America

America never was America to me,
I was born in a time of dire war,
Not an odd thing, for America has always been at War,
Since it’s very beginnings, War after War,
Rivers of Blood flowing around ravaged bodies,
Men, Women, and Children trampled under an imperial boot.
Never did I stand in a classroom swearing allegiance,
For I could not while the people of America allowed these atrocities,
I was quite simply appalled at the lack of morality,
The total lack of humanity and care,

The Great Mystery calls, the time past do for change,
We must gather as a people and remove the evil leaders,
We must together build a united peaceful future,

And therein I swear this oath–
America will be!

Beyond Vietnam

Martin Luther King Speech – Beyond Vietnam

Beyond Vietnam
New York, N.Y.
4 April 1967

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great honour to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi Heschel, some of the distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside Church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit.

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements, and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns, this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people?” they ask. And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment, or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live. In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides. Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans.

Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in South-east Asia which they had not found in south-west Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action. 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. 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. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957, when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes, I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath?

America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.

But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved His enemies so fully that He died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son ship and brotherhood. Because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1954, in 1945 rather, after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination and a government that had been established not by China?for whom the Vietnamese have no great love?but by clearly indigenous forces that included some communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all of this was presided over by United States influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem?s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.

So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American fire-power for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation?s only non-communist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.

Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call “fortified hamlets.” The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.

Perhaps a more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front, that strangely anonymous group we call “VC” or “communists”? What must they think of the United States of America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem, which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the South? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the North” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent communist, and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam, and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will not have a part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them, the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of a new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and non-violence, when it helps us to see the enemy?s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French Commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the wilfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954, they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which could have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again. When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered.

Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreement concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send troops in large numbers and even supplies into the South until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumours of American plans for an invasion of the North. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humour and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor, weak nation more than eight hundred, or rather, eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

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.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honourable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in South-east Asia by curtailing our military build-up in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.

Five: Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement. [Sustained applause]

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary. [Applause] Meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation?s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. [Sustained applause] I am pleased to say that this is a path now chosen by more than seventy students at my own Alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonourable and unjust one. [Applause] Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. [Sustained applause] These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing.

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. [Sustained applause] So such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisers in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investment accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” [Sustained applause] 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 cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life?s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life?s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. [Applause]

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.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hands 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 defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. [Sustained applause]we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from moulding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defence against communism. [Applause] War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, [Applause] realizing that our greatest defence against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity, and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions.

It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; [Audience:] (Yes) the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighbourly concern beyond one?s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, (Yes) for love is God. (Yes) And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood?it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”

We still have a choice today: non-violent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message?of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

Things to make us think again…

Top Ten Causes of Death per Year in The United States:
Number of deaths for leading causes of death

Heart disease: 599,413
Cancer: 567,628
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 137,353
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,842
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 118,021
Alzheimer’s disease: 79,003
Diabetes: 68,705
Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,692
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,935
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 36,909

Guns didn’t even make the list…

And if you go to this link you can get even more detail information by visiting

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_causes_of_death_by_rate

  So I guess the most important thing I learned in researching this is Hunger and poor nutrition, directly or as an underlying cause for the fatal diseases listed the previous, causes 36 million deaths per year accounting for more than 1 death each second on average. Statistically, a child under five dies every 5 seconds on average as a direct or indirect result of poor nutrition.[8] This is 6 million children per year, more than half of all child deaths

Looking at the chart at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Causes_of_death_by_age_group_%28percent%29.png and you find firearms coming out pretty safe overall. So after reading all this, I ask you my friends to truly think for yourselves and try to figure out what is really behind the sudden great push our government and (their tightly controlled media) against all legal ownership by law abiding citizens? When is it They want to suddenly remove my 2nd amendment right and ability to defend myself and my family? I’m an avid fan of history and know well what happened in Germany when Hitler did this same shit. I in know way want to see use end up in the same mess, though in truth the way we have been raping other counties over the last 30 years is sadly pretty close to it. Maybe it would make more sense to take control of our military away from the feds, bring all our men and women home to their own states, and allow them to serve each state in a truly defensive roll only? Just think of the difference, 50 independent states, yet all equal and interacting. Just think how much easier it would be to get meaningful things done with only 50 representative, no parties, no electoral college, States holding local elections to let their one representative know where they stand, allowing that representative a clear view of how to responsibly represent those they serve. There, and end to my ‘rant’ I guess. Let’s get together as an equal caring people, call for binding local elections on this matter, and create a far better future for all of us. I would really welcome all replies pro or con, thanks. Steve Easy Whitacre

Bullets and Death

Our politicians love bullets and death
Love to aim them at those who love trees,
Jealous of the love they can never share
Very short on kindness and morality
So keep  us at war so they can feel good,
Ego fed on the blood of our young,

Sacrifice remembered after you’re dead they cry,
Though you’d rather stayed home with your kids,
Thin,mask, hidden from public, their lack of conscience,
Put a flower in the rifle’s mouth, no more of your wars
“Flowers are better than bullets,” pure hope speaking,
Give no flowers to a state following an outlaws truth,
The U.S. Reciprocates, with cynical, cruel gifts,
Your gift was the bullet blasting the flower,
Ripples leaving every apple orchard blossom black,
Blackened in mourning, ah, how the lilac smelled!
Left with no feelings but betrayal and pain,

