January 17, 2011

A Note to Those Who Will Name Evil

The ferocious insistence of America on its national catechism -- that the United States is "unique in all of history, that our form of government is the greatest and best possible to mankind, toward which all others should and must strive, and that our national character is predisposed toward compassion and peace" -- today provides us with yet another holiday drained of every vestige of concern for the sanctity of life and turned into the occasion for onanistic preening and self-congratulation. And, of course, sales.

I wonder if a man who said the following would be so "honored" (and I sincerely apologize to Dr. King for the minor alterations indicated in brackets, but I dare to think that he would be sympathetic to the spirit in which these changes have been made):
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of [Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Pakistan, and Yemen, and Somalia, and ...]. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak ... for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in [these places]. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.


If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in [these places.] If we do not stop our war against the[se] people[s] ... immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure ..., that we have been detrimental to the life of the[se] people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors ... we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.
That is a short passage from "A Time to Break Silence," Dr. King's address given on April 4, 1967, at the Riverside Church in New York City. If you wish to offer genuine tribute to Dr. King, you might set some time aside to read the speech in its entirety.

The war in Vietnam and its broader significance was Dr. King's concern. The principles to which Dr. King appealed and which he insisted must guide our actions apply with equal force to the abominable wars the United States today wages in Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Pakistan, and Yemen, and Somalia, and ...

But a person will not be honored in any manner whatsover for pointing this out. Instead, he will be called "cynical" (and by our first African-American president no less, a fact which I doubt would bring much joy to Dr. King were he alive to witness this awful moment), "negative," "extreme," "bitter" and so on. Such a person will also be accused of the most heinous sin of all: that he hates America.

Yet you should not be discouraged if you speak what ought to be obvious truths and are condemned for it. Once those who guard the flame of America's self-delusions and endless lies have reduced you to a tenth-rate Bill Cosby appearing in an interminable series of pudding commercials, you too will be celebrated.

They'll only do that after they've killed you, of course.

America. One fucking great country.