HOPE, Not left- but FORWARD!

  1. Acts of Hope
    By Rebecca Solnit, OrionOnline.org
    May 20, 2003

    On January 18, 1915, eighteen months into the first World War, the first
    terrible war in the modern sense - slaughter by the hundreds of
    thousands, poison gas, men living and dying in the open graves of trench
    warfare, tanks, barbed wire, machine guns, airplanes - Virginia Woolf
    wrote in her journal, "The future is dark, which is on the whole, the best
    thing the future can be, I think." Dark, she seems to say, as in
    inscrutable, not as in terrible. We often mistake the one for the other.
    People imagine the end of the world is nigh because the future is
    unimaginable. Who twenty years ago would have pictured a world
    without the USSR and with the Internet? We talk about "what we hope
    for" in terms of what we hope will come to pass but we could think of it
    another way, as why we hope. We hope on principle, we hope tactically
    and strategically, we hope because the future is dark, we hope because
    it's a more powerful and more joyful way to live. Despair presumes it
    knows what will happen next. But who, two decades ago, would have
    imagined that the Canadian government would give a huge swathe of the
    north back to its indigenous people, or that the imprisoned Nelson
    Mandela would become president of a free South Africa?

    Twenty-one years ago this June, a million people gathered in Central
    Park to demand a nuclear freeze. They didn't get it. The movement was
    full of people who believed they'd realize their goal in a few years and
    then go home. Many went home disappointed or burned out. But in less
    than a decade, major nuclear arms reductions were negotiated, helped
    along by European antinuclear movements and the impetus they gave
    Gorbachev. Since then, the issue has fallen off the map and we have lost
    much of what was gained. The US never ratified the Comprehensive
    Test Ban Treaty, and the Bush administration is planning to resume the
    full-fledged nuclear testing halted in 1991, to resume manufacture, to
    expand the arsenal, and perhaps even to use it in once-proscribed ways.

    It's always too soon to go home. And it's always too soon to calculate
    effect. I once read an anecdote by someone in Women Strike for
    Peace, the first great antinuclear movement in the United States in 1963,
    the one that did contribute to a major victory: the end of aboveground
    nuclear testing with its radioactive fallout that was showing up in
    mother's milk and baby teeth. She told of how foolish and futile she felt
    standing in the rain one morning protesting at the Kennedy White
    House. Years later she heard Dr. Benjamin Spock - one of the most
    high-profile activists on the issue then - say that the turning point for him
    was seeing a small group of women standing in the rain, protesting at the
    White House. If they were so passionately committed, he thought, he
    should give the issue more consideration himself.

    Unending Change

    A lot of activists expect that for every action there is an equal and
    opposite and punctual reaction, and regard the lack of one as failure.
    After all, activism is often a reaction: Bush decides to invade Iraq, we
    create a global peace movement in which 10 to 30 million people march
    on seven continents on the same weekend. But history is shaped by the
    groundswells and common dreams that single acts and moments only
    represent. It's a landscape more complicated than commensurate cause
    and effect. Politics is a surface in which transformation comes about as
    much because of pervasive changes in the depths of the collective
    imagination as because of visible acts, though both are necessary. And
    though huge causes sometimes have little effect, tiny ones occasionally
    have huge consequences.

    Some years ago, scientists attempted to create a long-range weather
    forecasting program, assuming that the same initial conditions would
    generate the same weather down the road. It turned out that the
    minutest variations, even the undetectable things, things they could
    perhaps not yet even imagine as data, could cause entirely different
    weather to emerge from almost identical initial conditions. This was
    famously summed up as the saying about the flap of a butterfly's wings
    on one continent that can change the weather on another.

    History is like weather, not like checkers. A game of checkers ends.
    The weather never does. That's why you can't save anything. Saving is
    the wrong word. Jesus saves and so do banks: they set things aside
    from the flux of earthly change. We never did save the whales, though
    we might've prevented them from becoming extinct. We will have to
    continue to prevent that as long as they continue not to be extinct.
    Saving suggests a laying up where neither moth nor dust doth corrupt,
    and this model of salvation is perhaps why Americans are so good at
    crisis response and then going home to let another crisis brew. Problems
    seldom go home. Most nations agree to a ban on hunting endangered
    species of whale, but their oceans are compromised in other ways. DDT
    is banned in the US, but exported to the third world, and Monsanto
    moves on to the next atrocity.

