Tuesday, January 16, 2018

James Baldwin: Not Everything That Is Faced Can Be Changed

Not everything that is faced can be changed, 
but nothing can be changed 
until it is faced.
James Baldwin

Pema Chödrön: The True Practice of Peace

To the degree that each of us is dedicated to wanting there to be peace in the world, then we have to take responsibility when our own hearts and minds harden and close. We have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid, to find the soft spot and stay with it. We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility. That's true spiritual warriorship. That's the true practice of peace.

Pema Chödrön
From Practicing Peace In Times of War

Monday, January 15, 2018

Coretta Scott King: We Have An Historic Opportunity

It doesn't matter how strong your opinions are. If you don't use your power for positive change, you are, indeed, part of the problem.

Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.

Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.

I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Suppressing a culture is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence. 

Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated. 

As one whose husband and mother-in-law have died the victims of murder and assassination, I stand firmly and unequivocally opposed to the death penalty for those convicted of capital offenses. An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder.

You cannot believe in peace at home and not believe in international peace. A war with Iraq will increase anti-American sentiment, create more terrorists, and drain as much as 200 billion taxpayer dollars, which should be invested in human development here in America. 

We have a lot more work to do in our common struggle against bigotry and discrimination. I say "common struggle" because I believe very strongly that all forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere. Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from racial, religious, gender, or ethnic discrimination. 

We must eliminate the gulf of mistrust and ignorance that keeps us from learning from each other.

Love is such a powerful force. It's there for everyone to embrace-that kind of unconditional love for all of humankind. That is the kind of love that impels people to go into the community and try to change conditions for others, to take risks for what they believe in.

The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members. 

When the heart is right, the mind and the body will follow.

Isn't it strange how the leaders of nations can talk so eloquently about peace while they prepare for war? ... There is no way to make peace while preparing for war.

Violence diminishes our humanity. 

We have an historic opportunity for a great global healing and renewal. If we will accept the challenge of nonviolent activism with faith, courage, and determination, we can bring this great vision of a world united in peace and harmony from a distant ideal into glowing reality. 

Coretta Scott King 

Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s Searing Antiwar Speech, Fifty Years Later

This article made me weep, as does Martin Luther King's Beyond Vietnam speech each time I listen to it. And weeping is what is so needed to cleanse us all of the toxins that infect us and our nation and the world. We need to soften and strengthen our hearts for what is asked of us as peacemakers today and for the journey ahead. Tears... I am overcome with gratitude for Dr. King and grief at his loss and yet more gratitude that his strong spirit and deep wisdom and amazing courage continues to inform and inspire so many. May our numbers grow and grow. Molly

At the time of his speech at Riverside Church, King had come to see war, poverty, and racism as interrelated; taking on one necessarily meant confronting the others.

Fifty years ago, John Lewis, the civil-rights activist and current congressman from Georgia, was living in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, in a studio on Twenty-first Street. On April 4, 1967, he rode uptown to Riverside Church, on the Upper West Side, to hear Martin Luther King, Jr., deliver a speech about Vietnam. Lewis knew that King would declare his opposition to the war, but the intensity and eloquence of King’s speech, titled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” stunned him. What King offered was a wholesale denunciation of American foreign and domestic policy. He had never spoken with such fathoms of unrestraint. For Lewis, the force of the speech eclipsed that of all the others that King gave, including his most famous.

“The March on Washington was a powerful speech,” Lewis said to me recently, over the phone. Lewis was present for that one, too: he spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial minutes before King did. “It was a speech for America, but the speech he delivered in New York, on April 4, 1967, was a speech for all humanity—for the world community.” He added, “I heard him speak so many times. I still think this is probably the best.”

Half a century later, the Riverside speech also seems to carry the greater weight of prophecy. King portrayed the war in Vietnam as an imperial one, prosecuted at the expense of the poor. Vietnam, he said, was “the symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit,” and, if left untreated, if the malady continued to fester, “we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

“It was far beyond anything I thought he would say,” Clarence Jones, King’s attorney and speechwriter on many occasions, told me. Initially, Jones and other members of King’s inner circle advised him not to give the speech. Any public utterance against Vietnam would threaten his relationship with President Lyndon Johnson, who had helped to advance the cause of civil rights. And King was in a beleaguered spot in 1967. His organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was broke. Their Chicago campaign of the previous year—an attempt to make inroads in what King called “the teeming ghettos of the North”—had been a failure. More than ever, perhaps, he needed Johnson. So why step into Riverside? Jones and the others wondered. Politically, there was nothing to gain.

But King was not thinking politically, not in that sense. Jones recalled preparing some remarks, only to have King dismiss them on account of their hedging and diplomacy. King called him on the phone, Jones remembered, “and he says, ‘What’s all this on the one hand and on the other hand?’ ” King saw no reason to be circumspect or honor multiple sides. “The Vietnam War is either morally right or morally wrong,” he told Jones. “It’s not on the one hand or on the other hand.”

John Lewis: What Legacy Do You Want To Leave Behind?

The Wisdom, Integrity, and Courage of John Lewis

If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.

I believe in freedom of speech, but I also believe that we have an obligation to condemn speech that is racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic, or hateful.

You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. […] Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don't be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.

Take a long, hard look down the road you will have to travel once you have made a commitment to work for change. Know that this transformation will not happen right away. Change often takes time. It rarely happens all at once. In the movement, we didn't know how history would play itself out. When we were getting arrested and waiting in jail or standing in unmovable lines on the courthouse steps, we didn’t know what would happen, but we knew it had to happen.

Use the words of the movement to pace yourself. We used to say that ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part. And if we believe in the change we seek, then it is easy to commit to doing all we can, because the responsibility is ours alone to build a better society and a more peaceful world. 

Every generation leaves behind a legacy. What that legacy will be is determined by the people of that generation. What legacy do you want to leave behind? 

Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Greatest Danger to the World

Nothing in the world is more dangerous 
than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pope Francis: If We Fail To Suffer With Those Who Suffer

If we fail to suffer with those who suffer, even 
those of different religions, languages or cultures, 
we need to question our own humanity.
Pope Francis 
A tweet in response to Trump