22 October, 2011

Still and Yet We Rise

The Republic is deep into its Fifth Crisis and it is up to We, the People, to come out of the stupor of consumerism and reclaim our rightful place as the true sovereigns of the Republic by resuming and reasserting our role as citizens.

You may write us down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod us in the very dirt
But still, like dust, we’ll rise.

Does our sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause we walk like we’ve got oil wells
Pumping in our living rooms

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still we'll rise.

Did you want to see us broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by our soulful cries?

Does our haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard?
'Cause we laugh like we've got gold mines
Diggin' in our own backyards

You may shoot us with your words,
You may cut us with your eyes,
You may kill us with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, we'll rise.

Does our sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise?
That we dance like we've got diamonds
Nestled between our thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
We rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
We rise
We’re a multicolored ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling we ride in on the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
We rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
We rise
Bringing the gifts that our ancestors gave,
Out of the hovel, the jail and the grave

We are the dreams and the hopes of the Republic,
We are the spirits of the patriots,
We are the voices long unheard,
We are the claims about to come due
We are the final word
We are finally one people and we will now be heard!

We rise,
We rise,
We rise!

By Maya Angelou
With minor adaptations by Larry Conley for the Fifth Crisis [12 December 2000 to Present] 09 October 2011

10 October, 2011

We Have This Day!

“Be these the best of times or the worst of times, they are the only times we have. Therefore, let us not waste a single moment, a single hour, a single day.”

We have this day

Let us rise to the challenges of this day. There is much to be done, there is much we can do.

There is no value in resenting what must be attempted and accomplished. Just get it done, and then there will be nothing to resent and an endless array of possibilities open before us.

There surely are difficulties, and we can ease them. There are injustices, and we can right them.

There is uncertainty, and we can spread cheer and confidence. There is darkness, and we can shine our lights upon one another and into a world hurtling into a gathering storm.

Let us stop attending to our fears, looking for excuses or reasons to put off the effort until a quieter and more optimum time.

Let us focus instead on the real value that will flow from acting right now to stride toward the realization of what might and ought to be.

On this very day, we can cooperate and create value that has never existed before. In whatever circumstances we may find ourselves, we can add to the richness of life.

Let us add energy to our moments as our transform our burdens and transmute looming threats into blooming triumphs.

Let us resolve to give the gifts of our commitment, our confidence and our action to this day our. And the treasures you build will last long after the day is over.

07 October, 2011

“For Two Who Have Fallen”

In Honor of Steve Jobs and Fred Shuttlesworh

I stare at the screen;
I hold my breath.
Two authentic heroes have been taken by death.
As my mind reels and synapses fire in my brain

When I wonder, will we ever see their like again;
They gave us so much; they gave us their best.
I wrestle with loss; I struggle for breath;
For what we have just lost is hard to conceive.

That bugler so smooth; that thief in the night,
Has done it again and flaunted his might.
It is hard to fathom; it is hard to survive;
These two are dead when we need them alive.

Tears well up and seek to fall from my eyes;
I must not go down; I must stand; I must rise.
No matter how many times we lose such good men;
We must never falter; we must never fail; we must carry on clear to the end.

The reports and the comments flood into the air;
We must again prove we’ll care and we’ll dare.
Let us gather our strength and summon our resolve.
Not to mourn what we have lost, but to honor their lives.

Bless these two heroes;
One whose last name was Jobs and one whose last name end with Worth
Let us not forget what they gave us;
From the day of their birth right on through to their last moment on Earth

Comfort their families, comfort their friends;
Comfort a world and a nation that will not see them again.
Soon the bugles fall silent, yet the battle goes on
We owe it to them to do what needs done.

Let us vow to continue the struggle for truth;
Let us hold true to the path they have blazed.
Though different they were as two people could be;
They each in their own way set an example for you and for me.

Their examples are immortal and they stay with us still
They have shown us the way; they have roused our goodwill.
Never forget, though now they repose in the true endless sleep;
We’ll be judged in the end by the faith that we keep!

13 June, 2011

Authentic versus Bogus Patriotism

Patriotism is neither hollering the loudest nor feeling the proudest while ignorant of why one either hollers or feels pride. True patriots understand as does Cindy Sheehan that it is not patriotism when you simply say “My country right or wrong.”

Geography does not enthrall a patriot’s spirit, nor does a patriot’s spirit venerate real estate above principle. A patriot does not honor senseless violence, insufferable arrogance, or repulsive callousness simply because somebody tries to wrap them in the Stars and Stripes or paint them red, white, and blue. American patriots recognize that patriotism blooms in other nations even though the cultures, customs, and traditions of those countries alter patriotism’s content and forms of expression.

Patriotism is not a love of one’s fellow citizens and a hatred, fear, or loathing of all other nationalities. It is not frenzied flag waving and raucous shouts of “USA, USA.” It is neither wearing nor not wearing a flag pin on one’s lapel. Latitude and longitude do not circumscribe patriotism. Patriotism is neither strident, nor self-righteous, nor short-lived. It is thoughtful, temperate, and tenacious.

Patriotism tells each true patriot, to “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Patriotism informs one that if our country is worth fighting for and possibly dying for in time of war, we should highly resolve that it be worth living for and living in times of peace. True patriotism assures one and all that Carl Schurz was correct when he said - “I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: ‘Our country, right or wrong!’ They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’”

Mock patriotism is either the last or first refuge of scoundrels, depending on the circumstances, while true patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than any other and loves its country enough to constantly call it to a higher plain. A true patriot understands and demonstrates that dissent is often the highest form of patriotism. Such a person knows that “Wrong is wrong no matter who says it” and that blind acceptance of official policy often betrays the great principles, profound purposes, and cherished promises that make patriotism a worthy virtue.

A truly patriotic perspective acknowledges that politics is too often obsessively partisan and too heavily dominated by what is advantageous to a party than beneficial to our country. This perspective willingly shuns the temptations of faction and emphasizes love of our country and our brothers and sisters over the clamor of the current cause célèbre. A genuinely patriotic perspective looks fondly back to the high points of our past and confidently forward to the bright promises of our future. This perspective understands that authentic patriotism is volitional. It is a conscious choice based on knowledge, comprehension, and commitment. Patriotism shows its bona fides through one’s words and one’s deeds not in the short term, but throughout a long twilight struggle against the common enemies of humankind – bigotry, hatred, ignorance, duplicity and greed.

A soundly patriotic perspective realizes that genuinely loving one’s country is not enough. One must also forego bitterness and hatred toward others while doing so. A sound patriotic perspective sees one’s country not as a certain territory, or array of mountains, rivers, fields, and forests, but a set of principles, purposes, and promises. Authentic patriotism is dedication and service to that set of principles, purposes, and promises. True patriots share Nathan Hale’s regret at having only one life to lose for their country, but also resolve to live their lives in service to the ideals that make their country worth loving. A proper patriotism swears allegiance not merely to one’s country but to justice, humanity, and a relentless endeavor to make our country honorable as well as prosperous and strong. True patriotism reveals itself not only by the pronouncements it makes, but also by precepts it remembers and the people it honors. Genuine patriotism understands that its purpose is to reclaim the soul of the Republic. When it stands and states that Americans can and must do better, it is not challenge to their patriotism, but a call for their embrace and exhibition of actual patriotism.

An authentically patriotic perspective cherishes America’s virtues and confronts America’s deficiencies. It does not boast its country will be the greatest; it vows its country will be the best. True patriotism holds a country that is good may well become great, but knows a great country will not endure if it ceases to be good. Sound patriotism understands the mores of the market imperil our ideals and institutions as they pervade our society. It realizes that a need to calculate the cost and profit of everything will render us oblivious to the value of anything including loyalty, honesty, courage, honor, and commitment to one’s family and one’s country.

A truly patriotic perspective agrees with George Washington –
"The name of American, which belongs to us, in our national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism.... It should be the highest ambition of all American to extend their views beyond themselves, and to bear in mind that their conduct will not only affect themselves, their country, and their immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn."

Therefore, with a good conscience the only sure reward and history the judge of their achievement, true patriots go forth to lead the land they love. Knowing that as they do this the energy, integrity, devotion, and fidelity they bring to this endeavor will illuminate the country and those who serve it. While hoping the glow from that fire will truly light the world.

We've got to stand for something or we'll fall for anything.

28 May, 2011

“Let us Remember!”

Let us pause amidst the picnics, parties, and all the baseball games

Reflecting on those no longer among us, to remember and revere their names.

As we relax and revel in various times and places

Of those who are not amongst us, let us recall their faces.

For unlike other festivals what we call Memorial Day

It is not mainly for merriment and surely not for play.

It is a time for remembrance of what has gone before

For recalling, those who bravely fought in each and every war

So let us pause a moment in our eating and our drinking

Let us ask ourselves, “What might they have been thinking?”

As they heard the sounds of battle and saw the flaming guns

Did they wish that they were elsewhere and not the chosen ones?

As the ferocity of fighting grew ever more intense,

Did they understand their value in any historic sense?

Let us hope they understood and in some way that they knew

The gratitude of the many that would flow to these hallowed few

In olden times many were drafted and others served by their free choices

In the tumult of our parties, let us listen for their voices.

For they are gone, but not forgotten, at least I hope that it is true

They gave everything someone could give for the sake of me and you.

As we begin our summer tanning to lose this winter's pallor,

Let us spare a thought for those whose common virtue was uncommon valor.

So let us pause amidst the picnics, parties, and all the baseball games

Of those who are no longer with us, let us reverently remember their names.

21 May, 2011

You Must Follow Your Dreams

Daringly journey wherever they lead.

Do not be dismayed by any dastardly deed.

Shelter them; nourish them; help them grow.

Cherish them deep in the heart of hearts that you alone know.

Follow your dreams, Chase them with rigor.

Dreams are too precious for anything but vigor.

Be courageous; be loyal all day and all night

Refuse to give up; fight the good fight.

When the battle is raging and all may be lost,

Bear every burden and pay any cost!

Disregard worry and weariness; never give in!

To betray your dreams is the ultimate sin.

This bitter truth, has been well said,

“We are bound for the grave when our dreams are dead.”

Though you may be scorned or covered with scars,

Keep moving forward and reach for the stars.

The fire in your heart will incinerate doubt.

Whatever it takes, don’t let it go out!

For only the dreams you most ardently pursue

Those dreams alone will someday come true.

19 May, 2011

Ode to Pat Toomey

When our would be leaders play tricks with the truth,

What will become of the idealism of youth?

If facts are not honored but subject to choice,

How will we ever speak with one voice?

If those appointed to know raise the alarm in their efforts best

While elected rivals dismiss their concerns as a jest,

What will become of our country, our children and all of the rest?

Any of us with a smidgen of sense see the danger that looms,

However, partisan prevaricate in crowded speech rooms.

As economic catastrophe hurtles our way,

“No need to worry” these mountebanks say.

When we go to the polls and use the franchise,

For the love of our country, don’t be tricked by these lies!

Each time we vote in the spring and the fall,

We vote for our children, for our country, for us and for all.

Despite all the money, clever slogans and endless snake oil,

Too many candidates seek and speak only to foil.

They crave the power and run for office again and again,

Yet they don’t give a damn what danger we’re in!

We’ll have another chance in Two Thousand Twelve,

Let’s return these miscreants to the seventh layer of Hell.

15 May, 2011

Real Americans and True Patriots love their country and see to its need. They challenge it to rise up and live out the full meaning of its creed.

Real Americans and True Patriots pledge to the flag, and even more to the Republic for which it stands. They are bothers in arms with open hearts and helping hands.

Real Americans and True Patriots know the flag consists of cloth, dye, and thread while the Republic grows from the conviction and valor of both living and dead.

Real Americans and True Patriots fight for self-evident truth with the wisdom of age and the passion of youth.

Real Americans and True Patriots risk their fortunes their honor and their lives. They do so freely so their country thrives.

Real Americans and True Patriots cherish the colors of red, white and blue; they accept one another regardless of size, shape or differing skin hue.

Real Americans and True Patriots stand for freedom and serve with fortitude. They want nobody in involuntary servitude.

Real Americans and True Patriots serve the cause of the greatest good from suburban enclaves to the urban hood.

Real Americans and True Patriots fight for the right without question or pause. They will march into Hell for the Republic’s just cause.

Real Americans and True Patriots unite through unbreakable trust. They have no truck with jealous greed or vicious power lust.

Real Americans and True Patriots will win or die in the attempt. They look upon turncoats and traitors with open contempt.

Real Americans and True Patriots love the ideal of America more than the land; for its purpose and promise they make a firm stand.

Real Americans and True Patriots know the home of the brave and the land of the free must keep its words to you and to me.

Real Americans and True Patriots believe united we stand while divided we fall; we must be indivisible, one nation with liberty, equity, and prosperity for all.

07 May, 2011

Justice Done, Justice Delayed, Justice Denied

It took almost a decade but a mass murderer met a merited fate at the order of the duly elected President of the United States and our courageous warriors.

On May Day 2011, President Obama made this announcement –

“Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”

He did this with an appropriate demeanor and through well-chosen words. This was a solemn message and it was delivered in a befittingly dignified manner. American citizens watched and listened to their President honorably fulfilling the role and the office. Not only the news, but the delivery of the news is something that should gladden the hearts of all patriotic Americans and swell them with justifiable pride.

As I watched this and enjoyed a strong thrill of admiration for the people who carried out this, dangerous and noble mission as well as the man who gave the order to undertake it. I reflected on something else our President had said before he gained the office. This came in an October 2008 debate with Senator McCain the Republican candidate:

"What I have said is we're going to encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our non-military aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants. And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act, and we will take them out.” A promise made and a promise kept.

The preceding administration made relentless use of bellicose language and bravado. They exploited the 9-11 tragedy for partisan advantage at every opportunity. They and their Congressional henchmen enacted the grossly misnamed “Patriot Act”; they launched a preemptive war against a nation for whom they held a grudge. They prematurely celebrated “Mission Accomplished” before they coherently stipulated what the mission was. They lied the nation into war and refused to commit the forces necessary to capture or kill bin Laden a month and a half after 9-11 in the battle of Tora Bora. United States Central Command refused to commit the troops requested by the CIA team leader as necessary to prevent the escape of bin Laden through snow covered mountains in the area of Parachinar, Pakistan. The CENTCOM commander was Tommy Franks; the Secretary of Defense was Donald Rumsfeld; the Commander in Chief was George W. Bush.

Neither Franks, Rumsfeld, nor Bush ordered U.S. troops into Tora Bora to capture Osama Bin Laden right after the Afghanistan invasion. Instead, they relied on warlords who were of dubious loyalty and ability to find Osama bin Laden and other members of Al Qaeda in that mountainous region. Later, when Iraq became this administration's priority, it shifted Special Forces from Afghanistan to Iraq.

What Bush said about bin Laden at varied, depending on how he was trying to spin things: First, capturing Osama Bin Laden is the number one priority - :

"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him." G.W. Bush, 9/13/01 and UPI: Bush said he wants accused terrorist leader Osama bin Laden "dead or alive.” Washington Post, 9/17/01, “I want justice...There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive,'"- G.W. Bush, 9/17/01, UPI

A few months later the Decider commented on bin Laden "I truly am not that concerned about him. It's not that important. It's not our priority." "...Secondly, he is not escaping us. This is a guy, who, three months ago, was in control of a county [sic]. Now he's maybe in control of a cave. He's on the run. Listen, a while ago I said to the American people, our objective is more than bin Laden. But one of the things for certain is we're going to get him running and keep him running, and bring him to justice. And that's what's happening. He's on the run, if he's running at all. So we don't know whether he's in cave with the door shut, or a cave with the door open -- we just don't know...." - Bush, in remarks in a Press Availability with the Press Travel Pool, The Prairie Chapel Ranch, Crawford TX, 12/28/01, as reported on official White House site.

"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority." - G.W. Bush, 3/13/02

"I am truly not that concerned about him." - G.W. Bush, responding to a question about bin Laden's whereabouts, 3/13/02.

The cowboy president had flipped from ‘I want justice” to “I have no idea and really don't care” in the space of six months.

Over a period of 31 months, the current president had held steady to a solemn promise made as he sought the highest office in the Republic. There is something to laudable about intelligence and diligence and true Patriotism. In 1789, a group of wise and daring men, founded a truly novel form of government for six purposes, among them to establish justice. On May 1, 2011, our President gave us another example of what fulfilling this purpose looks like in practice.

There was a welcome, but all too brief, out pouring of unity among Americans. Partisanship receded and citizenship surged to the fore. Unfortunately, the news cycle had hardly completed a full turn when the scrambling for credit began.

One odious aspect of this struggle to grab credit for this accomplishment was the drive to justify torture due to its alleged productivity in gathering information that put the intelligence community on the right track. This claim stems from the apparent fact that a Pakistani-born detainee named Hassan Ghul provided the first hint in the long chain of evidence that led to bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Mr. Ghul reportedly revealed the nom de guerre of an al-Qaeda courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. A phone call by this courier to a person monitored by U. S. Intelligence launched the chain of events and actions that ended with a SEAL team raiding the compound and killing bin Laden. Based on this sequence, apologists for torture are saying, “See, it worked. But the truth is that there’s no proof — and not even any legitimate evidence — that torture cracked the case.” [http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/torture-wasnt-the-key-to-finding-bin-laden/2011/05/05/AFsacD2F_story.html]

Problems abound with this assertion. First, expert interrogators generally assert that torture produces so many fabrications and unreliable claims that it often makes finding the truth a proverbial “needle in a hay stack” endeavor. Second, the experts contend the19 techniques permitted by law specified in the Army Field Manual [AMF] are not only effective, but also more effective than those methods euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
[http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1873897,00.html#ixzz1LZtZjwvF] The AMF does not require subjects to be treated with kid gloves, but it does prohibit torture. Interrogators are encouraged to use clever and manipulative methods to get terrorist suspects to reveal their plans, objectives, associates and other useful information. Because matters of life and death are at issue, this seems reasonable and reasonably humane.

The real problem with this retrograde action to rehabilitate torture is that is fails to do justice to the people and procedures that genuinely worked. Furthermore, “torture is a violation of U.S. and international law — and a betrayal of everything this country stands for. The killing of bin Laden resulted from brilliant intelligence work, for which both the Bush and Obama administrations deserve our thanks and praise.” However, It does not justify torture. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/torture-wasnt-the-key-to-finding-bin-laden/2011/05/05/AFsacD2F_story.html.

For the better part of a decade, the Republican leaders of the federal government had violated all our traditions of spy craft; they had authorized a betrayal of solemn international commitments we had taken the lead to forge; and they started wars that had nothing to do with the core of the quest. Then, in two years, three months and eleven days the target was located and eliminated once a Democratic administration restored the old rules and sound procedures. This serves to remind us that real world intelligence gathering and operations usually are not those portrayed by the dashing James Bond, but those depicted by the dumpy George Smiley. In other words, intelligence work consists of hours, days, month and years of tedious effort culminating in a few moments of frenzy.

Now that the 9-11 mastermind is dead, justice demands that American citizens and politicians celebrate the victory of hallowed ideals and honorable efforts rather than contend for prestige and grapple for partisan advantage. Our President gave his CIA Director explicit instructions to make this achievement the Agency’s top priority in the early days of his first year in office. The Secretaries of State and Defense and the Vice President refrained from dictating to the diplomatic, military, and intelligence professionals what they wanted to hear and gave them the room and the resources to do their jobs to the limit of their capabilities. All of these people played a proper role in bring this fortunate result about and they deserve full faith and credit for doing so.

One final aspect of the denial of justice at work after SEAL Team Six found and killed bin Laden is the quibbling about why he was not taken into custody rather than killed. It is hard to take this seriously, but the President’s detractors will take any opening to besmirch everything he and those working with him do. Mr. bin Laden was killed because he had planned and ordered the cold-blooded murder of nearly 3,000 non-combatants. If it were next to impossible to try lower level al-Qaeda operatives in American courts, how would there have been a trial for Mr. bin Laden? In addition, this was happening in the midst of hostile territory. The members of SEAL Team Six were at risk for death and capture. Therefore, they found the archenemy of the United States, a mass murder of thousands globally and they executed him. “Justice is a certain rectitude of mind whereby men do what they ought to do in the circumstances confronting them.” In these circumstances, these men did justice.

Now is no time to bicker about the relevance of methods and measures that were never in line with America’s best traditions, ideals, and practices. Justice was delayed. Now justice has been done. In the aftermath of this victory, we must not deny justice to the people and procedures that brought it about. We must “Render therefore to all their dues” as the members of SEAL Team Six rendered to bin Laden his due on behalf of the people and the Republic of the United States.

26 April, 2011

My Country

"America is a glorious promise and a passionate ideal or it is a sham. America will not be the best place for any to live in until and unless we resolve to make it a good place for all to live in."

My country bears malice toward none
My country shows charity for the weak and the small
My country hopes that all will give some
My country gives thanks to those who gave all

My country strives to create true freedom from fear
My country seeks to be the real land of the free
My country welcomes many from far and from near
My country belongs to you and to me

My country is known as the home of the brave
My country’s flag waves and may it never fall
My country once housed both master and slave
My country must strive for justice for all

My country has colors of red, white and blue
My country was born in a fight for a theme
My country has made many mistakes it is true
My country will rise and realize the dream!

17 April, 2011

Honor the Father

During the 2010 mid-term election campaign, Republicans rarely missed an opportunity to boast of their patriotism and broadcast their devotion to the Constitution. When they regained the majority in the House of Representatives, they began the session by reading an edited version of the Constitution and requiring that any bill introduced stipulate the precise section of the Constitution that supports it. Unfortunately the patriotism of which the Republicans boast and the Constitution they profess to adore, are not the same ones non-ideological Americans honor.

