Leonard Pitts’ column of April 4 (‘Martin Luther King’s other dream’) spoke of the civil rights leader’s twin dreams of “racial amity” and “economic justice.” In reality, however, King spoke of triplets: racism, poverty ... and militarism.
Fifty years ago this week, as the United States was becoming increasingly embroiled in its war in Vietnam, King delivered a sermon at New York’s Riverside Church, in which he called out those “triple evils” and declared the U.S. to be the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Any serious study of the legacy of King must include a thorough examination of his warnings against unregulated military spending and military force.
“I am convinced,” he said, “that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Now, 50 years later, as we send Tomahawk missiles exploding into Syria, we must recall King’s words: “This business of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Exactly one year to the day after he spoke these words, King was assassinated.
Douglas H. Ryder