We take for granted this country is free. In principle, as citizens of this nation neither one’s race, nor one’s gender, nor one’s geographic location defines us; we are to be judged only on the content of our character. It is through the application of choice that our relative degree freedom or subordination is to be measured. Choice can be wise and liberating, but choice can also be misplaced, stolen, or even killed. Fear is the enemy of freedom. The enemies of freedom have in the recent history of the Unites States, when defeated politically, violently killed the leaders of their opposition. We conveniently categorize these killings as “assassinations” and therefore somehow expect to explain them away as almost some sort of political act. To allow such silence in the face of a re-naming of murder is what allowed the Nazis to systematically murder millions. It is the same dynamic which, on a different scale, serves to psychologically divide individuals in a society and surround each citizen in a shell of fear and doubt.
To let choice be dictated by the fear of, or bitterness from political defeat or violent assassination is to lay down those freedoms and rights which we believe we possess as citizens. Americans no longer physically band together and protest like they did just 50 years ago in the days of JFK, MLK, RFK… Perhaps if not physically, virtually will the American people come to kindle the necessary spirit needed to, in the words of the declaration of independence… “to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
From revolution against foreign occupation and tyranny to civil war among states, countrymen and brothers, to civil disobedience against the machines of discrimination and oppression, this country was founded upon the principle that each of us has within us certain inalienable rights to the pursuit of freedom. The painful lesson of history is to choose truth over silence in the service of freedom. To know that freedom can only exist through the freedom of each of us, implies choice. Whether we believe history progresses forward through its ups and downs, or traces an arc through larger seasons of time, those who cannot learn from history are indeed doomed to repeat it.
From President Dwight D. Eisenhower: Military-Industrial Complex speech (1961):
“…Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations… Any failure traceable to arrogance or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.
…We face a hostile ideology — global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle — with liberty the stake.
Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense… …the creation of a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions… This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience.
The total influence — economic, political, and even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, and every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow… I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight. “
From President John F. Kennedy: Address before the American Newspaper Publishers Association (April 27th, 1961):
“The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment…
Today no war has been declared–and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops; no missiles have been fired…
It requires a change in outlook, a change in tactics, and a change in missions–by the government, by the people, by every businessman or labor leader, and by every newspaper. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.
Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, and no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War; in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.
Nevertheless, every democracy recognizes the necessary restraints of national security–and the question remains whether those restraints need to be more strictly observed if we are to oppose this kind of attack as well as outright invasion… Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive.”
From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Why I am opposed to the War in Vietnam” (April 30th, 1967):
“Now, I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.
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’re always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty…
Now, of course, one of the difficulties in speaking out today grows the fact that there are those who are seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty. It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or a traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies… A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death…
Oh, my friends, if there is any one thing that we must see today is that 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… 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, we shall boldly challenge unjust mores…
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 neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men… 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.
I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism… Every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth. Every man has rights that are neither conferred by, nor derived from the State–they are God-given. Out of one blood, God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. But America’s strayed away, and this unnatural excursion has brought only confusion and bewilderment. It has left hearts aching with guilt and minds distorted with irrationality.
Now it isn’t easy to stand up for truth and for justice. Sometimes it means being frustrated…I have not lost faith. I’m not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order. I haven’t lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice…”
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Today we have our own contemporary battle being waged in the never-ending war of truth and fear. Once again, the shadowed side of human nature seeks to send nation against nation, people against people to serve the business of prejudice, profit, and war. This election we face but a consequence of the many steps that have preceded it in history. Freedom requires choice, not just of a president, but of a moral understanding of the world. With understanding comes choice and with choice comes conscience.
Silence is also a choice; a choice implied by the very nature of the knowledge of right from wrong. It is not just a choice of candidates on a ballot every four years which gives life to the freedom we believe we as Americans enjoy. It is the choices we make each day which define us and by which eternity shall judge us, either as free citizens of humanity, or as slaves to hatred, greed, and fear.
The following video is Martin Luther King’s Last speech he would give before being assassinated. The enemies of truth and freedom are powerful and violent but the fierce urgency of choice confronts us. There is, within the human mind a transcendent realm where life and death no longer matter and where this moment of now stretches on to the everlasting.
In this election gender and race have been at the forefront of the selection of president more than even in the 1860’s or the 1960’s. This time the enemies of freedom seek to use the gender and race against each other. The perceived misogynistic treatment of Hilary Clinton by Barack Obama, and the selection of Sarah Palin by John McCain are examples of the attempt to set race and gender at odds and divide the American people into giving up their choice and passively accepting another presidential “election”. It is my hope that the American people come to understand the consequences of laying down and giving back our power to choose. I hope we as a people come to understand it and prevent it, before we have to live it… again.
As Malcolm X said in 1964:
“..It’s time now for you and me to become more politically mature and realize what the ballot is for; what we’re supposed to get when we cast a ballot; and that if we don’t cast a ballot, it’s going to end up in a situation where we’re going to have to cast a bullet. It’s either a ballot or a bullet.”