Few Republicans demonstrate the twisted nature of their brand of patriotism and their warped view of the Constitution better the Representative Peter King of New York. In an interview with the Daily News, King denied he was on a witch-hunt and cited recent homegrown plots to bomb the subways and Times Square, saying the threat of terrorism "is now more from within" than from abroad. [http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-03-07/local/28681172_1_radicalization-witch-hunt-muslim-community] This statement is disturbingly reminiscent of Joe McCarthy who used to ask those summoned before his sub-committee, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”
In contrast to Representative King, Denis McDonough, the White House deputy national security adviser, speaking at a Virginia mosque known for cooperating with the FBI asserted, "We must resolve that, in our determination to protect our nation, we will not stigmatize or demonize entire communities because of the actions of a few," McDonough said. "In the United States of America, we don't practice guilt by association."

Mr. McDonough is right and Representative King is wrong. Unfortunately, as the New Pittsburgh Courier states in a guest editorial of the March 23-29, 2011 edition, “There’s something in the DNA of American culture that is blind to the fact that racism, sexism, homophobia, and all stereotypes persist whenever someone other than a White man does something wrong.” The fact that men professing the Islamic faith crashed planes into American buildings and killed innocent, non-combatant individuals does not justify placing all Americans who profess the same faith under suspicion. It most emphatically does not justify Congressional hearings investigating the purported radicalization of this same subset of the American populace.

If the Republicans are authentically patriotic and genuinely revere the Constitution, they would heed the advice of the Father of the Constitution in this context. James Madison said at least two things that are directly relevant to proper patriotic, Constitutional treatment of American Muslims. First, “Among the features peculiar to the political system of the United States, is the perfect equality of rights which it secures to every religious sect.” Reactionary politicians are famous for both their professed piety and their intolerance of less conventional varieties of religious preference. Despite this predilection on the part of the right wing, the Founder and the Framer’s admonition must be the standard and American Muslims must be accorded “the perfect equality of rights” to which they are entitled by the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Any true patriot would know the thinking behind the Constitution and adhere to it in his use of political authority. It is not sufficient to gain political office. One must reflect credit on the office as well.

Mr. Madison further advises, “Equal laws protecting equal rights the best guarantee of loyalty and love of country.” We forget this at our peril. Representative King is making a mockery of the document and principles he is sworn to preserve, protect, and defend. There is no evidence that American Muslims are in league with terrorists. There is no evidence that American Muslims are disloyal. Such evidence as there is suggests precisely the opposite. The overwhelming majority of American Muslims are loyal citizens who do not sympathize with al-Qaida or its imitators. They would and have denounced terrorists’ plots and actions. More importantly, they are Americans and by solemn bond of Constitutional provision and civic value; they are entitled to full equality before the law and all the privileges and immunities of citizenship. Any infringement of their rights as citizens endangers the rights of us all.

Some may object that James Madison and his contemporaries did not fully implement the lofty principles they so well articulated. This is true. Nonetheless, this merely demonstrates the humanity of the Founders and the Framers. Their glory is not that they said the last word or took the last step for the realization of the American promise; it is that they said and took the first. Considering the utter novelty of their perspective and pronouncements at the time, their failings do nothing to detract from the veracity of their assertions or the nobility of their insights. Rather it is for us, the living, to summon renewed dedication to the great work lying before us. We will betray our heritage and fail in our duty if we allow bigots and mountebanks like Representative King to abuse his official position to harass and hassle our fellow Americans.

Representative King’s selective outrage and aggression against American Muslims is compatible with a nasty streak that has run through Republican politics at least since the late sixties. This is thinly veiled bigotry. The Republicans previously often and Representative King now feel safe in cynically arousing and callously exploiting the tendency of too many White Americans to be unduly fearful of those caricatured as other. Contemporary examples are the deplorable “papers please” law in Arizona, the lunatic obsessions with President Obama’s place of birth and religion, the ravings about Shania Law, and the somewhat more genteel demands for English as an official language. These are ignoble aspects of contemporary culture and both the right wing media and the Republicans exploit them for partisan gain regardless of the poison they inject into the body politic and the rents they tear in the social fabric.

It is instructive to note that Representative King was once a brash and insistent supporter of the Irish Republican Army [IRA]. Three distinct differences between the IRA and the 9-11 Attackers are [1] their professed religious faith, [2] their complexions, and [3] the site of their atrocities. Representative King clings to number three as a justification for his persecution of American Muslims. This is pure fiction, however, because American Muslims did not attack anyone anywhere. Their difference from those Representative King seeks to court are the faith they profess and [often] the hue of their skin. Actions based on differences in creed and complexion are contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and are generally recognized as instances of bigotry.

Despite the sound advice from the Founders and the Framers, America has not been the unblemished citadel of liberty and justice for all we truly ought to be. From slavery for Americans of African ancestry to slaughter of Native Americans, to subordination of female Americans, to internment of Japanese Americans, the bullying of Joe McCarthy and torture under George W. Bush we have often fallen short of our ideals. The errors of the past are no excuse to persist in error during the present. All American citizens have a Constitutional right to freedom of and freedom from religion. Muslim Americans have this right, as do we all.

CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad who wrote to Representative King provides one indication of the stance of Muslim Americans regarding national security –
"The threat of violent extremism to our nation is a profoundly serious issue. We agree with you that political correctness should not interfere in any serious investigation of threats to our nation. However, we do believe that reliable witnesses and verifiable information are crucial to properly evaluating the threat. We therefore respectfully request that you drop Walid Phares* as a witness for your planned hearing and reiterate our request that you meet with national leaders of the American Muslim community to discuss the negative impact your hearings could have on ordinary American Muslims."

These are reasonable remarks and requests by one American citizen to another. They should have been acted upon, but they were ignored. If Representative King were solely concerned about threats to national security and/or domestic tranquility, he would have given Mr. Awad’s statements the response they merited, rather than the silent treatment. Like others before him, Representative King is motivated by other impulses and pursuing other ends.

We must ask – “Where was the investigative frenzy when Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma and killed over 100 innocent people including children?” Where was the Congressional outrage when a Christian Fundamentalist killed Dr. George Tiller? Where are the investigations of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency that spies on America? The Republicans are silent in these cases because the actors are White. From the reactionary point of view, Tim McVeigh, Christian Fundamentalists, and Mossad agents are not other. Consequently, they are not the objects of investigation.

It is imperative that ordinary Americans step up to their civic responsibilities and demand that Representative King and those who support him cease and desist in this bigoted action toward American Muslims. If we do not do our duty in this regard, we will fail the Republic, our forebears, our children and ourselves. Now is the time to honor the Father of the Constitution and implement his admonition that, “Equal laws protecting equal rights are the best guarantee of loyalty and love of country.” Let us all work together to identify and eliminate all threats and wrongdoing without impugning honorable Americans whatever faith they profess.

16 April, 2011

Keeping from Pettiness - What If?

“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for lives that are less than the ones, we are capable of living or accepting a world that is less than the one we are capable of building.” Nelson Mandela

By thinking big thoughts rather than small ones and using the best words rather than the worst ones, each of us will enhance the quality of our thinking and our communication. If we stop looking for faults in others and start looking for improvements in ourselves, we will be more accepting of and helpful to others. By seeking the best for all rather than just the best for ourselves, we can release the talents of those around to make progress on the issues and challenges we all care about.

If we abandon pretense, and encounter each other honestly with minds liberated from spite, resentment, and prejudice will it not be more likely that we act on the ideals and ideas that unite rather than the suspicions and delusions that divide us. Once we are honestly united, can we not make more considered and considerate decisions? Could we not be more genuine and generous in our actions?

