"The censor believes that he can hold back the mighty traffic of life with a tin whistle and a raised right hand. For after all, it is life with which he quarrels." ~ Heywood Broun
Thank You for Not Shutting Up
This column is dedicated to the courageous journalists, activists, and artists who have kept a finger of dissent close enough to the public eye to keep it watchful. Only the fear of becoming blind can prevent blindness on a national scale; the reflexive action of the nation is to close its eye to anything that reflects an unsightly image. Blindness is as blindness does; vision is more imperceptive than sightlessness when it chooses only to observe pleasant reflections of itself.
Thank you for having the courage to be true to your conscience. Thank you for standing alongside human beings in their time of terror and distress. Thank you for not turning a blind eye to injustice, and for giving us candid glimpses of the war and the world through your eyes. Thank you for using your voices to penetrate the blanket of propaganda that covers us like a smothering cloud, and for being ambassadors to the world for dissenting voices who would not otherwise be able to rise above the din all around us. Accusations of treason ring false when treason is defined as giving 'aid and comfort to the enemy.' The 'treason' of the conscientious objector consists of knowing who the enemy is; and as Pogo pointed out many years ago, 'We have met the enemy, and he is us.'
Might doesn't make right; it justifies itself by the ill logic and use of force, and it will brook no opposition until the opposition is so overwhelming that it becomes the mightier. The tide of world opinion is with you, and its current rages quietly around us, gathering strength, and eroding the foundations of support for a world power gone berserk. How sad that things should come to such a pass: a proud heritage of honest efforts by so many amazing people; the beckoning lamp of liberty blazing at last only to be snuffed out in the sand by the ignoble actions of so few, who are so unrepresentative of so many. A tidal wave is building out beyond the visible horizon, and I dread the bleak day when it breaks upon our shores; how little warning we may have when it arrives, despite the fact that it's foreseeable and perhaps inevitable as a result of our short-sighted, fatuous arrogance.
If you can, please tell the Iraqi people how appalled some Americans are at the shocking behavior of the home grown terror-mongers that have rained death and destruction upon their beloved country. The highest among those occupy office in spite of the will of the democratic majority; even some appointed officials exercise powers far beyond those that elected officials should ever have had. Please tell the Iraqi people that some of us grieve every day for the sons and daughters of Iraq, and their wives, husbands, parents, friends; their ruined homes and businesses; their hospitals overflowing with wounded innocents; their ransacked museums, and looted libraries. Our bread tastes bitter; water will not wash away the blood on our hands, and wine will not drown the sorrow we feel for the atrocities committed in our names, and with our hijacked dollars.
We grieve for our own dead, wounded, and missing men and women as well, and plead for their safe return; for healing of the scars they bear, and recovery from the horrors of war they've witnessed. Young people fight for ideals that have been instilled in them; if their education has been misdirected, their trust abused, their impressionable minds and values perverted, they should not shoulder the blame for the sins of the teachers.
Being compelled to choose sides tears people apart and sets them at odds with each other; a democratic system isn't necessarily the best way to achieve peace, and forcing it upon people who haven't chosen it themselves is shameful. Liberty is not a commodity, but a value; the pillaging of Iraq's priceless antiquities is ominously analogous to the pillaging of America's own cherished historical values: as grievous as Iraq's loss is, our loss may be equally terrible, and exact a greater toll in the end.
Do you shudder to hear rabid banter about treason and war crimes jumping glibly from the lips of the very people most likely to be found guilty of them in the revealing light of world history? They have yet to learn the moral of the Saddam Hussein story: that abuse of power is a red carpet, rolled out for the bloody arrival of lessons in humility. More so than the sins of the fathers, the sins of the powerful are visited with indiscriminate wrath upon even the least of us. Hubris never watches behind him for Nemesis, and she'll take him unawares once again, as she always does, because Hubris never learns the humility of circumspection or the wisdom of introspection.
Do chills run down your spine as you contemplate the inescapable repercussions of this war waged by the powerful upon the unfortunate? Will enough spiders work together to tie down this rampaging lion, or shall we find ourselves cowering underfoot as other lions spring against it in a death-struggle for dominance, to protect their own territory, and preempt any possible future aggression against their own prides? If only mankind could rise above such beastly behavior, and learn to live and let live; to love one another; at least, to respect our differences, and appreciate the humanity that we all have in common. Many Americans don't wish to make war against anybody; all that most of us have been able to do is fight back our tears as we struggle to see clearly through them, and bear witness to the awful tragedy unfolding before our eyes as we've watched, unable to stop it, and wonder what further horrors await us on the rebound.
Thank you for being a beacon of light to guide us toward the hopeful haven of human compassion; without courage such as yours, our ship might soon be hopelessly dashed against the rocks of our own hard-hearted fury with such reckless navigators at the helm. If nothing short of mutiny will save the ship and its crew along with it, history will bear witness to the fact that its captains were mad.
Will it be your voice that summons the tide to turn once again, or persuades the moon to exert her magnetic influence? Will your voice call our young men and women home to serve their fellow men happily and in peace, forsaking the dismal aims of fire-breathing, homeland-wrecking politicians in search of new treasures and territories to hoard? Will it be your voice that halts the merciless chariots of war, and submerges them beneath the waves of a new understanding? Politicians will deliver us a New World Disorder, which only they can take pleasure in, and only they will profit from it. Let's support our troops by ensuring them a future and a free country worth coming home to. Rightly or wrongly, they've fought for us; perhaps we owe it to them to guard the home front in their absence.
Thank you for not shutting up; thank you for not sitting down; thank you for not giving in; thank you for being strong. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, it is still as strong as its weakest link is willing to be.