And yet still all those on high exclaim the act,
Condemning stamp of traders they all  said it,
Not but a bum, letting down family and state,
All the dead are bums, not crime now,
Lie down in the cool green grass,
Smell of sweetness wafting in air,
Done with dressing in new Madison clothes,
Done with books and their lies,
I used think to be a student, truth now known,
While I studied fine arts, they guided my thoughts
Never a mention of other side of arts exist,
Blood and terror, herdsmen with a genius for the axes,

Who was Hitler but a cubist of gas chambers?
In the name of the Earth Mother I curse your works,
You the masterful architect of lies,
Maestros of murder! Mothers of the world whisper
“O God, God!” and seers afraid to look ahead.
Death dances a rolling song upon the bones
List of times and places to long and hidden
On what stage is it booked to dance tomorrow?
So many of the children lost and gone,
Families left in ruins and loss, where the future?
Rise up, Tokyo girls, Roman boys,
Take up your flowers, hold true peace in your hands,
Against the common U.S. Foe, together you can win,
Threaten their global money rather than declaring war,
A blooming blizzard of peace and growth,
Returning flowers for war! Wash hate from future bright,
Apt punishment for the punishable!

Why?

Together we can stop this…

American Involvement in Wars from Colonial Times to the Present

Dates War in Which American Colonists or
United States Citizens Officially Participated
Major Combatants
July 4, 1675 –
August 12, 1676
King Philip’s War New England Colonies vs. Wampanoag, Narragansett, and Nipmuck Indians
1689-1697 King William’s War The English Colonies vs. France
1702-1713 Queen Anne’s War War of Spanish Succession) The English Colonies vs. France
1744-1748 King George’s War (War of Austrian Succession) The French Colonies vs. Great Britain
1756-1763 French and Indian War (Seven Years War) The French Colonies vs. Great Britain
1759-1761 Cherokee War English Colonists vs. Cherokee Indians
1775-1783 American Revolution English Colonists vs. Great Britain
1798-1800 Franco-American Naval War United States vs. France
1801-1805; 1815 Barbary Wars United States vs. Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli
1812-1815 War of 1812 United States vs. Great Britain
1813-1814 Creek War United States vs. Creek Indians
1836 War of Texas Independence Texas vs. Mexico
1846-1848 Mexican-American War United States vs. Mexico
1861-1865 U.S. Civil War Union vs. Confederacy
1898 Spanish-American War United States vs. Spain
1914-1918 World War I Triple Alliance: Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary vs. Triple Entente: Britain, France, and Russia. The United States joined on the side of the Triple Entente in 1917.
1939-1945 World War II Axis Powers: Germany, Italy, Japan vs. Major Allied Powers: United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia
1950-1953 Korean War United States (as part of the United Nations) and South Korea vs. North Korea and Communist China
1960-1975 Vietnam War United States and South Vietnam vs. North Vietnam
1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion United States vs. Cuba
1983 Grenada United States Intervention
1989 US Invasion of Panama United States vs. Panama
1990-1991 Persian Gulf War United States and Coalition Forces vs. Iraq
1995-1996 Intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina United States as part of NATO acted ‘peace keepers’ in former Yugoslavia
2001 Invasion of Afghanistan United States and Coalition Forces vs. the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to fight terrorism.
2003 Invasion of Iraq United States and Coalition Forces vs. Iraq

This list is not complete, leaving out the Cambodia(1976-1977), Laos(1977-1979), for example.

The Never-ending Day

The stillness somehow deepens around me
Quiet movement, stealthy dark shadows shifting
Dim new day light just beginning to dapple the green
Sucking footsteps across the loam dank muddy ground
They come

Heart thumping, sweat runs, eyes sweep the night
Alert near panic, I hear the clinking of their guns
Quiet voices, language wrong, somehow I must know
Pull further down, deeper yet, down in my water filled hole
They come

I hear their breath, smell their sweat, can almost reach and touch
My mind recoils, must leave this dream, this nightmare in the bush
Starting soon, I know the drill, my personal place in hell
I ready my tools, prepare once more, my heart bent to the kill
Fear, sadness

How came I here, this forlorn place, full of anger and great fear
How could I have misplaced, what held most dear, the peace and love of life
For all I was, have ever been, seems lost in great disgrace
These men are deemed my enemies, but I know not their face
Brothers lost

Will it ever end, can we ever go back
To the world as I remember it was
Can I forget this dream, leave it far behind
If ever I return to my home
Tears, pain, loss

I make a vow, unto myself, if ever I leave this place
To put aside the nightmare dreams, to build upon the disgrace
I will teach my children the ways of love, respect and happiness
But as it starts and I fight to survive, the truth burns in my veins
I will remember, I cannot but cry, for this nightmare never ends……..

Steve ‘Easy’ Whitacre September 30th, 2007

American, What Happened?

