Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day from Viet Nam!

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Beyond Viet Nam:  A Time to Break Silence, a speech Dr. King gave at the Riverside Church in New York City on 4 April 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated is always worth a read and a listen on this or any other day:  text and audio.  His friendship with Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Zen master, global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist who is now back at his “root temple,” Từ Hiếu Temple near Huế in central Viet Nam, is one of the reasons he gave that seminal speech.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

The Importance of Speaking Up About “Things That Matter”

things that matter2After telling an acquaintance who is well-known in Viet Nam circles that I intended to write about the rhetorical bombshells that Thomas Vallely dropped in an early 2018 interview about Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University Vietnam, he warned me about possible backlash. 

In case you’re just tuning in, Vallely is Senior Adviser for Mainland Southeast Asia at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and “one of the most influential figures in the US-Viet Nam relationship you’ve never heard of.”

I highlighted some of Vallely’s appalling and unconscionable statements, some of the words he used to hang himself, rhetorically speaking, in an interview in this 17 August 2018 article entitled More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells

Regardless of your age or situation, please don’t remain silent about “things that matter” and let your life begin to end.  Life’s already too short.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA, The Unquiet US American

I Am Something…

escape criticism

How do I know I am something, in this regard?  Because I discovered the power of the written word, a la Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s famous 1839 metonymic adage, The pen is mightier than the sword, in a previous incarnation, another lifetime, while still a high school student.  I found it not only in what I read but in what I began to write.

The pen, the electric typewriter since my junior high days and, shortly thereafter, the keyboard in the dawning age of the microcomputer, has the power to inspire, delight, provoke, infuriate, exasperate, instill fear, and set the wheels of change in motion. 

Writing has the power to shine light on the dark and dank corners of unethical behavior, hypocrisy, lies, and injustice, and to criticize whatever and whomever is deserving of criticism, regardless of the cost.

burning bridgeThis unattributed saying often comes to mind: May the bridges I burn light the way.  There are bridges worth drenching in gasoline and tossing a lit match on.  You usually know them when you see them, the ones worth setting fire to.  Don’t be afraid of the consequences.  We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one, Confucius once said. 

When you are something, not everyone loves you, especially those whose actions and ideologies are on the receiving end of your criticism.  That is a small price to pay for speaking out on behalf of victims of exploitation and genocide, for example, both the living and the dead.  I’m reminded of this profound quote from Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor:  We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  For this reason, there is no pretense of “objectivity” or a sense of balance in much of my writing.  Unlike most, I’m honest about whose ax I’m grinding. 

A related quote that inspires me in my work is from Martin Luther King, Jr., who paid the ultimate price for speaking truth to power at the early middle age of 39:  Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.  Don’t let your life end prematurely because of fear. You still have to look at yourself in the mirror.  I sincerely hope you like what you see. 

You will still have to look back on occasion as the inventory that is your life accumulates, assuming you are accorded that privilege.  I hope you are able to look back with contentment, happiness, and inner peace.

I would much rather be something than nothing.  Wouldn’t you?  Aren’t you?

Peace, MAA