There have been several posts today regarding the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is interesting to note, with the United States now embroiled in an extended military conflict, that many of the posts are reviving King's eloquent and courageous stand against the then escalating conflict in Vietnam. In 2003, I created a sculptural art installation in a warehouse space in Lowell, Massachusetts.
The Year of the Rat: 1972 is a sculptural sound installation created between March and May 2003 by R. Streitmatter-Tran for inclusion in the group exhibition, Frag, curated by Mobius Artists Group director, Jed Speare, for the Evos Arts Gallery in Lowell, Massachusetts. The installation is intended to be experienced in the evening and in its entire duration (approximately 16 minutes). The sound recording is a sampling of a 1968 speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his opposition to the Vietnam War coupled with the panning interrruption of helicopters. The recording is looped.
Below is an excerpt from his speech "Beyond Vietnam" in 1967.
" The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality [applause], 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 . . .
Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. 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 [applause], 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, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered . . .
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just . . ."
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
Beyond Vietnam - April 4, 1967. New York. Martin Luther King Jr.
R. Streitmatter-Tran. Year of the Rat: 1972
Posted by on January 17, 2006 4:52 PM | Permalink