Is American a Democracy or something else? The popular ‘media approved’ answer is almost always Democracy, but I say no, today’s greed driven, corporate backed and controlled, elective despotism is not the government the founders foresaw, and certainly nothing we should be fighting to defend today. Firstly, American was never intended to be anything but a Republic right from the start. So, what is the difference between a Democracy versus a Republic you might ask? These two forms of government, Democracy and Republic, are not only dissimilar but antithetical, reflecting the sharp contrast between them,

(a) The Majority Unlimited, in a Democracy, lacking any legal safeguard of the rights of The Individual and The Minority, and

(b) The Majority Limited, in a Republic under a written Constitution safeguarding the rights of The Individual and The Minority.

Democracy.

The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is:

Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.

This is true whether it be a Direct Democracy, or a Representative Democracy. In the direct type, applicable only to a small number of people as in the little city-states of ancient Greece, or in a New England town-meeting, all of the electorate assemble to debate and decide all government questions, and all decisions are reached by a majority vote (of at least half-plus-one). Decisions of The Majority in a New England town-meeting are, of course, subject to the Constitutions of the State and of the United States which protect The Individual’s rights, so, in this case, The Majority is not omnipotent and such a town-meeting is, therefore, not an example of a true Direct Democracy. Under a Representative Democracy like Britain’s parliamentary form of government, the people elect representatives to the national legislature–the elective body there being the House of Commons, and it functions by a similar vote of at least half-plus-one in making all legislative decisions.

In both the Direct type and the Representative type of Democracy, The Majority’s power is absolute and unlimited; its decisions are unappealable under the legal system established to give effect to this form of government. This opens the door to unlimited Tyranny-by-Majority. This was what The Framers of the United States Constitution meant in 1787, in debates in the Federal (framing) Convention, when they condemned the “excesses of democracy” and abuses under any Democracy of the unalienable rights of The Individual by The Majority. Examples were provided in the immediate post-1776 years by the legislatures of some of the States. In reaction against earlier royal tyranny, which had been exercised through oppressions by royal governors and judges of the new State governments, while the legislatures acted as if they were virtually omnipotent. There were no effective State Constitutions to limit the legislatures because most State governments were operating under mere Acts of their respective legislatures which were mislabeled “Constitutions.” Neither the governors not the courts of the offending States were able to exercise any substantial and effective restraining influence upon the legislatures in defense of The Individual’s unalienable rights, when violated by legislative infringements. (Connecticut and Rhode Island continued under their old Charters for many years.) It was not until 1780 that the first genuine Republic through constitutionally limited government, was adopted by Massachusetts, and then next New Hampshire in 1784, other States later.

It was in this connection that Jefferson, in his “Notes On The State of Virginia” written in 1781-1782, protected against such excesses by the Virginia Legislature in the years following the Declaration of Independence, saying: “An elective despotism was not the government we fought for . . .” (Emphasis Jefferson’s.) He also denounced the despotic concentration of power in the Virginia Legislature, under the so-called “Constitution”–in reality a mere Act of that body:

“All the powers of government, legislative, executive, judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one. 173 despots would surely be as oppressive as one. Let those who doubt it turn their eyes on the republic of Venice.”

This topic–the danger to the people’s liberties due to the turbulence of democracies and omnipotent, legislative majority. The Framing Convention’s records prove that by decrying the “excesses of democracy” The Framers were, of course, not opposing a popular type of government for the United States; their whole aim and effort was to create a sound system of this type. To contend to the contrary is to falsify history. Such a falsification not only maligns the high purpose and good character of The Framers but belittles the spirit of the truly Free Man in America–the people at large of that period–who happily accepted and lived with gratification under the Constitution as their own fundamental law and under the Republic which it created, especially because they felt confident for the first time of the security of their liberties thereby protected against abuse by all possible violators, including The Majority momentarily in control of government. The truth is that The Framers, by their protests against the “excesses of democracy,” were merely making clear their sound reasons for preferring a Republic as the proper form of government. They well knew, in light of history, that nothing but a Republic can provide the best safeguards–in truth in the long run the only effective safeguards (if enforced in practice)–for the people’s liberties which are inescapably victimized by Democracy’s form and system of unlimited Government-over-Man featuring The Majority Omnipotent. They also knew that the American people would not consent to any form of government but that of a Republic. It is of special interest to note that Jefferson, who had been in Paris as the American Minister for several years, wrote Madison from there in March 1789 that:

“The tyranny of the legislatures is the most formidable dread at present, and will be for long years. That of the executive will come it’s turn, but it will be at a remote period.” (Text per original.)

Somewhat earlier, Madison had written Jefferson about violation of the Bill of Rights by State legislatures, stating:

“Repeated violations of those parchment barriers have been committed by overbearing majorities in every State. In Virginia I have seen the bill of rights violated in every instance where it has been opposed to a popular current.”

It is correct to say that in any Democracy–either a Direct or a Representative type–as a form of government, there can be no legal system which protects The Individual or The Minority (any or all minorities) against unlimited tyranny by The Majority. The undependable sense of self-restraint of the persons making up The Majority at any particular time offers, of course, no protection whatever. Such a form of government is characterized by The Majority Omnipotent and Unlimited. This is true, for example, of the Representative Democracy of Great Britain; because unlimited government power is possessed by the House of Lords, under an Act of Parliament of 1949–indeed, it has power to abolish anything and everything governmental in Great Britain.

For a period of some centuries ago, some English judges did argue that their decisions could restrain Parliament; but this theory had to be abandoned because it was found to be untenable in the light of sound political theory and governmental realities in a Representative Democracy. Under this form of government, neither the courts not any other part of the government can effectively challenge, much less block, any action by The Majority in the legislative body, no matter how arbitrary, tyrannous, or totalitarian they might become in practice. The parliamentary system of Great Britain is a perfect example of Representative Democracy and of the potential tyranny inherent in its system of Unlimited Rule by Omnipotent Majority. This pertains only to the potential, to the theory, involved; governmental practices there are irrelevant to this discussion.

Madison’s observations in The Federalist number 10 are noteworthy at this point because they highlight a grave error made through the centuries regarding Democracy as a form of government. He commented as follows:

“Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed, that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

“Democracy, as a form of government, is utterly repugnant to, is the very antithesis of, the traditional American system: that of a Republic, and its underlying philosophy, as expressed in essence in the Declaration of Independence with primary emphasis upon the people’s forming their government so as to permit them to possess only “just powers” (limited powers) in order to make and keep secure the God-given, unalienable rights of each and every Individual and therefore of all groups of Individuals.

A Republic

A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution–adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment–with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here the term “the people” means, of course, the electorate. A lot of this was to forestall the kind of corporate control that the founding fathers feared could happen even back then. They spent months and months trying to get the wording right to avoid the very thing that is controlling our country today.

The people adopt the Constitution as their fundamental law by utilizing a Constitutional Convention–especially chosen by them for this express and sole purpose–to frame it for consideration and approval by them either directly or by their representatives in a Ratifying Convention, similarly chosen. Such a Constitutional Convention, for either framing or ratification, is one of America’s greatest contributions, if not her greatest contribution, to the mechanics of government–of self-government through constitutionally limited government, comparable in importance to America’s greatest contribution to the science of government: the formation and adoption by the sovereign people of a written Constitution as the basis for self-government. One of the earliest, if not the first, specific discussions of this new American development (a Constitutional Convention) in the historical records is an entry in June 1775 in John Adams’ “Autobiography” commenting on the framing by a convention and ratification by the people as follows:

“By conventions of representatives, freely, fairly, and proportionately chosen . . . the convention may send out their project of a constitution, to the people in their several towns, counties, or districts, and the people may make the acceptance of it their own act.”

Yet the first proposal in 1778 of a Constitution for Massachusetts was rejected for the reason, in part, as stated in the “Essex Result” (the result, or report, of the Convention of towns of Essex County), that it had been framed and proposed not by a specially chosen convention but by members of the legislature who were involved in general legislative duties, including those pertaining to the conduct of the war.

The first genuine and soundly founded Republic in all history was the one created by the first genuine Constitution, which was adopted by the people of Massachusetts in 1780 after being framed for their consideration by a specially chosen Constitutional Convention. (As previously noted, the so-called “Constitutions” adopted by some States in 1776 were mere Acts of Legislatures, not genuine Constitutions.) That Constitutional Convention of Massachusetts was the first successful one ever held in the world; although New Hampshire had earlier held one unsuccessfully – it took several years and several successive conventions to produce the New Hampshire Constitution of 1784. Next, in 1787-1788, the United States Constitution was framed by the Federal Convention for the people’s consideration and then ratified by the people of the several States through a Ratifying Convention in each State specially chosen by them for this sole purpose. Thereafter the other States gradually followed in general the Massachusetts pattern of Constitution-making in adoption of genuine Constitutions; but there was a delay of a number of years in this regard as to some of them, several decades as to a few.

This system of Constitution-making, for the purpose of establishing constitutionally limited government, is designed to put into practice the principle of the Declaration of Independence: that the people form their governments and grant to them only “just powers,” limited powers, in order primarily to secure (to make and keep secure) their God-given, unalienable rights. The American philosophy and system of government thus bar equally the “snob-rule” of a governing Elite and the “mob-rule” of an Omnipotent Majority. This is designed, above all else, to preclude the existence in America of any governmental power capable of being misused so as to violate The Individual’s rights–to endanger the people’s liberties.

With regard to the republican form of government, “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government (that of a Republic) presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.” It is noteworthy here that the above discussion, though brief, is sufficient to indicate the reasons why the label “Republic” has been misapplied in other countries to other and different forms of government throughout history. It has been greatly misunderstood and widely misused–for example as long ago as the time of Plato, when he wrote his celebrated volume, The Republic; in which he did not discuss anything governmental even remotely resembling–having essential characteristics of–a genuine Republic. Frequent reference is to be found, in the writings of the period of the framing of the Constitution for instance, to “the ancient republics,” but in any such connection the term was used loosely–by way of contrast to a monarchy or to a Direct Democracy–often using the term in the sense merely of a system of Rule-by-Law featuring Representative government; as indicated, for example, by John Adams in his “Thoughts on Government” and by Madison in The Federalist numbers 10 and 39. But this is an incomplete definition because it can include a Representative Democracy, lacking a written Constitution limiting The Majority.

To keep myself from getting sidetracked on current middle-eastern concerns and what I consider America’s excesses there, let’s take a look at some of the latest current events in our own country, it’s worth looking at current events that seem to be indicating an end of an age, or the end of a district attorney in a time of corruption. Come to think of it, the two perspectives aren’t all that different.

