Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 4 is the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s best  speech “Beyond Viet Nam”

“The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within  the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will  find ourselves organizing clergy and laymen-concerned committees for  the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru.  They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be  concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for  these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end  unless there is a significant and profound change in American life  and policy. ….”I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world  revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of  values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’  society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers,  profit motives and property rights are considered more important than  people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are  incapable of being conquered. ….
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on  military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching 
spiritual death.

— Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967

An mp3 audio file of the speech is archived many places, including

it’s about 30 megabytes and about 50 minutes long

The text of the speech can be found at

King was killed exactly a year to the day after his greatest speech – against the War on Viet Nam (in case anyone missed the symbolism). It  is sad that many leaders of the civil rights movement and the peace  movement stay silent on this, since it suggests that the empire does  not play by democratic rules.

When King was killed, the crime was blamed on James Earl Ray, who was  said to be a lone gunman motivated by racism. However, the facts show  hat Ray was framed as a patsy, and was railroaded into pleading  guilty to avoid a death sentence. Ray spent nearly three decades in  prison for a crime he did not commit, and was repeatedly denied the  right to have a trial to evaluate the evidence against him. It is  little known that the King family publicly stated that the federal 
government killed Martin and that James Earl Ray was just a patsy who  was framed (Dexter King even met with Ray in his prison and they  sought, without success, to get Ray the trial he never had).

In 1967, a young journalist named William Pepper showed photos he had  taken in Viet Nam to King, who was shocked and disgusted by the  racist atrocities. This material spurred King to publicly oppose the  war. After King’s assassination, Pepper dropped out of politics and  eventually became a lawyer. Pepper became the attorney for James Earl  Ray, and spent years trying to get him a trial. Pepper wrote  extensively about the truth of the assassination in two books: Orders  to Kill and An Act of State: the execution of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1999, after Ray’s death in prison, the King family won a federal  lawsuit against some of the perpetrators of the assassination. This  astounding jury verdict is rarely mentioned by the media, even by the  liberal alternative media that opposes most federal policies.

One sad lesson of the murder of Dr. King is waiting for a charismatic  leader to inspire social change that challenges the status quo is a  mistake. These people are easily turned into martyrs, and a movement  dependent on such leaders is easily squashed. A better structure  would be to emulate mycellium threads (they form mushrooms), which  spread widely without a definite center. A more just society would be  less hierarchical by definition, so social justice efforts need to be 
more decentralized than the model offered by our celebrity obsessed  culture. In theory, the internet has this pattern, although the world  wide web does include central computers that control allocation of  DNS numbers and routing (when you type in a website address these  computer translate it into a 12 digit number that is actually the  location of a specified server hosting a website).

The best way to celebrate King’s legacy is not to name large swaths  of concrete after him, or whitewash the crimes of Empire (at home and  abroad), but to work for a world beyond militarism, for non-violence  and economic justice.

It is bizarre to have a Federal holiday named for someone who was  assassinated by elements of the Federal government.

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