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.
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).