Note: This article is based on a blog published Sept. 7, 2012, written by the author during the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity stop in New York City. We offer it to readers as a reflection on the great leader on this day of remembrance. The article examines King’s famous speech “A Time to Break Silence” against the Viet Nam war and how his arguments against that war apply to today’s War on Drugs throughout the world.
…we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.
[The war] was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.
Many women in New York, and probably all over the world, are usually incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses. Most of the time, they started using drugs due to past abuse, abandonment by parents, victimization and sexual assaults. Instead of treating these occurrences as health hazards or diseases, when we turn to drugs to medicate our pain, they lock us up.
I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam [or in the drug war] and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors.