Civil liberties

See the Stars


"It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence."

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke those words the night before he was murdered. They were true then, and they are more true today.

Our nation is one of the chief exporters of violence, not only through the unlawful war in Iraq, but through our manufacturing of missiles, land mines, and various combat weapons.

We are also one of the chief exporters of hate and fear, those twin engines that move violence along at such an alarming pace.

Dr. King devoted his life to opposing fear with hope, hate with love, and violence with non-violence. He was beaten, jailed, and, eventually, murdered. But as he said the night before he was killed, he wouldn't have chosen another time in which to live. Here's an excerpt:

"I would turn to the Almighty, and say, 'If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy." Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.

And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we're going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demand didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence."

The temptation for despair in these troubled times is tremendous. But as Dr. King makes clear, we must be inspired by our struggles, not become the victim of them.For a man who was hated by much of his own nation to make the above statement would seem impossible. But I believe that is precisely his point; it is because he was born black in racist America, born poor in classist America that he was forced to do something about injustice, and that he forced himself to see hope.In the Bush era, we have the president authorizing torture, we have wars fought on lies, we have shades of Vietnam and the Third Reich all around us. Things are dark. But do not become a victim of despair. Follow the example of Dr. King. See the stars.