If we give each task, each thing, each person the time they deserve and resolve to grow calm, strive to remain serene and dare to be gentle, might the world both look and become a more enchanting and empowering place?

If we allow life to teach us to act upon our better impulses and attend to our better angels, might we not simply demonstrate the courage of our convictions and be the people we truly ought to be.

By acknowledging, the little things of life create difficulties and dissension, might we not recognize and realize that the big things bring us together and challenge us to build a better world.

If in every instance, we persist in being kind, could we not transform the earth from a vale of tears and a house of horrors to a safe haven and loving home for all humanity?

10 April, 2011

A Party Once Again!

When youthful fire was in my blood
I knew of Democratic champions,
Of Jack and Bobby who firmly stood,
And bravely called for equality and freedom;
And then I dreamt I yet might see
Their like arise again,
And Dems, so oft a patsy, be.
A Party once again!

A Party once again,
A Party once again,
Our Dems, so oft a patsy, be
A Party once again!

And from that time, through deepest woe,
That hope made the burden light,
Ne'er could any summer’s brightest glow
Outshine that radiance bright;
It seemed to drift above my head
In forum, field and fane,
Its angel voice sang round my bed,
A Party once again!

It whispered too, that freedom's ark
The Republic high and holy,
Would be profaned by feelings dark
And passions vain or lowly;
The Republic comes from a noble band,
And needs a worthy train;
And virtuous men must take their stand
A Party once again!

So, as I grew from boy to man,
I bent me to that bidding
My spirit of each venal plan
And spiteful passion ridding;
For, thus I hoped some day to aid,
Oh, can such hope be vain?
My dear Democrats now remade
A Party once again!

A Party once again,
A Party once again,
Our Dems, so oft a patsy, be
A Party once again!

03 April, 2011

Come On People

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“On this generation of Americans falls the full burden of proving to the world that we really mean it when we say all men are created free and equal before the law.” Robert F. Kennedy [Speech, May 6, 1961].

In an insightful article in the New Pittsburgh Courier, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, discusses Demographic shifts and Black political power. Dr. Malveaux remarks on changes in Washington D C and Detroit MI. Then she states that her concern is political and observes “The world is no longer a narrow White or Black occasion, it is Neapolitan. Will African-Americans play well with those who are neither White nor Black, just here and pursuing the American dream? Will there be those who, insensitive to our nation’s racial history, assert that the playing field now is level, even though it never was?” I share her concerns.

Almost a full fifty years after Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy identified the enduring moral challenge facing the American people; we live in an age of missed and diminishing opportunities. The Republic is ragged with the rips and tears of divisive discourse and bitter accusations against one group or another. The national government writhes in a perilous struggle to remain operative. Many states are slashing services that millions need to sustain a dwindling faith in any credible version of the American dream. Therefore, questions and concerns about the moral dimensions of political power assume a renewed and urgent pertinence.

When the recently elected Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, assumed office, he attended a mass at the cathedral in Harrisburg. Yet, he immediately began to condone a pattern of no tax payments by 70% of corporations in the commonwealth. He also refuses to tax the natural gas industry though many states find this to be a lucrative source of revenue. Then, based on revenue shortfalls, Mr. Corbett pushed further cuts to public education, public transit, and other programs upon which poorer people genuinely depend. His Education Secretary callously remarks, “Money won’t make better schools.” In fact, the Education Secretary, Ron Tomalis, declared, “Education achievement or achievement of any kind cannot be measured in dollars and sense.” Yet both Mr. Corbett and Mr. Tomalis clearly believe that dollars and cents are vital when it comes to extending tax breaks to their wealthy backers or the corporations they are courting. How do these remarks and these actions align with the Governor’s displayed piety? Did he receive divine guidance directing him to beleaguer the poor and bolster the wealthy? That seems unlikely given the benign tenor of most Christian pronouncements on the topic of the poor and the downtrodden.

Furthermore, Governor Corbett apparently decided to cut a minimum of $1 billion from the education budget. In doing so, he divided the cut between Basic Education and all other programs. Then, he used a devious method for calculating the cut. This method did not cover the real needs of students and school districts. It relied on a peculiarity of the prior year’s education budget that included $655 million from the federal stimulus program. The state funds in last year’s budget had decreased by a like amount. Therefore, the governor started cutting from an improperly determined base. Furthermore, the stimulus funds went mostly to the poorest school districts and this caused the governor’s cuts to be largest in these same poor school districts. Because the poor school districts have far more chocolate in their version of Neapolitan than the affluent school districts, Black families and children suffer most from these drastic cuts.

On a national level, the wealthy who invest in or run corporations are living in a new Gilded Age. The American Dream is thriving as far as they can tell. Rules and even laws are being changed or interpreted to favor them more than they previously did. In 2010, the nation’s largest corporation, General Electric, paid no taxes on $14.2 billion in profits. Billions diverted to Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya in wars by other names, are unquestioned while the social safety net transforms into a scrap flapping in the winds of change. The pillars of the middle class such as college loans and collective bargaining have weakened almost to the point of collapse. For most of the society, the American Dream has become “a ragged blanket too short to cover them, but they still buy into it.”

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision swept away all semblance of a level playing field in political campaigning. With the current attacks, raging on public employees and public employee unions, the wealthy and their corporations will soon be beyond challenge in elections at the state and national level. The politicians who most benefit from this transformation of America from a Republic to a Plutocracy speak unblushingly about shared sacrifice and fiscal responsibility. All the while, they use their positions to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted. They refuse to consider reductions in war spending, but they hint at slashing entitlements. In so doing, they ignore that people have paid for what they dismissively smear as entitlements. When did it become acceptable to deprive people of something they have paid for their entire working lives while concurrently, benefiting people through inheritance tax changes who have earned not one cent of the windfall coming their way?

Therefore, I am as concerned as is Dr. Malveaux, about Black political power as well as the political power of unions and the middle class generally. Some may think my argument is alarmist or faulty in some partisan way. If so, consider this from Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, “the size of this upward redistribution to the richest 1 percent over the last three decades is roughly large enough to double the income of all the households in the bottom half of the income distribution” [http://www.truth-out.org/the-deficit-hawks-target-nurses-and-firefighters68817].

It is vital to recognize, understand, and acknowledge that this robbing of the ordinary citizens for the benefit of the extraordinarily affluent is a deliberate effort. The policies and practices pursued since the Reagan Revolution have sustained higher than necessary unemployment to weaken workers’ bargaining power. They have promoted globalization of the economy to free the elite and their corporate vehicles from the burdens of taxation and regulation, the borders of nations, and the bonds of patriotism. They pursued a “high dollar trade policy” so that American workers felt downward wage pressure in manufacturing fields and they encourage the exportation of jobs to places without unions and with comparatively low wages and standards of living. In this context, unions have not left the private sector; the private sector has left them for third world countries.

Something has clearly changed in our country and for most Americans this change has not been beneficial. In April, it is fitting to remember that one of America’s greatest leaders used his last ounce of courage to campaign for jobs and justice. Forty-three years ago, Dr. King declared in Memphis, TN, “Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the Promised Land.”

