Posts Tagged 'movement'

True compassion, true revolution

Dr. King is arrested after a protest in Montgomery, Ala. in 1958. Breaking unjust laws and accepting arrest was an integral part of the civil rights movements non-violent protest strategy (CHARLES MOORE / BLACK STAR)

Dr. King is arrested after a protest in Montgomery, Ala. in 1958. Breaking unjust laws and accepting arrest was an integral part of the civil rights movement's non-violent protest strategy (CHARLES MOORE / BLACK STAR)

Today we join arms to remember and celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As we gather in churches and synagogues, in universities and community centers, in homes and on the streets, we praise Dr. King for blazing the trail towards a more equal society.  His poignant speeches and fearless marching compelled a nation to stand up and declare racial segregation unjust.

While his most famous speeches — “I Have a Dream” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” — focus on strong condemnations of the unequal racial order of our society, we must look beyond these speeches to fully understand Dr. King. Beyond these speeches, Dr. King’s words an actions extend to include fervent condemnations of the Vietnam War, inequities in health care, and the pillaging of transnational corporations throughout the developing world.

On April 4, 1967, Dr. King delivered one of his finest sermons at Riverside Church in New York City.  In “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break the Silence“, it becomes clear that Dr. King’s life was not simply about the fight against racial segregation, but rather about the fight against social injustices everywhere.

A lengthy excerpt (full text here):

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, 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.

Dr. King would surely be rejoicing tomorrow morning when we can finally refer to Barack Obama as President Obama.  However, we all know that when the candles are all blown out he would tell us to get back on our feet and get to work.

Paul Farmer’s Baccalaureate remarks at Princeton

In case you missed it, check out Paul Farmer’s Baccaulareate speech at Princeton, delivered on June 1, 2008.  Farmer provides a vision for what the world will be like in 2028 if we are able to continue building a broad-based social movement for human rights.

A few good excerpts (make sure you check out the full text):

Medicine, certainly, will be transformed and improved, but that’s just the beginning. Our economy will be green, in this utopian vision, our carbon footprint tiny compared to the bad old days when oil hit, in 2010, $250 a barrel, provoking, at long last, a serious commitment to alternative, clean fuels that are truly clean as opposed to advertised as such. So too for India and China, which by 2020 became the world’s largest economies. The planet’s population will have grown, of course, but at nothing like the rates we’re seeing now: the human herd will no longer be culled by epidemic disease or by war. For the first time in a century, the Amazon rain forest will be growing, not shrinking.

A broad-based movement to acknowledge historical truths will have led not only to the abolition of war but to the forgiveness of “odious debt” in many countries. By 2028, the decades-long trend of increasing social inequalities will have been reversed, and four of the world’s five fastest-growing economies will be in Africa.

Medicine and health will have flourished during the first quarter of the 21st century. The United States will have a world-class national health system, introduced in 2009, with universal coverage implemented by 2012. Healthcare costs will have fallen even as the average citizen lives longer, better lives. “Social safety net” will no longer be a dirty word.

But is it crazy to wish for these kinds of improvements? Is it crazy for the class of 2008 to wish for something better than what has gone before?…Imagine a commencement speaker in the early nineteenth century, exhorting young Americans or Britons to abolish slavery as the affront to God that it surely was and is. Imagine an address in the early 20th century in which the speaker pushed universal suffrage, arguing that an adult is an adult, regardless of race or gender. Imagine a speaker in 1993—not so long ago—arguing that apartheid in South Africa was an insult not just to the notion of human rights but to modernity itself. Imagine a country like ours looking back from 2028 and thinking it quaint that not that long ago a woman or a black would not likely be elected as head of our country…A world in which every child has the right to go to school. A world in which clean water is not a privatized commodity to be sipped from bottles but rather part of the earth’s bounty, for all its inhabitants?

We may be leaders of this movement but must also be humble participants. Some have not been as quick to see the boundaries and dimensions of this movement. That’s because it’s fluid, as all real social movements are. It’s a chaotic movement, just now coalescing, but with the promise of lessening the hurts and insults of an unequal world.


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