On this day in 1968, Nobel Peace Prize-winning civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of a motel room in Memphis, Tennessee. At 39 years old, having already survived several other assassination attempts, Dr. King became one of histories most notable victims of hatred. His murder shocked the world but ultimately earned him a place in history that one might argue would not have been possible had he lived to become an old man.
Listening to any of Dr. King's speeches it is hard not to be inspired. His expressions, his style, and his powerful crescendos could surely stir the hardest heart. A man of faith, Dr. King might not have moved mountains on his own, but he may well have loosened their footings.
Exactly one year to the day before his untimely death, Dr. King addressed the congregation at Riverside Church in New York City where he spoke about his deep misgivings surrounding America's war with Vietnam.
"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 an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours."
Reading this I couldn't help but wonder what Dr. King might have to say on the subject of the war in Iraq, a war that has already been compared by some to the Vietnam War. He was very much an advocate of non-violent action, and therefore it might be safe to assume that King would indeed be speaking out against the war in Iraq.
History remembers Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a hero of freedom and civil rights, a truly great American whose memory is honored each year in January on what would be his birthday. But had King been alive today, I wonder if his stature would be considered in a lesser light. Were he to speak out against the war in Iraq, and the use of military force in far off places, would he find himself labeled an 'unpatriotic bleeding heart liberal,' far from the high esteem history has afforded him?
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."
'Strength to Love' (1963) : Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.