Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Citizen Memorial

Yesterday there was an important and poignant groundbreaking. For the first time in our history, there will be a memorial to an ordinary citizen on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Jesse Jackson was moved to tears. And not because there won't be a statue for him, you cynical twits.  At the age of twenty-six, Jackson took over Operation Breadbasket for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was getting jobs for people.  Finding housing.  Providing food.  What were you doing with your lazy ass?  How many of you know he was on the balcony  talking with Martin Luther King when the civil rights leader was murdered?  Somebody once told me Jackson made that up, until I showed him a picture. 

The day after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, Bobby Kennedy spoke passionately about his death, but never mentioned his name. Forty years later, excerpts from his remarks still resonate, only now on a more global soundstage.

City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland, Ohio
April 5, 1968
The Mindless Menace of Violence

This is a time of shame and sorrow. . .

. . .What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.

. . . whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; andthose who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. 

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

Ballots, not bullets spoke last Tuesday.  Finally. 

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