Dr. King was not concerned only with Black political power. He knew that the quest for economic justice united Americans from middle and lower economic classes regardless of race. Poverty afflicts a diversity of races, regions and backgrounds. Dr. King told his aides that the SCLC would have to raise nonviolence to a new level to pressure Congress into passing an Economic Bill of Rights for the nation’s poor. He made this clear as follows: “We believe the highest patriotism demands the ending of the war and the opening of a bloodless war to final victory over racism and poverty.” His words were true then and they are true now. We need to recall and act upon them. Dr. King "made clear connections between what he called “our glorious struggle for civil rights” and collective bargaining rights. He called the labor movement “the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress . [and] gave birth to .. new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life.” [http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/from-mlk-a-dream-for-the-middle-class-that-cannot-be-allowed-to-die/2011/04/01/AFhz6TXC_story.html] Unfortunately, for the Republic and us all, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. died at 7:05 p.m. He was 39 years old.

After Dr. King’s murder, only one leader remained to carry on the highest patriotism. This leader was Robert F. Kennedy. He had earlier stated his views on poverty and government as follows: “I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary and there are people in distress who cannot help themselves.” (RFK Speech, Athens, Georgia, May 6, 1961) Unfortunately, this last, best voice of benevolence and economic fairness in American politics fell silent roughly two months after Dr. King due to an assassin’s bullet. He was not quite 43 years old.

These closely spaced murders left a vacuum for a rising star of the corporate campaign to transform politics in America. Ronald Reagan on the way to becoming the “Great Communicator” was able to effectively, though deceptively, persuade millions of ordinary Americans that the corporations were liberators and the government an oppressor of the working class. In so doing, Reagan sold a gullible electorate an inverted vision of American politics and the Republic that has plagued us to this day.

Now we are approaching the end game of this decades’ long contest for the soul of the Republic. In the national and state capitals, the heirs of King and Kennedy battle against those of Reagan. Will we be one nation indivisible with liberty, justice, and prosperity for all? Alternatively, will we become two nations separate and unequal with abundance for the few and subsistence for the many? According to the New York Times, amidst the struggle to avoid a government shutdown, House Republicans prepare a proposal for next year and beyond that is likely to spark an ideological showdown. E. J. Dionne observes, "This week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will announce the House Republicans’ budget plan, which is expected to include cuts in many programs for the neediest Americans. The Ryan budget’s central purpose will not be deficit reduction but the gradual dismantling of key parts of government. Remember that Ryan wants both to preserve the Bush tax cuts and, over the long run, to enact more breaks for the wealthy, including the elimination of the capital gains tax." [http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-end-of-progressive-government/2011/04/01/AFQbjTXC_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions] This will go beyond numbers and make policy prescriptions. According to Mr. Ryan, “We have a moral obligation to the country to do this.” Mr. Ryan is correct about the moral obligation and wrong about virtually everything else.

When the shutdown and the showdown come to pass, history will judge we, the living, by how well we uphold the highest ideals of the Republic as expressed by its most noble leaders. In the next few months and the next several years, let us so conduct ourselves, that these leaders neither lived nor died in vain. Dr. King and Bobby gave American politics a moral dimension it has not had since their assassinations. This is apparent if we reflect on their remarks shortly before they died. Dr. King’s near to last words appeared above and Bobby’s appear below.

“What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis we are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running over the period of the next few months.” [RFK June 5, 1968] Moments later the forces of fear and hatred drove a disturbed individual to shoot him in the head. Finally, as he lay mortally wounded, Bobby whispered to his wife, "Is everyone else all right?"

More than forty years after Martin and you died, we must sadly answer, not everyone else is all right, but Bobby, we promise you both, we are working on it.

Come on people!

22 March, 2011

Pledge of Allegiance and the Four Freedoms

Those rushing to slash programs at the federal and state levels on which millions depend to sustain freedom from want and fear should consider this. We make this pledge casually, but we should keep it carefully.

Are we or are we not, loyal to the ideals upon which this nation was founded?

20 March, 2011

Up to Us - Rise and Renew National Unity and Global Sanity

On March 19, 2011, Askcherlock wrote on BrooWaha these perceptive and thought provoking words - "The guilt belongs to you and me, the society of people lavished with riches. And what was built can be torn asunder by our own silence. It’s comin’ to our door, Baby. I know that. ‘Cause we only cared about our own appetites and fed ourselves plenty. Now the world has gone mad and I just need you to sing to me, Baby, while I try to pray for lost souls and scattered angels." The insights are hers, but the emphasis is mine. Roughly, two weeks previously, she had cited Professor Andrew J. Bacevich from Boston University as follows: "Transformation is not something that outsiders can induce or impose or control. The process is organic, spontaneous and self-sustaining.” She then observed, "What a profound theory and one I have supported since our war on terror began."

These splendid appeals to reason and benevolence merit prolonged attention. Let us never forget it is perfectly possible and eminently patriotic to fervently oppose war and ardently support those whom ill-conceived orders have placed in harm’s way.

In this context, I respectfully offer the following thoughts and observations.

It is easy to be hostile. It is risky to trust. In a world gone mad and a nation divided, free-floating hostility is a predictable response.

Hostility nourishes and supports the ego. Trust requires lowering one’s guard, risking disappointment, and testing one’s character.

Hostility can be very dramatic, complicated and sophisticated. It can make one appear quite impressive to others. It can camouflage cowardice and make it pass for courage. It drapes cravenness in the cloak of valor. It drowns out the whimpers of a quaking soul with the roar of rage.

Trust, on the other hand, is an expression of sincerity, humanity and composure. Others could be suspicious of our intentions, resentful of our efforts or envious of our fortitude.

Those who choose hostility, expend a great deal of energy and effort to maintain their state of rage. By contrast, those choose trust actually, gain vigor and resilience from the additional options and positive perspectives this choice brings to light.

The choice between hostility and trust is one we all must make in each moment, repeatedly, day after day. Choosing the former rips and rends the social fabric; choosing the latter strengthens its warp and woof.

The far, far better course for our children, our nation, and ourselves is to run the risk deception and disappointment and endure the errors and betrayals, which are humanity’s lot, after all, than to promote and practice aggression and suspicion. The first course offers the hope of revival and deliverance. The second course far too commonly precedes cruelty and conflict. Whether we choose hostility or trust is completely up to us.

We, the people, are the true sovereigns in the Republic. Despite the relentless efforts of those who would divide us in order to rule us, we can strum the mystic chords of memory and summon to our aid the better angels of our nature. In years to come, will we look into the eyes of children we love about and tell them “We had the opportunity to make a difference, but lacked the courage to try?”

For the sake of the Republic and the land we love, let us rise and restore Power to the People.

18 March, 2011

He's the One

In 2010, David Koch, spent $250,000 on attack ads in a single week, to defeat him. Mr. Koch, incidentally, inherited his $17 billion fortune from his father. This fortune was made by helping to industrialize and arm the Soviet Union when it was America’s mortal enemy. Along with his brother, Koch is the owner of the second largest private company in the United States. This company, Koch Industries, is one of the top 10 air polluters in the United States and they have caused more than 300 oil spills and paid more than $35 million in pollution fines. Furthermore, Koch Industries received more than $100 million in government contracts in the first decade of the twenty-first century. On a long-standing contract to extract oil from federal and Indian lands, Koch was found guilty of underpaying the government by $21 million.

In the 2010 mid-term elections the "60 Plus Association” poured over $600,000 into negative ads against him. The "60 Plus Association" has been characterized by AARP as a front for PhRMA – the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America.
The Executive Director for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said that he was the Republicans’ Number One Target for 2010. The NRCC vowed they would do whatever it took to defeat him. To keep that vow, the NRCC spent $817,000 of its own money. That was in addition to all the other money spent by reactionary funding sources to defeat him.

Sarah Palin sent a Twitter message to her followers to “take him out.”

Glenn Beck described him as a despicable human being. This is precisely how Mr. Beck seems to feel about Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the evil genius, Woodrow Wilson. Glenn Beck said, “It’s okay if the Republicans lose every seat in the Senate and the House except for one as long as that one is him losing.” Beck then said he was more embarrassing than Al Franken and all his efforts to defend Net Neutrality, cut taxpayer subsidies to oil companies, and protect women working for government contractors from sexual assault.

Mike Huckabee, who falsely asserted President Obama, grew up in Kenya, declared our man to be the “neighborhood bully”. Mr. Huckabee took offense to the “outrageous remarks” attacking insurance companies for denying people both coverage and care due to “pre-existing conditions.”

Newt Gingrich who wrote a bad check to the IRS for nearly $10,000, who carried on an affair while his wife suffered from cancer, who visited his wife in a hospital while she recovered from surgery to discuss a divorce called him “fundamentally dishonorable” and a disgrace. This is the same Newt Gingrich the House of Representatives voted 395 to 28 to reprimand and fined $300,000 for ethics violations. Clearly, Mr. Gingrich knows first-hand about dishonor and disgrace.

Rush Limbaugh declared him “certifiably insane.” Mr. Limbaugh holds no degree at all let alone one in psychology or psychiatry. Mr. Limbaugh was drug addicted for years; Mr. Limbaugh was arrested for criminal fraud; Mr. Limbaugh made fun of Michael J. Fox for having Parkinson’s disease and he called Chelsea Clinton the “White House dog.” Nonetheless, Rush feels entitled to impugn another man’s sanity.

Conservative groups spent $1.7 million to defeat him in the 2010 mid-term campaign. This was just under 20% of their $9 million dollar total expenditures. Yet he represented less than 0.25% of America at the time. This was his first term in Congress. He had no seniority; he did not sit on the most powerful committees.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Democracy for America named him the Number One Hero in the U S House of Representatives. DFA began in 2001 through the leadership of Governor Howard Dean. It has over a million members and seeks to organize support for progressive candidates all over the country.

He routinely refuses to do as he is told. He insists on being candid and even blunt. He will not back down. Progressives cheered his legislative style for its unapologetic self-assurance. He gained prominence as a lawyer by successfully suing wayward military contractors who profited from the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He sought to be re-elected for the sake of the battered middle class, the jobless, the homeless, the sick, the poor, the hungry and the desperate. He fought for all those who longed once again to believe in America. He wanted to demonstrate that America could be as good as it should be. He championed the idea and ideals of America, not merely the territory and the populace. For him, America was a premise and a promise. The premise remains sound, but the promise remains unfulfilled. He sought to legislate effectively to move us all closer to where we might and ought to be. In his sole term in Congress, he sought to restore the American dream and end so many American nightmares. He sought to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

He is the one who on Labor Day of 2010 declared:

“Today is Labor Day. All across America, millions of people are discovering that the best way to celebrate Labor Day is by not working.

“Do you live to work, or do you work to live?

“If you are married, look at your wedding album; are there any pictures in there of you at work?

“On your tombstone, do you want it to say, "I wish that I could have spent more time at work"?

“Here is what Robert Kennedy had to say about this, 42 years ago:
"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

“I look forward to a Labor Day where every worker has a job, every worker has a pension, every worker has paid vacations, and every worker has the health care to enjoy life.

“My opponents call that France. I call it an America that is Number One in health, education, jobs, and happiness, but not number one in wasted military expenditures and the number of foreign lands occupied.

As Robert Kennedy famously said, “I dream things that never were and ask why not?” Why not? Let’s make it happen!

“And then, all of us who are Americans, including the ones today who are jobless, homeless, sick, suffering and almost hopeless, all of us can say, I am proud to be an American.”

On March 12, 2011, he is the one who said,

“Here and around the world, many people have fought and died, so that you and I would have the right to organize. They fought so that 250,000 public workers in Wisconsin would have that right too.”

“This is not exactly a new idea. Six months after the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, President Wilson signed the Clayton Act, prohibiting the prosecution of union members under Antitrust Law. That was almost a century ago.

“Two decades later, during Franklin Roosevelt’s first term as President, he signed the National Labor Relations Act into law. It protects the right to organize. That was over 75 years ago.

The right to organize is also a fundamental principle of international law. Over 150 countries have ratified the “Right to Organize” Convention, an international treaty. It was adopted in 1949, over 60 years ago.

“So why are we even talking about this, 11 years into the 21st Century?
“Because the teabaggers want to "take back America." They want to take it back, all right – take it all the way back to the 19th century. When there was no right to organize. When people worked for a dollar a day. When grown men competed against children for jobs. When women were barred from most jobs entirely. When you worked until you died.

“Not to mention slavery.

“I want to see an America that is healthy and wealthy.

“They want an America that provides cheap labor to our corporate overlords. An America where the middle class is chained by debt.

“We didn't ask for this fight. However, we have no choice except to fight back. For the survival of the middle class in America. For us, for our children, and for our grandchildren. And so that the victims in Haymarket, in Homestead and in Ludlow did not die in vain.”He is Alan Grayson. Until recently, he was a U. S. Congressman from Florida.

But again as Bobby Kennedy said –

"The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects and new ideas. Rather, it will belong to those who can blend passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals of American society."

If the Democratic Party has a genuine, worthwhile future in American politics, Alan Grayson is the one pointing most clearly toward it.

Let us stand up for America as it might and ought to be. Let us stand with Alan Grayson


Monster Redux

“What it’s really all about is despite the things that are wrong with our country there are too many good things worth saving to let the whole thing go down the drain. So I think we should get together as much as we can and bring about change.” John Kay - Steppenwolf Live

“Once the religious, the hunted and weary
Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
Came to this country to build a new vision
Far from the reaches of Kingdom and pope

Like good Christians some would burn the witches
Later some got slaves to gather riches”

In its origins, America began as a quest by some for freedom from the dominant powers of European civilization. This was not an all-embracing freedom, but a more limited self-regarding freedom. The Puritans wanted the freedom to impose their brand of Christianity on anyone they could bring within their sphere. Some like the Quakers in Pennsylvania and Roger Williams in Rhode Island wanted a more expansive freedom for all Christians. None of the English colonizers cared much about freedom for people with darker skin or the different physical features typical of Native Americans. Nonetheless, they were building a new vision despite the blind spots of superstition and racial bigotry.

“But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands, to court the wild
But she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light”

For much of Western Europe, America was the secular version of the Promised Land. It was still the new world. Immigration was constant and massive. Whatever risks and hardships were entailed did not discourage Europe’s tired, poor, tempest tossed, huddled masses, from taking the chance and making the journey to what would shortly become the United States of America.

“And once the ties with the crown had been broken
Westward in saddle and wagon it went
And till the railroad linked ocean to ocean
Many the lives which had come to an end

While we bullied, stole and bought a homeland
We began the slaughter of the red man”

From the Crisis of Valley Forge in 1776 to the “World Turned Upside Down” of Yorktown in 1781. America, as we know it, emerged from the mind, not from the mist. Within the splendid prose of the Declaration of Independence lay the promise of a new kind of nation and a new kind of nationality. Americans were not all from a common homeland; they did not all have the same ancestral customs and traditions. They often spoke differing first languages. A shared set of ideas and ideals about what it meant to be a human being and how to govern human beings properly bound them together. After winning the Revolutionary War, the Framers quickly realized the political arrangements needed strengthening and rationalization. Despite the squabble that ensued, the American mind triumphed again and produced the Republic and its hallowed Constitution.

