Friday, January 16, 2009

"Beyond Vietnam": War and poverty, then and now...

Last night, on the campus of Wichita State University, the Wichita NAACP and the Peace and Social Justice center sponsored an event dealing with Martin Luther King's position against the Vietnam war. We began by viewing his incredible "beyond Vietnam" speech, wherein he discussed his view that the war against the Vietnamese was really a war against the poor. Not only because of the relative poverty of the Vietnamese who we were fighting, but more poignantly and specifically, because the US Government diverted the funds, attention and resources, that had been earmarked to fight poverty to the prosecution of the war.  

After the video, there were short presentations by Professor Gretchen Eick of Friends University and myself, followed by an hour long question and answer session. 

There were many obvious parallels drawn between King's position on the war in Vietnam and the current wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gaza. For my part, I argued that the moral courage that King displayed in taking this position, and that we rightly celebrate, should inspire us to be morally courageous in addressing the 'wars' in our inner cities. With major cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, Jersey, and others topping 200 murders per year, many of us live in the midst of war. In a sense, it is almost 'easier' to challenge the wars on CNN than it is to take the time away from work, sit in your local City Council, County Commission, Parish, or School Board meeting, and speak out against apathy, indifference, and superfluous spending projects that divert funds attention, and resources, away from dealing with the current problems of the urban poor. 

In all, it was a great and informative event. And on behalf of the Wichita Branch, I'd like to thank Janice Bradley and her staff at the Peace & Justice center for their hard work in putting this event together...

But I'd like YOUR feedback on this... Leave me a comment and let me know what you think. Which is the more immediate parallel, the West Bank or West Philly?

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