    The world gets better. It also gets worse. The time it will take you to
    address this is exactly equal to your lifetime, and if you're lucky you
    don't know how long that is. The future is dark. Like night. There are
    probabilities and likelihoods, but there are no guarantees.

    As Adam Hochschild points out, from the time the English Quakers first
    took on the issue of slavery, three quarters of a century passed before it
    was abolished it in Europe and America. Few if any working on the
    issue at the beginning lived to see its conclusion, when what had once
    seemed impossible suddenly began to look, in retrospect, inevitable.
    And as the law of unintended consequences might lead you to expect,
    the abolition movement also sparked the first widespread women's
    rights movement, which took about the same amount of time to secure
    the right to vote for American women, has achieved far more in the
    subsequent 83 years, and is by no means done. Activism is not a
    journey to the corner store; it is a plunge into the dark.

    Writers understand that action is seldom direct. You write your books.
    You scatter your seeds. Rats might eat them, or they might just rot. In
    California, some seeds lie dormant for decades because they only
    germinate after fire. Sharon Salzberg, in her book "Faith," recounts how
    she put together a book of teachings by the Buddhist monk U Pandita
    and consigned the project to the "minor-good-deed category." Long
    afterward, she found out that when Burmese democracy movement's
    leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was kept isolated under house arrest by that
    country's dictators, the book and its instructions in meditation "became
    her main source of spiritual support during those intensely difficult
    years." Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Walter Benjamin and Arthur
    Rimbaud, like Henry David Thoreau, achieved their greatest impact long
    after their deaths, long after weeds had grown over the graves of the
    bestsellers of their times. Gandhi's Thoreau-influenced nonviolence was
    as important in the American South as it was in India, and what
    transpired with Martin Luther King's sophisticated version of it has
    influenced civil disobedience movements around the world. Decades
    after their assassinations they are still with us.

    At the port of Oakland, California, on April 7, several hundred peace
    activists came out at dawn at dawn to picket the gates of a company
    shipping arms to Iraq. The longshoreman's union had vowed not to
    cross our picket. The police arrived in riot gear and, unprovoked and
    unthreatened, began shooting wooden bullets and beanbags of shot at
    the activists. Three members of the media, nine longshoremen, and fifty
    activists were injured. I saw the bloody welts the size of half grapefruits
    on the backs of some of the young men - they had been shot in the
    back - and a swelling the size of an egg on the jaw of a delicate yoga
    instructor. Told that way, violence won. But the violence inspired the
    union dock workers to form closer alliances with antiwar activists and
    underscored the connections between local and global issues. On May
    12 we picketed again, with no violence. This time, the longshoremen
    acted in solidarity with the picketers and - for the first time in anyone's
    memory - the shipping companies cancelled the work shift rather than
    face the protesters. Told that way, the story continues to unfold, and
    we have grown stronger. And there's a third way to tell it. The picket
    stalled a lot of semi trucks. Some of the drivers were annoyed. Some
    sincerely believed that the war was a humanitarian effort. Some of them
    - notably a group of South Asian drivers standing around in the morning
    sun looking radiant - thought we were great. After the picket was
    broken up, one immigrant driver honked in support and pulled over to
    ask for a peace sign for his rig. I stepped forward to pierce holes into it
    so he could bungee-cord it to the chrome grille. We talked briefly,
    shook hands, and he stepped up into the cab. He was turned back at
    the gates - they weren't accepting deliveries from antiwar truckers.
    When I saw him next he was sitting on a curb all alone behind police
    lines, looking cheerful and fearless. Who knows what will ultimately
    come of the spontaneous courage of this man with a job on the line?

    Victories of the New Peace Movement

    It was a setup for disappointment to expect that there would be an
    acknowledged cause and effect relationship between the antiwar actions
    and the Bush administration. On the other hand...

    *We will likely never know, but it seems that the Bush administration
    decided against the "Shock and Awe" saturation bombing of Baghdad
    because we made it clear that the cost in world opinion and civil unrest
    would be too high. We millions may have saved a few thousand or a
    few hundred thousand lives.

    *The global peace movement was grossly underreported on February
    15th. A million people marching in Barcelona was nice, but I also heard
    about the thousands in Chapel Hill, NC, the hundred and fifty people
    holding a peace vigil in the small town of Las Vegas, NM, the antiwar
    passion of people in even smaller villages from Bolivia to Thailand.

    *Activists are often portrayed as an unrepresentative, marginal rabble,
    but something shifted in the media last fall. Since then, antiwar activists
    have mostly been represented as a diverse, legitimate, and
    representative body, a watershed victory for our representation and our
    long-term prospects.

    *Many people who had never spoken out, never marched in the street,
    never joined groups, written to politicians, or donated to campaigns, did
    so; countless people became political as never before. That is, if nothing
    else, a vast aquifer of passion now stored up to feed the river of change.
    New networks and communities and websites and listserves and jail
    solidarity groups and coalitions arose.

    *In the name of the so-called war on terror, which seems to inculcate
    terror at home and enact it abroad, we have been encouraged to fear
    our neighbors, each other, strangers, (particularly middle-eastern, Arab,
    and Moslem people), to spy on them, to lock ourselves up, to privatize
    ourselves. By living out our hope and resistance in public together with
    strangers of all kinds, we overcame this catechism of fear, we trusted
    each other; we forged a community that bridged all differences among
    the peace loving as we demonstrated our commitment to the people of
    Iraq.

    *We achieved a global movement without leaders. There were many
    brilliant spokespeople, theorists and organizers, but when your fate rests
    on your leader, you are only as strong, as incorruptible, and as creative
    as he - or, occasionally, she - is. What could be more democratic than
    millions of people who, via the grapevine, the Internet, and various
    groups from churches to unions to direct-action affinity groups, can
    organize themselves? Of course leaderless actions and movements have
    been organized for the past couple of decades, but never on such a
    grand scale. The African writer Laurens Van Der Post once said that no
    great new leaders were emerging because it was time for us to cease to
    be followers. Perhaps we have.

    *We succeeded in doing what the anti-Vietnam War movement
    infamously failed to do: to refuse the dichotomies. We were able to
    oppose a war on Iraq without endorsing Saddam Hussein. We were
    able to oppose a war with compassion for the troops who fought it.
    Most of us did not fall into the traps that our foreign policy so often does
    and that earlier generations of radicals did: the ones in which our
    enemy's enemy is our friend, in which the opponent of an evil must be
    good, in which a nation and its figurehead, a general and his troops,
    become indistinguishable. We were not against the US and for Iraq; we
    were against the war, and many of us were against all war, all weapons
    of mass destruction - even ours - and all violence, everywhere. We are
    not just an antiwar movement. We are a peace movement.

    *Questions the peace and anti-globalization movements have raised are
    now mainstream, though no mainstream source will say why, or perhaps
    even knows why. Activists targeted Bechtel, Halliburton, Chevron and
    Lockheed Martin, among others, as war profiteers with ties to the Bush
    administration. The actions worked not by shutting the places down in
    any significant way but by making their operations a public question.
    Direct action seldom works directly, but now the media scrutinizes those
    corporations as never before. Representative Henry Waxman publicly
    questioned Halliburton's ties to terrorist states the other day, and the
    media is closely questioning the administration's closed-door decision to
    award Halliburton, the company vice-president Cheney headed until he
    took office, a $7 billion contract to administer Iraqi oil. These are
    breakthroughs.

    The Angel of Alternate History

    American history is dialectical. What is best about it is called forth by
    what is worst. The abolitionists and the underground railroad, the
    feminist movement and the civil rights movement, the environmental and
    human rights movements were all called into being by threats and
    atrocities. There's plenty of what's worst afoot nowadays. But we need
    a progressive activism that is not one of reaction but of initiation, one in
    which people of good will everywhere set the agenda. We need to
    extend the passion the war brought forth into preventing the next one,
    and toward addressing all the forms of violence besides bombs. We
    need a movement that doesn't just respond to the evils of the present but
    calls forth the possibilities of the future. We need a revolution of hope.
    And for that we need to understand how change works and how to
    count our victories.

