FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Martin Luther King, Jr and the Bomb

by

Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the world’s great peace leaders.  Like Gandhi before him, he was a firm advocate of nonviolence.  In 1955, at the age of 26, he became the leader of the Montgomery bus boycott and two years later he was elected the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Within a decade he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35.  It came two years after he witnessed the terrifying prospects of nuclear war during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

King’s Nobel Lecture, delivered in December 1964, is worth reviewing.  He compared mankind’s technological advancement with our spiritual progress and found us failing to keep pace spiritually.  He said, “There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance.  The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.  We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple act of living together as brothers.”

The yawning gap between mankind’s technological advancement and spiritual poverty led King to draw this conclusion: “If we are to survive today, our moral and spiritual ‘lag’ must be eliminated.  Enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul.  When the ‘without’ of man’s nature subjugates the ‘within,’ dark storm clouds begin to form in the world.”  He found that mankind’s spiritual “lag” expressed itself in three interrelated problems: racial injustice, poverty and war.

When King elaborated on war, he spoke of “the ever-present threat of annihilation,” clearly referring to the dangers of nuclear weapons.  Recognizing the dangers of denial, or “rejection” of the truth about the nuclear predicament, he went on, “A world war – God forbid! – will leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony of a human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death.  So if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine.”

King came to the following realization: “Somehow we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world.  In short, we must shift the arms race into a ‘peace race.’  If we have the will and determination to mount such a  peace offensive, we will unlock hitherto tightly sealed doors and transform our imminent cosmic elegy into a psalm of creative fulfillment.”

One year to the day prior to his assassination on April 4, 1968, King gave a speech at the Riverside Church in New York City that was highly critical of the war in Vietnam.  Many of his close advisors urged him not to speak out and to instead keep his focus on the civil rights movement, but he felt the time had come when silence is betrayal and chose to state his position.  He put the Vietnam War squarely within his moral vision and spoke against it to the great displeasure of Lyndon Johnson and many other American political leaders. In addition to speaking his mind on the war, he also said that nuclear weapons would never defeat communism and called for reordering our priorities to pursue peace rather than war.  He argued, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Were he still with us, there can be little doubt that King would be highly critical of America’s continuing wars since Vietnam, and its plan to spend $1 trillion on modernizing its nuclear arsenal.  Since his death, the gap between our technological prowess and our spiritual/moral values has continued to widen.   We would do well to listen to King’s insights and follow his vision if we are to have any chance of pulling out of the descending spiral leading to the nation’s “spiritual death.”

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail