Since 1865, when it was founded by abolitionists, The Nation has believed in the liberating power of truth, of conviction, of conscience, and of fighting for causes lost and found. And like our founders, The Nation has an abiding belief that there is no force so potent in politics as a moral issue.
One of the great moral figures of our country, Martin Luther King Jr. was a correspondent for The Nation in the 1960s filing annual dispatches for the magazine on the state of civil rights until his murder in 1968.
In 1967, Dr. King traveled to Los Angeles under the auspices of The Nation and The Nation Institute to give the speech that would align the armies of the Civil Rights Movement with the rapidly expanding national protest against the Vietnam War. It was at this event where Dr. King came out, courageously, eloquently and unequivocally, for the first time, against US military involvement in Southeast Asia.
Today we are once again mired in an intractable and monstrous war overseas. In his speech at The Nation event, several weeks before his famous Riverside Church address in April, 1967, (“Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence“) Dr. King painted a picture of a society 40 years ago that looks remarkably, starkly like the one we live in today. It is a moment to remember Dr. King’s words about the broader casualties of war–casualties that go beyond the carnage of battle to the devastating costs of war at home. Casualties that include damage to social justice and racial equality and impose unbearable cost to free speech and dissent.
Forty years later, we are once again, as Dr. King said, “in an unthinkable position morally and politically…” Who of sane mind can look out over the current landscape in America and breathe easily? A rogue President is intent on escalating a war in the face of opposition by the people, the Congress and even most of his military.
On this anniversary, Martin Luther King, Jr would recognize the failed policies, wanton destruction, false promises and downward spiraling of America’s standing in the world. He would ask us to reflect on how, when it comes to the future of our democracy, we are in the fight of our lives. And he would call on us to rise to that challenge. “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” King said at the Riverside Church in 1967. Confronted by another unjust and self-destructive conflict forty years later, it is time to use all the powers at our disposal to end it, while we work to build a better nation and world.