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LA Progressive: America: The World’s Greatest Purveyor of Violence Today


February 12, 2011- February is Black History Month, and a perfect time to reflect on the nonviolence and antiwar stance of Dr. Martin Luther King. Recently, my colleague, Mark Thompson, reminded me of an important Dr. King quote when I appeared on his radio show to discuss the Tucson shooting. It was a speech the slain civil rights leader gave at Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967, a year and a day before he was assassinated.

In the speech King was discussing the conversations he had had with angry and desperate young black men in the northern ghettos. He tried to convince them that nonviolent action, not rifles or Molotov cocktails, would solve their problems and bring social change. “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,” King said. “Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.” King said he could not be silent, so he broke that silence and spoke out against the Vietnam War, most likely to his peril.
And although he uttered these words 44 years ago in, a different era, about a war that ended decades ago, his words are as relevant and clear as if he spoke just yesterday. America is the greatest purveyor of violence around. You only need look at the latest shootout massacre du jour on U.S. soil. These perennial bloodbaths occur so frequently that Americans have accepted them as a part of daily life, the price of doing business, as they say.

With 90 guns for every 100 people, according to the Small Arms Survey in Switzerland, the U.S., by far, is the most heavily armed nation in the world. Yemen, in second place, has 61 guns per 100 people, while Switzerland has 46, followed by Iraq with 39.

And not surprisingly, America has the world’s highest gun-related death rate, with nearly 100,000 people shot or killed with a gun each year. Over a million Americans have been killed with guns since King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, according to the Childrens’ Defense Fund. Moreover, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says that America’s homicide rate is 6.9 times higher than rates in the other 22 advanced nations combined. And among 23 high-income countries, 80 percent of firearms deaths occur in the U.S.

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