    While serving on the board of Citizen Alert, a Nevada nonprofit
    environmental and antinuclear group, I once wrote a fundraising letter
    modeled after "It's a Wonderful Life." Frank Capra's movie is a model
    for radical history, because what the angel Clarence shows the suicidal
    George Bailey is what the town would look like if he hadn't done his
    best for his neighbors. This angel of alternate history shows not what
    happened but what didn't, and that's what's hardest to weigh. Citizen
    Alert's victories were largely those of what hadn't happened to the air,
    the water, the land, and the people of Nevada. And the history of what
    the larger movements have achieved is largely one of careers
    undestroyed, ideas uncensored, violence and intimidation uncommitted,
    injustices unperpetrated, rivers unpoisoned and undammed, bombs
    undropped, radiation unleaked, poisons unsprayed, wildernesses
    unviolated, countryside undeveloped, resources unextracted, species
    unexterminated.

    I was born during the summer the Berlin Wall went up, into a country in
    which there weren't even words, let alone redress, for many of the
    practices that kept women and people of color from free and equal
    citizenship, in which homosexuality was diagnosed as a disease and
    treated as a crime, in which the ecosystem was hardly even a concept,
    in which extinction and pollution were issues only a tiny minority heeded,
    in which "better living through chemistry" didn't yet sound like black
    humor, in which the US and USSR were on hair-trigger alert for a
    nuclear Armageddon, in which most of the big questions about the
    culture had yet to be asked. It was a world with more rainforest, more
    wild habitat, more ozone layer, and more species; but few were
    defending those things then. An ecological imagination was born and
    became part of the common culture only in the past few decades, as did
    a broader and deeper understanding of human diversity and human
    rights.

    The world gets worse. It also gets better. And the future stays dark.

    Nobody knows the consequences of their actions, and history is full of
    small acts that changed the world in surprising ways. I was one of
    thousands of activists at the Nevada Test Site in the late 1980s, an
    important, forgotten history still unfolding out there where the US and
    UK have exploded more than a thousand nuclear bombs, with
    disastrous effects on the environment and human health, (and where the
    Bush Administration would like to resume testing, thereby sabotaging
    the unratified Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty). We didn't shut down
    our test site, but our acts inspired the Kazakh poet Olzhas Suleimenov,
    on February 27, 1989, to read a manifesto instead of poetry on live
    Kazakh TV - a manifesto demanding a shutdown of the Soviet nuclear
    test site in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, and calling a meeting. Five
    thousand Kazakhs gathered at the Writer's Union the next day and
    formed a movement to shut down the site. They named themselves the
    Nevada-Semipalatinsk Antinuclear Movement.

    The Soviet Test Site was indeed shut down. Suleimenov was the
    catalyst, and though we in Nevada were his inspiration, what gave him
    his platform was his poetry in a country that loved poets. Perhaps
    Suleimenov wrote all his poems so that one day he could stand up in
    front of a TV camera and deliver not a poem but a manifesto. And
    perhaps Arundhati Roy wrote a ravishing novel that catapulted her to
    stardom so that when she stood up to oppose dams and destruction of
    the local for the benefit of the transnational, people would notice. Or
    perhaps these writers opposed the ravaging of the earth so that poetry
    too - poetry in the broadest sense - would survive in the world.

    American poets became an antiwar movement themselves when Sam
    Hamill declined an invitation to Laura Bush's "Poetry and the American
    Voice" symposium shortly after her husband's administration announced
    their "Shock and Awe" plan, and he circulated his letter of outrage. His
    e-mail box filled up, he started PoetsAgainstTheWar.org, to which
    about 11,000 poets have submitted poems to date. Hamill became a
    major spokesperson against the war and his website has become an
    organizing tool for the peace movement.