However you look at it, calling the Wisconsin recent struggle a “labor dispute” is like calling the Battle of Normandy “a fight over a beach.” There’s a war going on, one that’s best understand by using an Latin expression popular among prosecutors: Cui bono? Who benefits? Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting budget contains buried goodies for somebody, including possibly the Koch Brothers who paid to have it drafted. More importantly, it’s another step toward replacing the American dream of prosperity for all with imperial visions of massive wealth for the few.

The heavily-financed army behind Scott Walker has as its prime ambition as the very death of the American Republic. If that sounds like rhetorical overkill, then it’s worth remembering the words of someone who watched a republic fall. “The enemy is within the gates,” said Cicero. “It is with our own opulence, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend.”

If this end-of-the-republic rhetoric sounds extreme, listen to Gov. Walker’s phone call with a prankster pretending to be David Koch. He spoke to Koch the way an employee talks to the boss. That’s a glimpse into the world of corporate political power. Madison’s the epicenter for a battle between the dying American middle class and a plutocracy — no, make that a “Lootocracy” — determined to rob it of everything it’s earned over the last 75 years.

But wait, says Joe Klein, He says they’re protesting against democracy in Wisconsin. “The Republicans won,” Klein says, “and there are consequences to elections.” But did Scott Walker announce that he would magnify a budget problem and use it to break the ability of state employees to negotiate on their own behalf? That approach is opposed by 61% of Wisconsin voters, according to the latest Gallup Poll.

The election in Wisconsin is the latest example of a two-party system where neither party adequately represents the majority’s will. One tramples on it, using lies and fear, and the other offers only the weakest defense. The system’s been corrupted by money , “cash money,” which casts a shadow over its results. Those results include the election of leaders like Gov. Walker, who’s just a foot-soldier in the war on the American Dream. There’s big money at stake , cash money again, and the government swag in Wisconsin’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Klein’s energy would be better spent fighting for a truly representative democracy, rather than dismissing protestors who represent a majority of their own state’s people.

Civil Discourse vs. Civil War

Historians of the future may may well look back on our time with an indulgent chuckle when they consider the pundits and politicians who, in their anxiety to ensure a ‘civil dialogue,’ ignored the cui bono principle. Under current conventions, we’re supposed to assume that every political action must be the result of selfless ideologies. We must “disagree without being disagreeable,” as the president would say.

Meanwhile the plunder goes on unabated. Kevin Drum toted up the score so far from the plutocratic project: a massive upward redistribution of wealth, and the growing dominance of wealthy interests in politics and the media.

How would things have turned out if during the days of Tammany Hall in New York City or Huey Long in Louisiana journalists and reformers had adopted that attitude? Wall Street caused a global crash two years ago. Today it’s richer than ever and throwing its weight around politically as if nothing happened. Next time someone lectures you about ‘civil discourse’ just say, Look around, pal. This ain’t a debating society. Somebody’s wheels are getting greased — and the rest of us are on the skids.

Power Grab

At the risk of sounding disagreeable, it’s hard to find an “honest difference of opinion” on ideology that explains a paragraph like this one in Gov. Walker’s new bill, spotted by my eagle-eyed pal Mike Konczal:

“… the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant …”

This allows the governor to bypass regulators and legislators and sell the state’s power plants, built with millions in taxpayer money to anybody he likes. This paragraph goes on to say that “any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project.” The governor can give these plants away if he wants, and nobody can stop him.

Cui bono? Who could possibly benefit from giving the governor the ability to sell the state’s “heating, cooling, and power plants” (there are 32 of them), or “contract with a private entity” to operate them, without a bid process or any regulatory oversight?

Let’s see now: Wisconsin has nearly one million natural gas customers, so it would presumably be a company that “provides consulting, engineering, design, procurement, fabrication and construction services for the natural gas and gas processing industries worldwide” and has “been the general contractor on some of the largest natural gas plants built in the U.S.” And since there are a number of coal-fired plants on the state’s list, our corporation would need to be a “leading supplier of coal and related products typically used in industrial applications or to generate electricity.”

Those quotes were taken from the website of Koch Industries,  the company whose owners are bankrolling a little-known group that’s behind initiatives like Walker’s budget proposal.

Of course, the winning candidate doesn’t have to be Koch Industries. Kris Broughton at BigThink found another candidate. ThinkEnergy says it “eliminates the waste of energy and money in facilities through a blend of Supply-Side and Demand-Side energy management measures,” and they’ve placed a hiring ad that reads “Energy client is looking for experienced Plant Managers for multiple power plants located in Wisconsin.”

The real issue isn’t whether Koch Industries gets the deal to operate Wisconsin’s power plants. Somebody will — and the assets built by Wisconsin taxpayers (including the public employees now under assault) will undoubtedly be given to the private sector at very favorable rates. It will be one more step in the Great American Giveaway — the seizure of public resources by the private sector.

The Great American Giveaway

One of the ‘Lootocracy’s’ objectives is to confiscate all the assets that the middle class has built with its tax dollars. For decades the “privatization” movement has been a front for this plunder of the public’s resources, allowing private corporations to enrich themselves by providing services that were once provided at lower cost by the government itself.

