Archive for August 28th, 2010

Today, at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. there is a rally – a political protest – planned.
The reason for this “rally” is to “Restore Honor” and to issue a call to Americans to “take back our country!”
The unstated question is:  “From whom?”
The unstated answer is, of course, from those who currently “own” it:  “We the People, of the United Stateswho voted – in the majority, in the last election – the current administration and Congress into office.
Today’s message of fear is that “they” (you know, wink, wink, the “illegals“) are ruining our country.  “They” don’t speak “our” language.  “They” didn’t come here legally.  “They” are on welfare and taking “our” tax dollars to pay for “their” food, and “their” education, and “their” medical needs.
Today’s message of fear is that “they” (you know, wink, wink, the “anti-american liberals“) really hate America and “they” are helping the other “they” (wink, wink, the minorities) to pull down our economy so “real” Americans who work hard can’t get ahead.
My response, as a first generation American (both of my parents were immigrants) is to offer the four great speeches of American history which I grew up believing – beginning with the one (delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr.) the “Glenn Beck’s of the world” indirectly mock today:  I Have a Dream!
To quote:
“…The architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promise that all men, …would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.
“…We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now.  This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.  Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
“It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”
“…The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
“…But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice:  In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.  Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.  We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.  We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.  Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”
‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” ‘
My second response is from the longest serving president in U.S. history (Franklin Delano Roosevelt).  The man who led us out of the great depression, and thru World War II, and who planted the seeds to the greatest economic boom of all time, and who created Social Security, and who created federal banking and investment regulation / oversight, and who is still vilified by the right-wing to this day (from his first Inaugural Address).  Please forgive me that I quote FDR in some length:
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly.  Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.  This great Nation will endure, as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.  In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.   And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”
“…And yet our distress comes from no failure of substance.  We are stricken by no plague of locusts.  Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for.  Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it.  Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.
Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated.  Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.”
“…Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence.  They only know the rules of a generation of self-seekers.  They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.”
“…Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money;  it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.  The joy, the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits.  These dark days, my friends, will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men.
Recognition of that falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.  Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance;  without them it cannot live.”
…In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor:  the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others; the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take, but we must give as well;  that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress can be made, no leadership becomes effective.
We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and our property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at the larger good.  This, I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us, bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in times of armed strife.
With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.
Action in this image, action to this end is feasible under the form of government which we have inherited from our ancestors.  Our Constitution is so simple, so practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form.  That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has ever seen.”
My third response is from another Democratic President (John F. Kennedy), who brought the country out of a recession by passing a tax cut for the middle / working classes (in his Inaugural Address):
“…Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
“And, if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor — not a new balance of power, but a new world of law — where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace preserved.
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days.  Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days;  nor in the life of this Administration;  nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet.  But let us begin.
In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.  Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty.  The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need — not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope;  patient in tribulation,” a struggle against the common enemies of man:  tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind?  Will you join in that historic effort?
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.  I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it.  I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.  The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it.  And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you;  ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.  With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
And my fourth (and final) response is from a Republican President (Abraham Lincoln), the man who’s image you stand before (the Gettysburg Address):
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —  that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion —  that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain —  that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom —  and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The words of four great leaders from the past call out to us – to our better selves.  They remind us – like angels at our shoulders – of the fierce urgency of Now.  Yes, but also of the danger of unsubstantiated fear and wealth without morality.  They speak to us of tolerance and interdependence, of costs and duties, and finally, of dedication – to our government, to our Constitution, to ourselves — “We the People“!!
Remind your family and friends of the FIERCE URGENCY OF NOVEMBER!!
[All hi-lights, italics and underlinings are my own.   —    kmab]

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