    Not Left But Forward

    The glum traditional left often seems intent upon finding the cloud around
    every silver lining. This January, when Governor Ryan of Illinois
    overturned a
    •  
  2. 8 Comments

  3. by   Mkue
    quote from article: "we have been encouraged to fear
    our neighbors, each other, strangers, (particularly middle-eastern, Arab, and Moslem people), to spy on them, to lock ourselves up, to privatize ourselves. "

    _______________________________________________

    I don't feel I have been encouraged to fear my neighbors, maybe more intuned to what is happening around my area. I am more concerned with unusual trucks that might be carrying explosives, more intuned to who is wanting flight lessons at our local flying schools. I don't think this writer is speaking for all of us, just those who might be convinced they are encouraged to live in fear. If anything, our Homeland Security has encouraged the American people to go about their daily lives but to be more alert to unusual circumstances.
  4. by   Mkue
    quote from article: "Many people who had never spoken out, never marched in the street, never joined groups, written to politicians, or donated to campaigns, did so; countless people became political as never before."
    ________________________________________________

    I agree with this, I know of many people who have become more active with Human Rights Issues since the Liberation of Iraq.
  5. by   fab4fan
    spacenurse: Where's the rest of the article? I've enjoyed reading what has been posted.

    Orion has some very thoughtful articles; thanks for reminding me of them...I'll have to put them in my "Favorites" section.
  6. by   pickledpepperRN
    I lost the link. Will have to search.

    We have a neighbor who has been disabled for years. He has always been nosey. It is helpful sometimes as he will call to remind people to move their cars on street sweeping day so they don't get a ticket.

    Recently a black man, woman, and three childre walked down our street on a saturday. The man and boys were wearing black suits and hats. The woman and girls wore long skirts, long sleeves, and head scarves. This well meaning neighbor called the police who searched this family on their way to the synagogue! He assumed if they were black and dressed like that they must be Muslims, therefore dangerous.
    They were visiting relatives . They were walking on our side street to admire the flowers, including this neighbors. After making them put their hands on my car for a search and showing ID (US citizens born in Ethiopia) they were allowed to go on their way.
    I've since seen one of the boys on one of those scooters with other kids.

    For this one nice guy at least he has become very afraid. I have seen many on this site afraid for their children. Fear can cause this kind of behavior. In North Los Angeles County more than 600 legal residents, many citizens were jailed over the weekend, not allowed to make a phone call. Families were frantic. This was because of their country of origin. There were NO charges against them. There were apologies.

    I think Americans are more afraid. The Patriot Act taking away constitutional rights just makes it seem there are people so dangerous they can be imprisoned indefinitly without charges, a phone call, or a lawyer. WHY?
    Fear is my theory.
  7. by   pickledpepperRN
    Marie:
    You are clearly an optimist. Not the kind to be unfair to good people.
  8. by   pickledpepperRN
    From the initial article:
    "American history is dialectical. What is best about it is called forth by
    what is worst. The abolitionists and the underground railroad, the
    feminist movement and the civil rights movement, the environmental and
    human rights movements were all called into being by threats and
    atrocities. There's plenty of what's worst afoot nowadays. But we need
    a progressive activism that is not one of reaction but of initiation, one in
    which people of good will everywhere set the agenda. We need to
    extend the passion the war brought forth into preventing the next one,
    and toward addressing all the forms of violence besides bombs. We
    need a movement that doesn't just respond to the evils of the present but
    calls forth the possibilities of the future. We need a revolution of hope. "
  9. by   pickledpepperRN
    Are you concerned? Is it OK with you?
    It will be more informative if you let us know whether you are in a city, small town, or the country.
    http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Con...l=968350060724

    Return of assault weapons feared in U.S.
    1994 ban on semi-automatics lurches toward expiry date
    Issue expected to play pivotal role in presidential election

    TIM HARPER
    WASHINGTON BUREAU

    WASHINGTON--They go by names that suggest power and danger-the "Streetsweeper," the TEC-9, the
    MAK90, the AK-47.

    And that's exactly what these military-style assault weapons bring. The power to kill indiscriminately.