How did that work out? Xe, the Company Formerly Known as Blackwater, provides mercenaries for our Middle Eastern wars — at great public expense, and sometimes acting outside the law in ways that harm our national security. The privatization of prisons and reform schools gave us the case of the monstrous judges who railroaded innocent kids into incarceration in return for bribes from a private youth detention facility contractor.

On a national scale, money intended for worthy college students got diverted into private jets and fat salaries after the privatization of the student loan enterprise Sallie Mae, and the privatization of mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac led to a series of scandals, multimillion dollar payouts for incompetent executives, and a worsening of our financial crisis.

Private Parties

With a record like that, you’d think the privatization movement would be dead. And you’d be right — if it weren’t for the billions being provided to it by the Koch Brothers and other private financiers. They’re major backers of “ALEC” — the “American Legislative Exchange Council” — an organization that proves how smart and determined the armies of the’ Lootocrats’ really are. There are two very smart strategies behind ALEC:

1) While everybody’s focused on what goes on in Washington, ALEC is able to plunder the massive resources of state and local government.

2) State legislatures are the “farm league” for tomorrow’s governors, Senators, and Presidents. ALEC isn’t just buying state government. It’s buying tomorrow’s national leaders too.

This secret army has a clear agenda: Attain power, give away the “store” once in office, and decimate programs that help the middle class and lower income people. Scott Walker’s actions fit the playbook perfectly. In fact, his bill was reportedly drafted by ALEC, whose primary objectives include the drafting of “model legislation.”

Two enterprising representatives from People for the American Way were able to get into an ALEC meeting in 2005 and, as Joshua Holland reported, they cast a light on ALEC’s role as ” the connective tissue that links state legislators with right-wing think tanks, leading anti-tax activists and corporate money.” They were also able to collect information on the breadth and audacious scope of the ALEC agenda, which is mirrored by other groups offering support for Walker’s efforts — groups such as “Americans For Prosperity,” another Koch-funded front group.

The war on unions is an essential part of the ALEC Assault. Unions are a double threat: First, they interfere with the’ Lootocracy’s’ ability to treat its private-sector employees as badly as the law will allow. And government employees are fighting for pay and benefits that interfere with the broader agenda of strangling all forms of government spending so that taxes can be kept low for the ‘Lootocrats’. That’s why, as Harold Meyerson points out, unions are under attack in a number of GOP-led states, and by Republican members of Congress who are trying to strip funding from the National Labor Relations Board.

All across the nation Republican governors are using the same play book, “Cry “poor” while giving tax cuts to the rich, then use the resulting crises to bust unions and gut services for the poor and middle class.” They’re all reading from the same script, and if their line readings aren’t convincing it doesn’t really matter. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger have already taught us that Republicans don’t need to be good actors to succeed.

As Wisconsin Goes

Gov. Walker insists that the state’s pension plan is a key driver of the state’s fiscal problems. But the state is actually projected to have a small surplus next year, depending on how it handles its debt to Minnesota and a couple of other key issues. In any case, the state’s pension plan is extremely well funded,with 99.67% already in its accounts.

What happened in Wisconsin? The Governor cut taxes for the wealthy, then declared a budget emergency. In classic “Shock Doctrine” fashion, he used that emergency to slash a retirement plan that’s highly stable financially, along with medical services for middle-class and lower-income people.

What’s happening in Washington? In the name of “austerity economics” and deficit-cutting, a deal was cut that extends tax cuts for the wealthy. Now the conventional wisdom is that we must cut Social Security, a benefit program that’s much more solvent than most government programs, and then gut medical assistance programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Let’s see: A tax cut for the wealthy, followed by the declaration of a budget emergency and the gutting of retirement and medical programs. And along the way, a giveaway of public resources to private corporations. That’s not coincidence: It’s the plan.

The Home Front

So, cui bono? The richest 1% of Americans, along with the corporations — and politicians — they own. We know who the warriors are, we know their strategy. We know they’re winning, too. Can the tide be turned? Not if the people opposed to this ‘Lootocracy’ refuse to acknowledge what’s happening. Republicans are gutting the republic and not enough Democrats will fight for democracy.  “Nothing is so strongly fortified that it cannot be taken by money” Ok, I could go on and on, and I promised myself not to go to the rest of the world, but;

War and the American Republic

Shortly before the appalling “Shock and Awe” attack on Iraq, and for years after, public support for the war was high in the U.S. It was evident in the high approval ratings for Bush, who had hoped that the war would turn him into a great president and American hero. As if taking a cue from the Senate, the mainstream media mostly stood united. Few even from the universities came out to protest. A great many Americans silently relished their mounting excitement.

The opening night’s attack, coolly dubbed a ‘campaign’, was broadcast live into American homes and even looked like a massively coordinated fireworks show. It would lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, create millions of refugees, and cost the U.S. taxpayer over two trillion dollars. Many American politicians and commentators who had supported Bush that night, later criticized him on the grounds that they didn’t support this kind of war, one so badly executed. Bush should have sent in more troops and supplies, and planned ‘to win the peace’. In other words, they had supported an operationally smarter war.

It is not enough to argue that Americans were lied to about Saddam’s nukes and links to al-Qaeda. With the same “evidence”, why did most Americans support the war, even reelecting Bush in 2004, when much of the world strongly opposed it? Why is it that, as the historian Tony Judt put it, ‘the United States today is the only advanced so called “democracy” where public figures glorify and exalt the military’, where politicians ‘surround themselves with the symbols and trappings of armed prowess’? War is always spoken of as an option; to be averse to it is taken as a sign of weakness. Indeed, why are the Americans so much more fanatically patrioticly racist today than, say, the Europeans?

