In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, the following are excerpts of his speech given at Riverside Church, New York, N.Y. on April 4, 1967 — exactly one year before his assassination.
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. [There comes a time] when silence is 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 are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty.
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.
All is not well in Obamafanland. It’s not clear exactly what accounts for the change of mood. Maybe it was the rancid smell emanating from Treasury’s latest bank bailout. Or the news that the president’s chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, earned millions from the very Wall Street banks and hedge funds he is protecting from reregulation now. Or perhaps it began earlier, with Obama’s silence during Israel’s Gaza attack.
Whatever the last straw, a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard. This is a good thing. If the superfan culture that brought Obama to power is going to transform itself into an independent political movement, one fierce enough to produce programs capable of meeting the current crises, we are all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.
The first stage, however, is to understand fully the awkward in-between space in which many US progressive movements find themselves. To do that, we need a new language, one specific to the Obama moment. Here is a start.
Hopeover. Like a hangover, a hopeover comes from having overindulged in something that felt good at the time but wasn’t really all that healthy, leading to feelings of remorse, even shame. It’s the political equivalent of the crash after a sugar high. Sample sentence: “When I listened to Obama’s economic speech my heart soared. But then, when I tried to tell a friend about his plans for the millions of layoffs and foreclosures, I found myself saying nothing at all. I’ve got a serious hopeover.”
What the inventive genius of mankind has bestowed upon us in the last hundred years could have made human life care free and happy if the development of the organizing power of man had been able to keep step with his technical advances. As it is, the hardly bought achievements of the machine age in the hands of our generation are as dangerous as a razor in the hands of a 3-year-old child. The possession of wonderful means of production has not brought freedom — only care and hunger.
Worst of all is the technical development which produces the means for the destruction of human life, and the dearly created products of labor. We older people lived through that shudderingly in the World War. But even more terrible than this destruction seems to me the unworthy servitude into which the individual is swept by war. Is it not terrible to be forced by the community to deeds which every individual feels to be most despicable crimes? Only a few have had the moral greatness to resist; they are in my eyes the true heroes of the World War.
There is one ray of hope. It seems to me that today the responsible leaders of the several peoples have, in the main, the honest will to abolish war. The opposition to this unquestionably necessary advance lies in the unhappy traditions of the people which are passed on like an inherited disease from generation to generation because of our faulty educational machines. Of course the main supports of this tradition are military training and the larger industries. Without disarmament there can be no lasting peace. On the contrary, the continuation of military armaments in their present extent will with certainty lead to new catastrophes.
“I have a vision of Americans in their 80’s being wheeled to their offices and factories having lost their legs in imperial wars and their pensions to Wall Street speculators and with bitter memories of voting for a President who promised change, prosperity and peace and then appointed financial swindlers and war mongers.” An itinerant Minister 2008
The entire political spectrum ranging from the ‘libertarian’ left, through the progressive editors of the Nation to the entire far right neo-con/Zionist war party and free market Berkeley/Chicago/Harvard academics, with a single voice, hailed the election of Barack Obama as a ‘historic moment’, a ‘turning point in American history and other such histrionics. For reasons completely foreign to the emotional ejaculations of his boosters, it is a historic moment: witness the abysmal gap between his ‘populist’ campaign demagoguery and his long-standing and deepening carnal relations with the most retrograde political figures, power brokers and billionaire real estate and financial backers.
What was evident from even a cursory analysis of his key campaign advisers and public commitments to Wall Street speculators, civilian militarists, zealous Zionists and corporate lawyers was hidden from the electorate, by Obama’s people friendly imagery and smooth, eloquent deliverance of a message of ‘hope’. He effectively gained the confidence, dollars and votes of tens of millions of voters by promising ‘change’ (implying higher taxes for the rich, ending the Iraq war and national health care reform) when in fact his campaign advisers (and subsequent strategic appointments) pointed to a continuation of the economic and military policies of the Bush Administration.
As I see it, the beginning of the United States of America was the most dramatic and significant episode in a long pilgrimage — the pilgrimage of the Christian idea of law, liberty, and self-government. Christianity is the master principle of our organic documents of government— the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Neither Paul nor any of the other early Christians had any particular interest in social reform or political revolution. Their dedication was spiritual; yet,
at the core of Christian faith is the most revolutionary idea ever conceived: that individual man is infinitely important. Individual man is imperfect, yet God so loved him that He sent His only begotten Son to save him from sin.
After that basic Christian idea had worked for centuries in the finite minds of men, it led to an obvious conclusion: Individual man, the object of such infinite grace and mercy, is the most important creature on earth. This is the origin of the basic American political ideal: that man gets all his rights and powers from God, the Creator; that government is weaker and less important than man, because government was created by man.
You will give your life to work that will leave you exhausted and destitute.
Your money will go to the connected and your work will generate value, but your life will be worthless. After your life is spent working, your children will not have the money to go to college without signing usurious loans. Meanwhile, children are still starving to death, being denied medical care for lack of money. The military is building fighters and bombers for billions. A car costs more than an auto worker makes in two years. No carpenters can afford to build a house. People cannot afford to heat their homes in the winter. Few can afford dentistry or medical care without insurance which denies benefits to anyone needing it. The cycles of inflation, deflation and debt dispossess anyone who works for wages.
The House Judiciary Committee held a Congressional inquiry on allegations of Executive Power Misconduct yesterday, July 25th. As the room filled, audience members cheered as Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich entered the room. Harry Waxman was caught smiling. But there were many others that didn’t appear quite so happy.
Chairman John Conyers called the committee to order and said, “We face few issues more difficult, complex or important than separation of powers in general, and excesses of the executive branch in particular. As our first great civil libertarian…Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘The greatest calamity which would befall us would be submission to a government of unlimited powers.’
“And so it’s for that reason that the founders gave Congress the power to oversee the Executive branch as well as the power of the purse: the power to decide when the country goes to war and the power to remove–through the constitutional process, officers who may have violated their oath. And so it’s for these same reasons that the founders created independent courts to operate as a check on the [other] two political branches and to serve as the final protector of our precious rights and liberties. …