This weekend’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 77th birthday comes amid a growing popular upsurge against the sharp challenges posed by the Bush administration and its giant corporate backers to every ideal the great civil rights and peace leader fought for.
Today’s struggles for peace, to overcome the devastating legacy of racial discrimination, to win full rights for immigrants and economic and social justice for all Americans, carry forward Dr. King’s legacy. And his legacy has much to contribute to today’s social movements.
At the forefront of these struggles is the crucial link between ending the war and assuring the well-being of the American people at home.
Dr. King’s words at Riverside Church in April 1967 ring true today. The mid-’60s War on Poverty, he said, offered “a real promise of hope for the poor … then came the buildup in Vietnam … and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.”
Fast forward to today’s horrific toll in lives — Iraqi and American — and war spending that has already topped $200 billion and continues to soar. A majority of Americans now believe the war in Iraq is not worth the cost in lives and resources, and want our troops to come home soon.
Thanks to growing popular pressure, a budget measure slashing urgently needed social spending was challenged by so many Republicans that despite the vice president’s Senate tie- breaker, it must now be reconsidered in the House.
Thanks to popular outrage, including over the spreading scandal of National Security Agency spying on Americans at home, the administration’s urgently sought renewal of the civil liberties-destroying Patriot Act has been held back.
Carrying forward these struggles, and many more for peace and human needs, is the best way to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy this weekend.