In the summer of 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “triple evils” speech in which he condemned war, poverty, and racism as the three evils that plague American society. The following spring (April 4, 1968) he was murdered by an assassin’s bullet. In between that time, King organized and embarked upon an ambitious effort across racial lines to gain economic justice for poor people in America known as The Poor People’s Campaign. It had only been underway a few months when he was killed. From King’s 1967 speech:
“A nation that continues year after year,to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
Spiritual doom indeed. These words are more relevant today than ever before. As our military is present all over the planet, occupying, coercing, dictating terms, and in many cases, killing. We kill poor people around the world, be it Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, or Palestine (and tomorrow this could include Iran or Venezuela). We do this at the cost of more than a trillion dollars per year (when you add all of the associated costs of Endless War). A TRILLION dollars is an almost-unfathomable sum of money. Our Endless War footing is nothing less than an organized mass theft. It robs our society of things like universal healthcare, cost-free education, a right to housing, and clean air and water.
Today (April 8, 2019) the Poor People’s Campaign came here to Fresno. It was great to see so much of the community at this event in Southwest Fresno following a march from the Poverello House to the EOC. We heard several amazing testimonies from so many inspirational individuals, including Joe Martinez from Fresno EOC speaking on homeless youth and poverty, Dr. Salvador Sandoval speaking on ecological devastation, Gloria Sandoval speaking about immigration justice, Rachel West on the criminalization of poverty, Roger Centeno–whose brother Freddy was killed by Fresno Police, Aline Reed speaking on the treatment of our elderly, students Daisy Hernandez and Juan Munoz speaking on racism and poverty, and so many more.
Eduardo Castro and I spoke briefly about our organization, Veterans For Peace and our absolute support for the campaign. I talked about the immorality of our war economy and it’s warped budget priorities, and Eduardo Castro spoke about the ongoing injustice of our deported veterans, reminding us that we must keep our promises to leave no one behind.
Despite the spiritual doom we face as a society, there is hope. Communities organizing and demanding their voices are heard. Demanding that government work for ALL of us. I left feeling inspired and hopeful that we can and will do better. We must. We are all in this together. As I said to those gathered, THIS is what real service looks like. Not killing in foreign lands to boost the profits of defense contractors. We veterans are often told by well-meaning folks “thank your for your service.” To the Poor People’s Campaign organizers, supporters, and those gathered today: Thank YOU for YOUR service.
For more about the history of the Poor People’s Campaign, visit https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/history/