Time to Break Silence, Nicky Enright, 2016
Audio-video collage, 3.5 minutes 


As relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

A Time to Break Silence [Transcript of my excerpt, used in the work]
By Rev. Martin Luther King, April 4th, 1967
Meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church, NYC

... I cannot be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor, without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

... Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read "Vietnam."

...This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism, and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls "enemy", for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

...Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.

... The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy - and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us - not their fellow Vietnamese - the real enemy.

... Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken... The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

... The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam...

... Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole, in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

... Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful struggle, for a new world.

... The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

----

[MLK's three reasons for breaking his silence about the war]

[1] ... 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. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

[2] ... it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population... So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.

[3] ... My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years - especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked - and rightly so - what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home...