I offer three reasons that I believe, taken together, provide an answer;

(a) The demographics of the American military

(b) Historical inexperience of war and the world, and

(c) The impetus from corporate capitalism. These are not original lines of investigation by any means.

My modest goal in this short essay is to develop them into my own synthesis, and hopefully provide food for your further thought.

The Demographics of the American Military 

The idea of conscription, or mandatory service in the military, is rooted in a sense of civic virtue and community obligation. It is at least as old as the Athenian polis, which required military service from all citizens. But most nations today have a volunteer military. Serving in it is now a specialized profession like any other—only some men and women pursue it, the vast majority have nothing to do with it. The volunteer model works well when citizens enjoy largely equal opportunities. People then follow their interests and temperaments to pursue the jobs they want. If you’re moved enough by patriotism and civic virtue, go enlist. Everyone is satisfied, including the utilitarians, the libertarians, and the liberals. But what if a society has huge disparities in opportunity and wealth? Doesn’t the volunteer military cease to be all that voluntary if many are led to join it out of poverty, lack of choices, and disadvantages of class?

The composition of most militaries today, including the U.S., suggests that this is indeed the case. The economic and political elites tend not to serve in the military, but very much dictate its priorities. They increasingly have no skin in the game, and a diminishing sense of its human cost. 450 of 750 students in Princeton’s graduating class of 1956 joined the military. Only 9 of 1108 graduates did so in 2006. This trend holds across other elite universities too, and has only accelerated since 1973 when Congress abolished the draft and made it an all-voluntary army. Only 2% of the members of congress have an offspring that has served in the military.[4]

According to Michael Massing’s 2008 report, The Volunteer Army: Who Fights and Why?, military recruitment in America increasingly revolves around a roster of basic material benefits: cash bonuses, health insurance, college tuition, etc.  Those least able to afford these—and their ranks have swollen in recent decades—are disproportionately drawn to the military. Doesn’t this begin to drift towards a mercenary model (think Blackwater), where the idea of community obligation is undermined? Doesn’t this lower the threshold for the elites to choose war? Thucydides clearly cautioned against such trends: ‘The nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.’

Historical Inexperience of War and the World

The last real war on the U.S. mainland was the Civil War, 150 years ago. Not since then has the U.S. experienced war at home. It is simply not in living memory. No carpet bombing of Boston, no bunker busters in Chicago, no nighttime air raid sirens in St. Louis, no cruise missiles raining on DC landmarks, no helicopter gunships over LA, no bombed out Nashville, no sniper fire in San Francisco, no land mines in the Virginia countryside, no hospitals choked with mutilated bodies, no hideously burnt out corpses in the streets, no mass burials, no wailing widows and orphans, no blown up highways, bridges, airports, or seaports, no knocked out food, medical, power, or water supplies. As Judt wrote,

“Americans, perhaps alone in the world, experienced the twentieth century in a far more positive light. The US was not invaded. It did not lose vast numbers of citizens, or huge swathes of territory, as a result of occupation or dismemberment. Although humiliated in distant neocolonial wars (in Vietnam and now in Iraq), the US has never suffered the full consequences of defeat. Despite their ambivalence toward its recent undertakings, most Americans still feel that the wars their country has fought were mostly “good wars.” The US was greatly enriched by its role in the two world wars and by their outcome … And compared with other major twentieth-century combatants, the US lost relatively few soldiers in battle and suffered hardly any civilian casualties…”

“Indeed, the complacent neoconservative claim that war and conflict are things Americans understand—in contrast to naive Europeans with their pacifistic fantasies—seems to me exactly wrong: it is Europeans (along with Asians and Africans) who understand war all too well. Most Americans have been fortunate enough to live in blissful ignorance of its true significance.”

Europeans are also shrewder than Americans about non-Western societies—a byproduct of Europe’s geography, colonial empires, and in some ways, their salad-bowl model of immigration (vs. the melting pot, more conducive to assimilation). Their scholars, administrators, and civilians once spent years abroad, returning with knowledge that filtered into public awareness. They continue traveling to and otherwise engaging with former colonies. One might say that the world has already paid the price for educating the Europeans. And whether or not they like others, Europeans have a keener sense of others’ cultural complexities, and of this Kantian insight: ‘Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.’ Keener than the Americans that is, whose relative naivete, insularity, and evangelical instincts (religious, political, and economic) only make them more vulnerable to demagogues who cry wolf about threats from foreign cultures.

The Impetus from Corporate Capitalism

In a society of ‘AWOL’ upper classes, does the free market, the kind led by modern corporations, create its own impetus for war? How does America’s elite class—whose growing share of wealth depends on the relentless growth of corporations—safeguard its economic interests? Not usually through boardroom conspiracies, which surely happen, but by staying true to its dominant class character, like an animal who cannot help being any other way, whose one authentic instinct is to sustain and engorge itself. To that end, it uses every tool at its disposal.

