Quotable

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Honoring Dr. King - Keeping the Prophetic Voice Alive

Friends,

I honored the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday, January 16, 2010 by gathering with other peacemakers at the site of one of the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world.  We were there to speak truth to power.  Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, according to a 2006 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, has 2,364 nuclear warheads, or approximately 24 percent of the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal.  The base is home to Trident, the U.S. Navy's first strike nuclear weapons system.  Members and supporters of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action held a vigil and nonviolent direct action honoring the memory of Dr. King, much of which has been conveniently lost (or perhaps sanitized) by our nation by and large; the memory of a powerful anti-war prophet is seldom welcomed (and conveniently forgotten) in the land of hubris and violence.

Dr. Gary Kohls, in a recent email, reminded me of the reason for that memory loss; he quoted Dr. King:
As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But, they asked, what about Vietnam? They asked 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.
Gary also shared a column by Carl Wendell Hines:

“Now That He Is Safely Dead”

Now that he is safely dead let us praise him,
build monuments to his glory,
sing hosannas to his name.

Dead men make such convenient heroes.
They cannot rise to challenge the images
we would fashion from their lives.

And besides,
it is easier to build monuments
than to make a better world.

Our challenge going forward is for each of us to find our prophetic voice and go out into a hostile world declaring King's "eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism."  With knowledge and the powerful tools of nonviolence we can, with the support of other like-minded people, shine the light of truth for all to see.  In the case of nuclear weapons, there is much truth that needs to be dredged out of the depths of the darkness (where governments prefer it to rest).


We can do it through participation in direct action (like the vigil and nonviolent direct action at Bangor last Saturday).  We can do it through our participation in organizations like the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free Future and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (to mention just a couple).  We can do it by directly engaging our elected officials.  We can do it by educating our families, friends and co-workers.

Ridding the world of nuclear weapons which (if ever used again) would be the most "massive" of the "massive doses of violence", which the U.S. uses "to solve its problems" is one of the most pressing issues facing humankind.  As we approach the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference (May 2010) we have much work to do.  Right now we need to pressure President Obama to approach the NPT Review Conference with the strong conviction that he claimed in his now famous Prague speech. 

Please sign the PeaceActionWest Petition calling for negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons, and help President Obama make good on his promises.  He is hearing plenty from the nuclear weapons complex and his military advisors, the ones Dr. King once referred to as "misguided men" (see photo).  Now Obama needs to hear from the people (all of whom are threatened by the presence and proliferation of nuclear weapons) who understand the dangers of our continued reliance on nuclear weapons.  May each of us find our prophetic voice, and in doing so keep the memory of the prophets of peace alive.

Peace,

Leonard  

Note:  The photograph was taken during the January 16, 2010 vigil and direct action at the main gate, Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.  Demonstrators were ordered to remain within the designated free speech zone designated by cones and yellow "crime scene" tape.  The real crime scene is well beyond the main gate. 

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