Monday, February 26, 2007


This morning I heard a report about the genetic relationship between the Reverend Al Sharpton and Senator Strom Thurmond. Turns out that this civil rights champion and this racist share some genes. What tangled webs we weave!

As a rather pointed aside in the story, the reporter inserted a taped clip from a speech Thurmond made when he ran for president against Harry Truman in which he argued against legislation Truman supported. His reason for opposing the new law was that it sought to ban poll taxes and lynching. I believe this would have taken place around 1941, about 75 years after the President of the United States abolished slavery.

Here we are now over 65 years later, in 2007, with a president who argues for the rights to imprison and torture anyone he deems to be an enemy of the state without recourse to legal representation and to declare war on any nation he identifies as hostile to American interests. My belief is that we have no more right to imprison and torture people than we had to lynch them for the color of their skin. We have no more right to invade a sovereign nation that has not attacked us than we had to enslave and rape people like Al Sharpton’s great-grandmother.

We call ourselves civilized; we call ourselves Christian; we call ourselves peacekeepers and freedom lovers; we call ourselves the greatest nation on earth, but we act in ways that would have been considered barbaric in Plato’s Greece.

In one of their best songs, The Great Mandella, Peter, Paul & Mary sang, “He can’t do it. He can’t change it. It’s been going on for ten thousand years.” Our hope back in the sixties was that we COULD change it; that by clearly demonstrating that we had been led into an unnecessary war by a government that would stoop to spinning the non-existent Gulf of Tonkin incident into a call for troops, we could educate the American people so that they would never again support such manipulation.

And now, 40 years later, here we are again; blindly following a warmongering president whose true motives are barely hidden behind a thinly woven curtain of patriotic platitudes, distorted intelligence and false allegations into a morass of death and dishonor for those young people gullible enough to march to the front lines.

Are we at all removed from the barbarity that motivated Strom Thurmond and his ancestors? Our society is so imbued with the John Wayne myth that pistols solve problems that we are willing to send our armies into war at the drop of a hat. (Don’t tell me 911 wasn’t the drop of a hat. Iraq had nothing to do with it.) We can’t elect a president who seeks office in the name of peace because he/she is seen as weak. We can’t stand on a street corner begging people not to support going to war without being accused of cowardice and treachery. We have had a cabinet level Department of War in this country since the early 1800s, but we meet heavy resistance in the halls of Congress two hundred years later when we argue for the establishment of a Department of Peace.

We hear our president speak of the barbarians who take prisoners and execute them by decapitation while we ignore his attitude as expressed in speeches asserting his right to imprison and torture people with impunity. What barbarians we are when we hold up our religion of peace and love as an example to the world while we slaughter innocent civilians in a far away nation in order to protect our political and economic interests.

“It’s been going on for ten thousand years.” And isn’t it about time it stopped? Can’t we at least entertain the possibility that there might be a better way to deal with the political differences of the world than by bombing into oblivion those who we think oppose us?

When we use our weaponry in negative ways, we aren’t using our strength, we are using our power. What is more barbaric than to have the most power and to use that power to force our will upon anyone who disagrees with us instead of using that power to protect the weak and enable them to achieve what we have achieved? The strength that lies within power is the moral fortitude to use the power wisely and for betterment – not just personal betterment – for everyone’s betterment.

When we use our power to take away from anyone that which belongs to them just because we want it and it will make us more comfortable, we ultimately steal not only from them, but from ourselves. When we take away the littler kid’s marbles on the playground, we may gain some marbles, but we lose the opportunity to make a friend. When we exercise our power to protect our political and economic interests, we create enemies instead of solving the problems that generated enmity in the first place. Ask yourself this question, “Who is going to be the next terrorist, the son whose father we kill or the father whose son we feed?” The answer to that very simple question can tell you that, under the policies of our present government, we are creating new enemies everyday and making no friends. Unless we drop our barbaric habits and find some new ways of interacting with our global neighbors, we face an inevitable comeuppance, and those who bring us down will be no more kind to us than we have been to them.

If we used our strength instead of our power, we could be the world’s greatest friend and create more friends for ourselves than all the bombs and money in the world will ever get us. Let’s find a new way.

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