is this continual struggle within the very structure of every individual life. There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Ovid, the Latin poet, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.” [Metamorphoses 7:20; “I see and approve better things, but follow worse”.] There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Plato that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions [Phaedrus 246a ff.]. There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Goethe, “There is enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue.” There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Apostle Paul, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.” [Romans 7:15b; For what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.].

So somehow the isness of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal oughtness that forever confronts us. And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate.

~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

… that you want to be integrated with yourself, and the way to be integrated with yourself is be sure that you meet every situation of life with an abounding love. Never hate…
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies”, 17 November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery Alabama

Yet, in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1964, Oslo

Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live. So much of modern life can be summarized in that arresting dictum of the poet Thoreau [Walden, 1854]: “Improved means to an unimproved end”. This is the serious predicament, the deep and haunting problem confronting modern man. If we are to survive today, our moral and spiritual “lag” must be eliminated. Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1964, Oslo

We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.” It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace. There is a fascinating little story that is preserved for us in Greek literature about Ulysses and the Sirens. The Sirens had the ability to sing so sweetly that sailors could not resist steering toward their island. Many ships were lured upon the rocks, and men forgot home, duty, and honor as they flung themselves into the sea to be embraced by arms that drew them down to death. Ulysses, determined not to be lured by the Sirens, first decided to tie himself tightly to the mast of his boat, and his crew stuffed their ears with wax. But finally he and his crew learned a better way to save themselves: they took on board the beautiful singer Orpheus whose melodies were sweeter than the music of the Sirens. When Orpheus sang, who bothered to listen to the Sirens?
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1964, Oslo

Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the First Epistle of Saint John (1 John 4:7-8, 12).

Let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone
that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His
love is perfected in us.

~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1964, Oslo

The Nobel Peace Prize has given me even deeper personal faith that man will indeed soon rise to the occasion and give new direction to an age drifting rapidly to its doom.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Dreams Of Brighter Tomorrows”, Ebony, March 1965, p. 35.

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.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

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 [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

Our world is sick with war; everywhere we turn we see its ominous possibilities. And yet, my friends, the Christmas hope for peace and good will toward all men can no longer be dismissed as a kind of pious dream of some utopian. If we don’t have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments and our own power. Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the very destructive power of modern weapons of warfare eliminates even the possibility that war may any longer serve as a negative good. And so, if we assume that life is worth living, if we assume that mankind has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war and so let us this morning explore the conditions for peace.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Christmas Sermon on Peace”, 24 December 1967, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

It’s one of the strangest things that all the great military geniuses of the world have talked about peace. The conquerors of old who came killing in pursuit of peace, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and Napoleon, were akin in seeking a peaceful world order. If you will read Mein Kampf closely enough, you will discover that Hitler contended that everything he did in Germany was for peace. And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Christmas Sermon on Peace”, 24 December 1967, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

There comes a time that the drum major instinct can become destructive. (Make it plain) And that’s where I want to move now. I want to move to the point of saying that if this instinct is not harnessed, it becomes a very dangerous, pernicious instinct. For instance, if it isn’t harnessed, it causes one’s personality to become distorted. I guess that’s the most damaging aspect of it: what it does to the personality.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Drum Major Instinct”, 4 February 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

And then the final great tragedy of the distorted personality is the fact that when one fails to harness this instinct [Glory to God], he ends up trying to push others down in order to push himself up [Amen].
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Drum Major Instinct”, 4 February 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

Now the other problem is, when you don’t harness the drum major instinct—this uncontrolled aspect of it—is that it leads to snobbish exclusivism.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Drum Major Instinct”, 4 February 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

God didn’t call America to do what she’s doing in the world now. (Preach it, preach it) God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam…. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Drum Major Instinct”, 4 February 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

But God has a way of even putting nations in their place. (Amen) The God that I worship has a way of saying, “Don’t play with me.” (Yes) He has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, “Don’t play with me, Israel. Don’t play with me, Babylon. (Yes) Be still and know that I’m God. And if you don’t stop your reckless course, I’ll rise up and break the backbone of your power.” (Yes) And that can happen to America. (Yes) Every now and then I go back and read Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And when I come and look at America, I say to myself, the parallels are frightening. And we have perverted the drum major instinct.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Drum Major Instinct”, 4 February 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

“Yes, don’t give up this instinct. It’s a good instinct if you use it right. (Yes) It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. (Amen) I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Drum Major Instinct”, 4 February 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Amen) That’s a new definition of greatness.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Drum Major Instinct”, 4 February 1968, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta

Not only that, it has put us in a position of appearing to the world as an arrogant nation. And here we are ten thousand miles away from home fighting for the so-called freedom of the Vietnamese people when we have not even put our own house in order.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

The judgment of God is upon us today. And we could go right down the line and see that something must be done—and something must be done quickly. We have alienated ourselves from other nations so we end up morally and politically isolated in the world.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”, 31 March 1968, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Written by John Uebersax

December 31, 2009 at 11:02 pm