I finished watching the one-hour-and-ten-minute Sean Penn-narrated documentary War Made Easy. It hasn’t happened recently, but by the 57th minute, I found myself shaking in anger and anxiety, filled with a rage about the war that has been costly and useless. The film ingeniously makes use of now-historical footage from Vietnam and Iraq in which administrations and the media co-actively constructed the cause, needs, continuity, and deceipt of war.
The documentary ends with parts of Martin Luther King’s powerful 1967 speech Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence. Here are just some of the words he spoke, back then, over 40 years ago, just long enough for us to have forgotten:
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. 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. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.
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.