Thursday, March 19, 2009

Our Spring Break speeches

By: Harry Waisbren

Yesterday we held our press conference for Our Spring Break out by the capital where I had the opportunity to be introduced as "Our Spring Break's inspiration". Definitely corny, but it is undeniably satisfying as an activist to know that my work and words are appreciated. Plus, it was more than a treat for me to be able to meet David Swanson who spoke right after me. I'm definitely very hopeful that I can work with him (and everyone else who has taken part in Our Spring Break) long after this event, and we'll be utilizing the Break Silence wiki specifically to ensure it!

Anyways, below you'll find the text of the speech I gave describing our motivations for the event:

On April 4th, 1967—a year to the day before his assassination—Martin Luther King delivered a speech entitled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, a speech whose words perhaps ring truer now than even in its own time.

We here today see within King’s far too seldomnly referenced words a vision for our country; a diagnosis of the societal ills that continue to hold us back; a method to achieving his dream.

Yet his prescribed way towards societal redemption remains so controversial, that to this day we still have yet to reconcile the true meaning of his words, much less the fiery controversy that ensued upon his utterance of the

On the day marking the beginning of the last year of his life, King expressed—without equivocation—that "A time comes when silence is betrayal. He called out that that time had come for us in relation to Vietnam. Today, we call out that that time has come for us in relation to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just as he observed then, we must give voice to the voiceless; we must search to understand the arguments of those we call “enemy”. We must not take the easy way out, we must not engage in non-resistance against active dehumanization. Yet like King, we are left “as deeply concerned now about our own troops there as anything else”.

Then and now we recognize that “We are adding cynicism to the process of death”. This is because our soldiers, as King professed, “must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved”. And indeed, our soldiers do know. Yet still they die, knowing their country would have them give their life for a lie.

That day, King declared that “we must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.” Today, that prescription remains more true than ever, and I am proud to say that we are working in accord with his dictum. We strive to utilize to the fullest any and all of the new media technologies that we have at our disposal. Such innovative tools aid the match of our actions with words in an effort to amplify what we say, to fortify the actions that we take, and to make the ongoing amnesia regarding King’s call to Break Silence more difficult to maintain.

Yet why are we redoubling our efforts? Why do we push forward amidst the ongoing transitioning of the anti-war movement; amidst a period of change for the country and world at large?

The source of this inspiration also, naturally, links back to King. Like Vietnam in his time, Iraq has become, as he said: “but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit A malady of our country’s spirit that allowed the rise of the horrors seen in Vietnam then, in Iraq now, and likewise, perhaps , if not now, soon in Afghanistan…

In order to heal this malady, King charged that “we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values”. This revolution of values would be demarcated through our “shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.

As King did, We recognize that--without a doubt--a person-oriented society would never let the most patriotic among us die, generation after generation, amidst such cynicism. A person-oriented society would never let our veterans live—and suffer—alone as they struggle to make peace with what they were compelled by our government to do. Most of all, such a society would never condone the active betrayal of our country’s troops. And make no mistake—there is an ongoing betrayal of our country’s best and our brightest; a betrayal occurring despite their blatant exploitation by cynical politicians; politicians who personally profited off their suffering in order to continue an illegal and immoral war.

Then as now, we find ourselves “confronted with the fierce urgency of now. As he said then and as it remains true today, we must “recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”

Hostility to a society that has made the youth of our country watch—in slow motion—as we make the same mistakes of a generation past. Mistakes we were actively learning about in history books. Mistakes that have led to far too many of our fellow students to fight, and die, while knowing it was all for a lie. Mistakes that make dedicating a spring break towards fighting to truly achieve King’s dream—more than worthwhile.

Beyond Iraq, this is a time to Break Silence!

Thank you very much

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