“The King We [but not most of us now] Would Rather Forget”

     On Nov. 9, 1967, Dr. King gave the
Annual Convocation address of the
Graduate Student Association (GSA) at
SUNY Buffalo. On behalf of the GSA, I [John Marciano]
was co-organizer of the event and his driver
that evening. This speech was seven months
after his historic “Beyond Vietnam” oration
at New York’s Riverside Church in which
he condemned that war. That evening, we
discussed the harsh attacks he received for
his opposition. King calmly and patiently
explained that he opposed the Vietnam
conflict because conscience demanded it;
he resolutely stayed the course until his
assassination five months later.
     “Beyond Vietnam” is perhaps his
greatest speech, although unknown
to most Americans compared with
his “I Have a Dream” oration at the
August 1963 March for Freedom and
Jobs in Washington. Those who have
heard or watched King’s magnificent
oration that day are deeply moved, but
to this day little is known about the
pre-march “apprehension [and] dread”
of the corporate media and political
establishment. President Kennedy ordered
4,000 troops to be “assembled in the
suburbs, backed by 15,000 paratroopers”
of the 82nd Airborne Division in North
Carolina; his aide was ready “to cut
the power to the public-address system
if rally speeches proved incendiary”;
Washington banned all alcohol sales
for the first time since Prohibition; and
hospitals prepared “for riot casualties.”
The event was a huge success: it drew a
record crowd of some 250,000 people in a
marvelous and peaceful show of support
for justice (Taylor Branch, “Pillar of Fire:
America in the King Years 1954-63”).
     Four years later, King articulated
powerful truths about the War in Vietnam
and this nation. He laid his firm opposition
to the war squarely on the shoulders of the
U.S. government—which had denied the
Vietnamese their right to independence,
aided brutal French colonialism there,
created and supported Diem’s dictatorship
in South Vietnam, and violated the 1954
Geneva Agreement.
     King denounced the United States as
“the greatest purveyor of violence in the
world today,” and saw the war was “a
symptom of a far deeper malady within
the American spirit.” Later that spring, he
asserted that “the evils of racism, economic
exploitation and militarism are all tied
together”: We could not “get rid of one
without getting rid of the others [and] the
whole structure of American life must be
changed.” He stated that the injustice of
the conflict was inextricably linked to the
African-American struggle for civil rights.
The war was an enemy of poor people
because it diverted money that could be
used to mitigate the effects of poverty. And
the poor, especially the African-American
poor, were being killed or maimed in higher
proportions than their representation in
the U.S. population (Southern Christian
Leadership Conference Report, 1967).
     King’s speech elicited vicious attacks
by the political and corporate media
establishment and civil rights leaders.
Life Magazine stated, “Much of his speech was
a demagogic slander that sounded like a
script for Radio Hanoi.” The New York
Times called his effort to link civil rights
and opposition to the war a “disservice to
both. The moral issues in Vietnam are less
clear-cut than he suggests.” It concluded
that there were “no simple or easy
answers to the war in Vietnam or to racial
injustice in this country.” The Washington
Post claimed that some of his assertions
were “sheer inventions of unsupported
fantasy”; that King had “diminished his
usefulness to his cause, to his country
and to his people.” The corporate media
and political condemnation of King
accurately reflected public sentiment; a
Harris poll taken in May 1967 revealed
that 73 percent of Americans opposed his
antiwar position, including 50 percent of
African-Americans.
     If we wish to pay tribute to Dr. King,
we should read (or reread) his “Beyond
Vietnam” speech, and abandon the myths
about him and the movement for justice
and peace to which he dedicated his life.
We do a grave injustice to his legacy
and that struggle by revising the actual
history of the era, and by failing to fully
understand and confront the economic
exploitation, militarism, and racism that he
condemned—which continue to poison this
nation.”
– Author John Marciano also  wrote  American War in Vietnam:
Crime or Commemoration and co-wroteLessons of the Vietnam War
with William Griffen. He is professor emeritus at SUNY Cortland.
Photo: King delivering his speech “Beyond Vietnam” at New York City’s Riverside Church in 1967. Photo: John C. Goodwin, TIME Magazine.

From:  V5N2—Spring 2019 p. 7 in Peace in Our Times • <peaceinourtimes.org> by John Marciano

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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

One response to ““The King We [but not most of us now] Would Rather Forget””

  1. Rosita says :

    Great, mind-blowing post!! Martin Luther King was and still is an icon for peace as well as the anti-racist movement, and we must be aware of his plight 👏🏼 War is needless as it only cause more suffering 💔 also, it’s great to see veterans advocating for peace 😁 while world peace is still a distant dream, we can do our best to make our neighborhoods a more peaceful place 💗
    How are y’all doing?

    With love,
    R/@sunny.dingo (yes, I changed InstaGram username!!)

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