Then, growth rapidly took off. Despite the brilliant ideas and shining ideals, bigotry, avarice, and ambition still prompted and excused a near genocide of others who stood in the way of our so-called “Manifest Destiny.” True, blue Americans bought, bullied, and stole the continent from the western slope of the Appalachian Mountains to the Pacific shore. While slaughtering the red men, women, and children, these same idealistic, high-minded Americans continued the crime of slavery and through trickery, treachery, and truly unprovoked aggression conquered the northern provinces of Mexico. As some Hispanics say today, “We did not cross the border the border crossed us.”

The actions of Americans, therefore, often fell far short of the aspirations expressed in the Republic’s founding documents. Nonetheless, those ideals were still there for all to see. Like an inextinguishable beacon, the radiance of these ideals penetrated the gloom of hubris pervading the mid-nineteenth century. Relentlessly, a furious storm approached that would “test whether this nation or any other nation so conceived and so dedicated would long endure.”

“The Blue and Grey they stomped it
They kicked it just like a dog
And when the war was over
They stuffed it just like a hog

And though the past has its share of injustice
Kind was the spirit in many a way
But its protectors and friends have been sleeping
Now it's a monster and will not obey”

When the storm broke, the Republic was one of five that existed on the planet. Virtually all other lands were governed as kingdoms or empires. If the Union split asunder, government of, by and for the people well may have perished from the earth. As the titanic struggle raged on to its high tide on Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, its nature changed from a war for Union to a war for Union and Liberty. From the brave men who struggled on that hallowed ground, we the living inherited a solemn obligation and an enduring debt. It is for us, even 148 years later, to ensure by our actions that they shall not have died in vain. We must wake the protectors of the Republic and join their ranks ourselves. There is a monster abroad in the land, but it does not as some would have us believe, reside in Washington, D. C. It is not a Leviathan. It is a Hydra. There are many heads to this monster and they sit on necks that stretch back to a body lurking well beyond the bounds of government.

“The spirit was freedom and justice
And its keepers seemed generous and kind
Its leaders were supposed to serve the country
But now they won't pay it no mind
Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
Now their vote is a meaningless joke
They babble about law and order
But it's all just an echo of what they've been told”

The Republic’s spirit was and still is freedom and justice. The leaders most assuredly were to function by the consent of the governed, and regular, free, fair elections were intended to ensure that the individuals who gained our consent to lead us did not endeavor to rule us. As Jefferson warned, however, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance and the more successful the nation became, the less vigilant the citizenry remained. Furthermore, powerful parties with enormous reach and resources, from the Liberty League and the DuPont brothers of the 1930’s to American Crossroads and the Koch brothers of today, diligently worked to manipulate information and influence votes among both the electorate and the legislators. This is not something the government did, but something that was done to and through the government. Several distinct, but compatible, individuals and groups have pursued the objective of capturing the hearts and minds of the populace so that the government would thoroughly serve the interests of the wealthy and the corporations. This is not and never was a conspiracy, but a common cause unifying the uncommonly affluent. Money fights hard and money fights dirty. Over the last eighty years of American political life, this has been repeatedly demonstrated.

The actions of this symbolic beast contradict the expressed hopes of many of the Republic’s Founders. As Jefferson expressed them, “I may err in my measures, but never shall deflect from the intention to fortify the public liberty by every possible measure and put it out of the power of the few to riot on the labor of others.” It is odd that a slaveholder should think this the proper role of government, but the sentiment is no less instructive because it originated with one whose life seemed partly to contradict it. Incidentally, Jefferson used the term riot to mean, “Unrestrained indulgence”.

Yeah, there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into the noose
And it just sits there watchin'

The Hydra keeps trying to advance toward its goal of transforming the Republic into a predator state that uses legislation and the police power to make cannon fodder and twenty-first century serfs out of the great mass of the populace. The distorted conception of the proper configuration of society that the Hydra has been spreading in books, speeches, and broadcasts has placed unrestrained economic activity at the center of the social desideratum. Usually this is expressed as reverence for and homage to the Market. To the extent this arrangement is implemented, some individuals and corporations approach complete freedom from the boundaries of nations, the burdens of taxation and regulation, and the bonds of patriotism. They are unrestrained in the pursuit of ever-increasing profits and fortunes. Everyone else is simply a resource for the voracious engine of unbridled, globalized capitalism.

The cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin' the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can't understand
We don't know how to mind our own business
'Cause the whole world's got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who's the winner we can't pay the cost"

The supplanting of the Republic by the Market in the hearts and minds of the people and in the procedures and preferences of our society yields a deterioration of the cities and a debasement of civic life, most especially in political discourse, decisions, and policymaking. Surveillance becomes a priority and Constitutional limitations are regarded as quaint and impractical in the panic induced by the poisonous influence of reactionary prejudices and grudges against people who are alien. This panic is not simply a heightened variant of the reasonable concern about properly identified and authenticated adversaries. It is much broader and impervious to rational argument. The purpose of the panic is not to promote security, but to induce submission. The consistent theme pushed by the Hydra with all its multiple heads and pervasive fuming is “be afraid, be very afraid.” Do not stop to think. Do not ask questions. Do what you are told. Whether the topic is war against some purportedly hostile power or cuts in government programs there is no time to think. Action must be taken! Liberties must be foregone; rights must be surrendered. The nation is in mortal danger!

Despite the clanging alarms and the frantic appeals to give up rights and share sacrifice, all patriotic citizens must pause and reflect. Rash action will almost surely prove to be wrong action. The Republic was not set up to facilitate rushing to judgment. It was set up to cultivate and effectuate considered action by an informed and unified people. Therefore, we must send forth the call --

“America, where are you now
Don't you care about your sons and daughters
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster”

This call goes forth not to Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, but simply to citizens. Now, party labels only deepen divisions. For far too long and far too much, those who would lead the nation have operated based on positions they think popular rather than principles they hold true and purposes they deem vital. The denigration of politics, the degradation of public discourse, and the distortion of the Republic into a caricature called “government” has allowed the Hydra to rant and rampage across the land almost twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. This clarion call needs to pierce the din and traverse the chasms. It needs to remind every man, woman, and child that “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

The Hydra has tried to set us against one another. It has played on our petty fears, our private suspicions, and our personal jealousies. It has tried to make us see ourselves as atomized consumers struggling in the war of each against all for the drops that trickle down from lavish banquet table of the elite. In the process, Americans lost the meaning and vision of America as the last, best hope of humankind.

Now is the time to reclaim and reassert this meaning and vision. To do so we must heed the appeal of Thomas Paine in the February 1776, Third Edition of Common Sense [slightly paraphrased], “instead of gazing at each other with suspicious or doubtful curiosity, let each of us hold out to his neighbor the hearty hand of friendship, and unite in drawing a line, which, like an act of oblivion, shall bury in forgetfulness every former dissension. Let the names of Whig [Liberal} and Tory [Conservative] be extinct; and let none other be heard among us, than those of a good citizen, an open and resolute friend, and a virtuous supporter of the RIGHTS of HUMANKIND, and of the FREE AND INDEPENDENT Constitutional Republic of the United STATES OF AMERICA”.

America, where are you now
Don't you care about your sons and daughters
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster

The only honorable response is we are right here! You need not fight alone. Then, “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. 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.”