Ithaca Blog

Friday, November 03, 2006

Martin Luther King

There was an unfortunate tumult in Ithaca between advocates and opponents of renaming State Street for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Maybe now, since the city has decided to create a municipal tribute for Dr. King before his holiday next January, Ithacans can unite in the cause of honoring him.

Dr. King worked for civil rights, and more. As his leadership developed, Dr. King began to work for a range of fundamental, if radical, changes in America. He began to speak about "a better distribution of wealth." He said, "A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth." He began to speak forcefully against war.

Dr. King's words against the Vietnam War seem prophetic today. Just as, today, the invasion of Iraq creates more terrorists than it eradicates, Dr. King said that North Vietnam "did not begin to send in any large numbers of supplies or men until American forces had arrived in the tens of thousands." He said that the U.S. was in Vietnam for no purpose other than "to occupy it as an American colony." He asked if the U.S. government was not "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

The speech quoted here, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence", was given by Dr. King on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination. Time magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post scolded that Dr. King had "diminshed his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

Each year, at the time of Dr. King's holiday, we see corporate and media messages extolling Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. They ignore his calls for economic justice and against war. They eliminate his message as surely as he himself was eliminated.

Today, as then, the citizens of this country are far ahead of their government and media. Dr. King taught us to believe in ourselves and each other. Let's keep this in mind as we move forward in Ithaca to honor this great man in the fullness of his legacy.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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