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.”

More articles by:

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

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 20, 2017
Sebastian Friedrich – Gabriel Kuhn
A New Class Politics
Patrick Cockburn
The Massacre of Mosul: More Than 40,000 Civilians Feared Dead
Paul Street
The Abandonment: Reflections on James Foreman’s “Locking Up Our Own”
Kim Codella
A Practical Education
Frank Scott
America’s Trump, Not Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Clancy Sigal Goes Away
Don Monkerud
The Real Treason in DC: Turning Our Lives Over to Corporate
Brian Dew – Dean Baker
Are Amazon’s Shareholders Suckers?
Ralph Nader
Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up and Top-down
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Covering Islam, Post-Jack Shaheen
Binoy Kampmark
Uhlmann’s Trump Problem
Patrick Walker
In Defense of Caitlin Johnstone
Barry Lando
Those Secret Putin-Trump Talks
Sean Marquis
Thank You, Donald Trump
July 19, 2017
Adam Ziemkowski and Rebekah Liebermann
How Seattle Voted to Tax the Rich
Patrick Cockburn
Why ISIS Fighters are Being Thrown Off Buildings in Mosul
John W. Whitehead
Zombies R Us: the Walking Dead of the American Police State
Mateo Pimentel
Net Neutrality’s Missing Persons
Adil E. Shamoo - Bonnie Bricker
Yemen Policy is Creating More Terrorists
L. Ali Khan
U.S. Misreads Pakistan’s Antifragility
David Macaray
Fear and Trembling in the Workplace
Brian Trautman, Gerry Condon and Samantha Ferguson
Veterans Call on U.S. to Sign Nuclear Ban Treaty
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
Ricardo Vaz
Venezuelan Opposition “Consultation”: Playing Alone and Losing
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Cold-Hearted Agenda is Immoral
Raul Castro
We will Continue to Advance Along the Path Freely Chosen by Our People
July 18, 2017
James Bovard
Obama’s AWOL Anti-War Protesters
Gary Leupp
CNN: “Russia is an Adversary, Ukraine is Not.”
Ryan Shah
Beware the Radical Center
John Carroll Md
Cold Hands Don’t Need Narcotics
Derrick Jensen
Endangered Species Don’t Need an Ark – They Need a Living Planet!
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Canadian Conjucture
Arturo Lopez-Levy
Trump’s Cuba Restrictions: a Detour, Not the Future
Russell Mokhiber
State Street Bentley University Business Ethics and Corporate Crime
Laura Finley
Being Too Much
Robert J. Gould
What is Our Experience of our Flawed Democracy?
Taju Tijani
The Burden of Indivisible Nigeria
Guillaume Pitron
China Now Leads in Renewables
Ted Rall
How I Learned Courts are Off-Limits to the 99 Percent
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
July 17, 2017
Gregory Wilpert
Time for the “International Left” to Take a Stand on Venezuela
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Embrace of the Saudi Crown Prince, and a Qatar Nightmare Scenario
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Liu Xiaobo: the West’s Model Chinese
Terry Simons
Why I Did Not Go to Vietnam
Jim Green
Nuclear Power’s Annus Horribilus
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail