Monday, January 19, 2015

Mass Climate Action Network: Selma and Science

New post on Mass Climate Action Network (MCAN)

Selma and Science

by massclimateaction
Back in January 1995, I read a great piece in the now-defunct Boston Phoenix about Martin Luther King Jr.'s April 1967 "Beyond Vietnam" speech, in which King strongly denounced the Vietnam War. The Phoenix piece noted that "Beyond Vietnam" was the most controversial speech of King's career; he was viciously denounced by many of his former supporters, who argued that his condemnation of the Vietnam War would alienate those who might otherwise support King on the issue of civil rights. (It reminds me of the criticism Naomi Klein received last year over her condemnation of the economic assumptions and attitudes that gave rise to the climate crisis.)
Ted McIntyre and I discussed King's legacy and lessons for climate hawks at the conclusion of the January 15 MCAN Climate Minute. King's legacy has certainly been distorted and abused over the years; I remember a January 2004 piece by Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto in which he asserted, "Would Dr. King really have favored leaving [Saddam Hussein] in power in Iraq? There's no way of answering that question, but [it] surely correct to say Dr. King believed in liberty and democracy--the very values for which America is fighting in Iraq."
Based on his remarks about Vietnam, I doubt very much that Dr. King, had he lived, would have been a supporter of the Iraq War. However, I'm quite certain that King would have joined the 400,000 of us who marched in New York last year--and his concluding words in the "Beyond Vietnam" speech also apply to the climate crisis:
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect.
We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace...and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act 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.
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history...
And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when "justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
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