One such tool is the news media, which has changed drastically in recent decades. Most news sources are now owned by a handful of corporations. Unlike in most professions, free market economics has been disastrous for journalism. What it tends to produce is news that sells like any consumable, made palatable for the least demanding among us. The media, in all its freedom, builds and affirms myths about American greatness and benevolence. Dissenting analysis and uncomfortable truths tend not to be rewarded, sensational exposes and feel-good stories do. This eventually spirals into frivolity and conformism, the latter best evidenced in the U.S. right before the Iraq war.

Many like Chomsky have reminded us for decades that the corporate media largely serves the agendas and interests of dominant groups. It tends to employ company men and women who uphold their bosses’ values and viewpoints—not from coercion but consent, in exchange for some of the spoils. It promotes a libertarian gospel of the free market, with minimal regulation and taxation—a system that increases disparity and reduces the economic well-being of most people. It wouldn’t survive if most people didn’t also buy into the libertarian ideal of the autonomous individual, heroically forging his own economic destiny. (No wonder rags-to-riches stories are so admired.) This oddly persistent dogma—reinforced by the corporate control of films, TV, and books—helps lubricate the free market’s ravishing of social democracy and redistributive justice. It has managed to even turn Scandinavian-style ‘socialism’ into a filthy word fit to taint adversaries with. A classic case of the Foucauldian nexus of knowledge and power.

U.S. corporations now make almost half of their money from the rest of the world. They also account for two-thirds of the international arms shipments, mostly to the developing world, many to regimes guilty of major ongoing human rights abuses. As global conflicts over markets and resources intensify, the natural interest of the economic elites is a world safe for corporations. Towards this end, they hire lobbyists, grease political campaigns, or enlist the help of the military. U.S. garrisons now occupy 700+ bases in 120 countries. The trick that the elites—including political elites who also dream of empire or need diversions from domestic failings—instinctively practice is this: sensing a threat to their own economic interests abroad, they whip up fear and hysteria about threats to the ‘American way of life’ from evil others. Of course, to build consent for openly hostile action (as opposed to covertly hostile action that is but a slight rigorous task ) for those in true control, it is necessary to but cultivate an illusion of common interest, grossly magnify the threat to national security, and dehumanize the enemy. Alongside, it is important to glorify patriotism and military service to counter dissent, continue recruitment, and ease collective guilt over the sacrifice of the few. The goal is to boost the ranks of fearful, flag-waving patriots to whom no cost of war is too high for a dubious promise of security. And this is exactly what the corporate media artfully enables. War often boosts the economy (especially via the military-industrial complex) and is usually good for the media. About the only thing that might expose the U.S. public to the realities of war—showing the mutilated bodies of soldiers and civilians, shattered families, disabled vets, or the experiences of people on the ground—is conveniently classified, censored, ignored, or made taboo on the pretext of respecting privacy or excessive violence. Can we imagine corporate media anchors calling the invasion of Iraq a crime against humanity? Or asking why so many Americans became Bush’s willing executioners? Or demanding a formal apology and reparations to Iraq for a war based on lies? The business of news has no room for those who might be led to wonder on which side of the gate roam the barbarians. Disguised by a dust-storm of lies, the monopoly press would have us believe “The Arabs Did It!” as to the March 11, 2004 violence in Madrid. The bloodshed in the U.S. on September 11, 2001, orchestrated by high-level U.S. military with the White House, was a turning point to give the occupant and resident of the Oval Office, George W. Bush, Fascist-like powers, cancelling the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. “9-11” was likewise falsely blamed on the Arabs who were just patsies, the violence New York and at the Pentagon being a home-grown product.  The invasion of Iraq seems to be the turning point, sort of like the Viet Nam War. Have we forgotten what happened? There was in Viet Nam growing dissident within the U.S. “grunts”, the ground troops. When ordered to go as point man on night patrol, they told their Lt. He should be point man and go home, as often happened too much, in a body bag. When he refused, they threw a grenade into his tent, “fragging”, and said, if he survived, “Lt., your V.C. laundry woman did it!”  Prior to the pre-emptive U.S. attack, and without a Declaration of War by Congress against Iraq, there were huge anti-war parades in London, Paris, Germany, and Spain, and elsewhere as well. Now the Madrid terrible railroad bombing bloodshed, may be the beginning of the turning point, to extricate the American Establishment from their Iraq “adventure”. Wee already know that Libya is being bombed back to the stone age as I write this and we should be worried as well about what ‘they’ have planned for Iran. Is U.S. national and international policy going into the reversal mode or will this mean a throwaway, by the British/American Aristocracy of their scapegoats and stooges, Obama “the peace president”, George W. Bush, and maybe, even Daddy Bush, Jeb, Neil, and Marvin as well?

Do we all understand that the Aristocracy does not cry or lose sleep when they order vast bloodshed to carry out their national and international policies? Or when they order the reversal of failed policies?

Despite everything said about the Madrid violence by the pressfakers, it may turn out to be, like Viet Nam, post-Nixon, a turning point where the U.S. Ruling Class wants to extricate themselves, or maybe not for we all can see how the violence and offenses being committed by the US seem to be spreading. As I see it the corporations are still making far too much money on the US latest aggressions to ‘allow’ any kind of pull out or even step down of our actions. Maybe the time has come for ‘We the people’ to re-take charge of our country and make some real changes for our future.

Easy