    Now there is fear here that the bullet-spraying semi-automatic weapons are heading back to American streets.

    The gun debate in the United States has moved back to the forefront as a 1994 ban on assault weapons lurches
    toward an expiry date and it promises to become a pivotal issue in the next presidential election.

    U.S. President George W. Bush surprised many when he distanced himself from the powerful National Rifle
    Association during the 2000 campaign, advocating an extension of the assault-weapon ban that ends in September,
    2004.

    But there are signs here that Bush now appears to want to have it both ways, tacitly supporting the extension to court
    suburban support in key states, while doing nothing overtly to stop a move that could see Congress simply avoid a
    vote on the extension and let it die.

    That would be a powerful nod-and-wink to the firearms lobby, which, by some accounts, poured $1.6 million into the
    2000 Bush campaign.

    "Does George W. Bush want to be known as the pro-assault weapon president?" said Joe Sudbay, the public policy
    director of the Washington-based Violence Policy Center.

    "He may be trying to have it both ways now, but it will be pretty clear by Sept. 13, 2004. He either supports the
    extension or he doesn't ... he either extends it or he doesn't."

    The 1994 law made it illegal to import, manufacture, transfer or possess 19 types of semi-automatic weapons,
    although the law was "grandfathered," meaning anyone who legally owned such weapons before that date could retain
    them.

    Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican and House of Representatives majority leader, said last week he didn't believe the
    extension would come to a vote in the Republican-dominated House. DeLay's statement drew a surprising rebuke
    from the Republican Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, showing that the gun ban does not easily cut across
    Republican-Democrat lines in this country.

    While many Democrats are fearful of defeat if they are targeted by the gun lobby in the coming elections, there are
    many Republicans representing so-called "soccer mom" suburban constituencies who could become electoral toast if
    they are seen to be backing a measure which would bring the deadly weapons legally back to the streets of America.

    White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said last week Bush has not had any change of heart from his 2000
    campaign promise. But he offered no explanation as to why Bush has given no presidential muscle to the promise. He
    has not been shy about stumping the country pushing for his tax-cut proposals, but has said nothing publicly about
    assault weapons.

    "The House does everything the president wants," New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said. "He wants
    a dividends tax cut, they do it. He wants one bill or another, they jump. In fact ... they say `how high?' He's got to
    walk the walk (on guns). If the president wants this bill to come to his desk, it will. If the president doesn't, he can
    have his minions whisper to the House, `kill the bill,' and he'll never reach it."

    In 1994, the ban passed the House by a mere two votes, but it has been something less than a rousing success, even
    the anti-gun lobby concedes.

    Many weapons manufacturers simply cosmetically changed the specs on the weapons to circumvent the ban, cynically
    adding "AB" to their model numbers, indicating they were changed "after the ban."

    In 2000, 28,653 died of gunshot wounds in the U.S.; 94 children and teens in Louisiana alone. The gun death rate
    during that year was 10.4 per 100,000 population.

    The Violence Policy Center released a study last week indicating that 41 of 211 law enforcement officers gunned
    down in the line of duty between Jan. 1, 1998, and Dec. 31, 2001-almost one in five-were felled by assault
    weapons.

    During a three-week reign of terror last October, the Washington snipers used a modified Bushmaster assault rifle, an
    XM15 M4 A3. The company's sales have soared since 1994.

    The teens behind the 1999 Columbine massacre used modified TEC-9s.

    "There's not a dime's worth of difference in the performance characteristics between the guns on the banned list and
    the guns not on the banned list," said NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre.

    Anti-gun advocates want an even tougher ban to replace the 1994 law, but, right now, there is little hope in
    Washington the law will be improved. It is more a question of a dogged fight to keep the status quo.

    Bryan Miller of Philadelphia knows something about fight and he doesn't buy the conventional Washington spin.

    Miller joined the advocacy group CeaseFire PA after his brother, an FBI agent, was slain at District of Columbia
    police headquarters in 1994. It was a case of mistaken identity. The gunman, carrying a concealed TEC-9, was
    looking for the head of homicide. Mike Miller was in the "cold case" squad.

    "He went the wrong way ... but somebody was going to die, anyway," Miller said. Since then, Miller has worked
    tirelessly to control guns in his country.

    "These guns are ugly," he said in an interview. "We have tapes of those kids firing away in Columbine. We have
    families of victims and people like me who have lost loved ones to these guns.

    "We have lots of support. And we are just getting started."
  10. by   pickledpepperRN
    Published on Friday, May 23, 2003 by NOW with Bill Moyers
    On Being a Journalist
    by Bill Moyers

    From your letters I know some of you are curious as to why journalists like me keep opening the Pandora's box
    of
    democracy; why we come round and round to what ails America...the bribing of Congress, the desecration of
    the
    environment, corporate tax havens, secrecy, fraud on Wall Street, the arrogance of ideology, the pretensions
    of
    power. Do we delight in the dark side of human experience, you ask? Do we never see good in the world? Or
    was
    Nietzsche right: that the Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad?

    I can only speak for myself, of course. And I confess to thinking of journalism as the social equivalent to a
    medical
    diagnosis. My doctor owes me candor; I pay him for it. Candor could save my life.

    I like to think journalists are paid for candor, too; society needs to know what could kill us, whether it's too
    many lies
    or too much pollution. Napoleon left instructions that he was not to be awakened if the news from the front
    were good;
    with good news, he told his secretary, there is no hurry. But if the news were bad, he said, "rouse me
    instantly, for
    then there is not a moment to be lost." Think of journalism as a kind of early warning system - iceberg spotting
    in the
    choppy waters of democracy.

    But there's another reason for what we do. I'm reminded of it every year at this time, when my thoughts
    about the
    honor and respect we pay to our nation's soldiers on Memorial Day are colored by its proximity to D-Day.

    I was just ten years old when the allies landed on Normandy on June 6, 1944. I couldn't then imagine what it
    must
    have been like on those beaches when our world was up for grabs and men spilled their blood and guts to save
    it. I
    never knew what it was like until fifteen years ago when I accompanied some veterans from Texas who had
    fought at
    Normandy and survived, and were now returning to retrace their steps. Jose Lopez was one of the veterans
    that joined
    me on that journey.

    Lopez said of his experiences as a soldier, "I was really very, very afraid. That I want to scream. I want to cry
    and we
    see other people was laying wounded and screaming and everything and it's nothing you could do. We could
    see
    them groaning in the water and we keep walkin'."

    Jose Lopez went on to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, our nation's highest honor for gallantry in action.
    But
    searching for the place he landed that day, he didn't want to talk about the Medal of Honor. He just wanted
    to be
    alone with his memories.

    Howard Randall took a bullet in his ankle and almost had his leg amputated. His buddy Ed wasn't so lucky.
    (Edward
    J. Myers, First Lieutenant, fought in the 17th Infantry, 76th Division.)

    Randall spoke of his friend Ed during our trip, "He's from the State of Washington, Puyallup, Washington. March
    1,
    1945. That was the same day I was wounded. He was behind me probably a hundred yards, maybe 200 yards.
    And
    he caught a piece of mortar fragment in the stomach, lived until that night. I didn't know he'd died until a
    couple of
    days later."

    Every Memorial Day I think about what these men did and what we owe them. They didn't go through hell so
    Kenny
    Boy Lay could betray his investors and workers at Enron, or for a political system built on legal bribery. It
    wasn't for
    corporate tax havens in Bermuda, or an economic system driven by the law of the jungle, or so a handful of
    media
    buccaneers could turn the public airwaves into private sewers.

    Sure, to paraphase Donald Rumsfeld, freedom makes it possible for people to be crooks, but so does
    communism,
    and fascism, and monarchy. Democracy is about doing better. It's about fairness, justice, human rights, and
    yes, it's
    about equality, too; look it up.

    I was never called on to do what soldiers do; I'll never know if I might have had their courage. But a journalist
    can help
    keep the record straight, on their behalf. They thought democracy was worth fighting for, even dying for. The
    least we
    can do is to help make democracy worthy of them.

    From NOW with Bill Moyers, Friday, May 23 at 9pm on PBS.

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