Monday, January 17, 2005

Letter from Birmingham Jail 

We do not often find occasion to link to a declaration of explicitly religious principles, but today we will make an exception. The item in question was written in April of 1963 by a pastor from Atlanta, in response to a public statement by eight Alabama clergymen that had been published in the Birmingham newspaper. Because he was in jail at the time he began writing in the margins of that newspaper, continued on toilet paper, and finished, eventually, on a legal pad he had cadged from his attorneys. One year after its composition he won, at age 35, the Nobel Peace Prize. Not quite five years after its composition he was dead.

The letter is one of the most remarkable political documents of the last century. It has been ably annotated by a Zemblan patriot.

UPDATE: Our distinguished colleague Thivai Abhor at Dialogic has posted a compendium of MLK-related links, and while there is not a bad one in the bunch, we especially recommend the articles by Cornel West and novelist Charles Johnson (author of Dreamer and Middle Passage).

UPDATE II (courtesy of our esteemed colleagues at PSoTD): Excerpts from a speech on Vietnam (not Iraq) delivered in 1968 (not 2005) by Martin Luther King, Jr. (not Nostradamus):
I am convinced that it is one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Our involvement in the war in Vietnam has torn up the Geneva Accord. It has strengthened the military-industrial complex; it has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation. It has put us against the self-determination of a vast majority of the Vietnamese people, and put us in the position of protecting a corrupt regime that is stacked against the poor.

It has played havoc with our domestic destinies. This day we are spending five hundred thousand dollars to kill every Vietcong soldier. Every time we kill one we spend about five hundred thousand dollars while we spend only fifty-three dollars a year for every person characterized as poverty-stricken in the so-called poverty program, which is not even a good skirmish against poverty.

Not only that, it has put us in a position of appearing to the world as an arrogant nation . . . . We have alienated ourselves from other nations so we end up morally and politically isolated in the world. There is not a single major ally of the United States of America that would dare send a troop to Vietnam, and so the only friends that we have now are a few client-nations like Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, and a few others.

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