We must speak

“And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the year 2013 pulls up stakes and folds up it’s tent flaps, a new year eagerly awaits it’s turn in the wings. If one listens very closely and very quietly, one can almost hear the collective sigh of relief as millions of Muslims exhale in unison. Thank goodness, this year is over. We don’t know how many more drone strikes we can take.” At the same time, citizens around the globe prepare to step into the new year with a nagging thought at the back of their minds, “Hmm, do we have any commodity resources the United States government might want to usurp?” This has been a brutal year for the American peasantry dealing with the widespread effects of austerity but most are not burying their loved ones whose remains are plastered to the butt end of a Hellfire missile. Or listening for the unmistakable buzz of the Reaper drone to know when to bring their children inside. Or wading through sewage in the occupied territories. As Fred Branfman wryly reported, “All told, U.S. Executive Branch leaders – Democrat and Republicans, conservative and liberal—have killed wounded and made homeless well over 20 million human beings in the last 50 years, mostly civilians.” This is a madness that knows no borders, knows no Geneva Conventions and knows no Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If this madness were found in an animal, we would put it down without hesitation. In the interim, foreigners always seem to make the most pliable scapegoats to keep our eyes from the real prize, a society built on cooperation rather than competition.

(Photo credit: Felix Triller)

(Photo credit: Felix Triller)

Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr.’s paradigm-shifting speech at Riverside Church in 1967 could be just as easily delivered from any pulpit in America today. “Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak of the — for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. 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.” Any preachers worth their salt could deftly substitute Vietnam for any number of countries in the crosshairs of American hegemony…Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, et al. When will Bill Gates, lover of African children, speak out against the military intervention/occupation known as AFRICOM? How many more dominoes must fall before the global hunger games end? Clearly, the odds are never in our favor. One can only imagine the horrorshow in store for the dwindling few countries untouched by the American empire. Surely, there must be a few countries left for us to plunder. Heck, even Christmas wasn’t enough to ground the drones in Pakistan.

Solidarity Mural

(Photo credit: Atelier Teee)

History marches on, sometimes in frightening lockstep. Howard Zinn dropped his own version of the historian’s bomb, without flinching, “By the end of the Vietnam war, 7 million tons of bombs had been dropped on Vietnam…almost one 500-pound bomb for every human being in Vietnam.” After all, I’m pretty sure the Pledge of Allegiance my first graders recite every morning concludes something like this,”…with liberty and one quarter-ton bomb for all.” It would appear that Major knew best, “And remember also that in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him. Even when you have conquered him, do not adopt his vices. No animal must ever live in a house, or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money, or engage in trade. All the habits of Man are evil. And, above all, no animal must ever tyrannise over his own kind. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. No animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal.” No doubt, the meek shall eventually inherit the Earth but, in the meantime, it is the duty of the strong to fight for the weak, the powerless and the voiceless. Now is the time to speak up and speak out, now is the time to get up and stand up for our rights. To all of the creative, thoughtful and passionate bloggers I have met this year, I tip my pen (keyboard) to you, it has been a pleasure and a privilege. To those I have yet to meet, here’s to waging peace together in the new year. Peace and solidarity to all readers.

_____________________________________

Mic?...check.

(Photo credit: Chiceaux)

Postscript: I’ve stated before that this blog is not only about sharing my voice but helping others to find the voices that may have been misplaced or set to the side in the day to day of making ends meet in a bug eat bug world. I’ve grown tired of the dominant culture getting to determine whose stories are told and which voices are heard. Every person counts and every voice is needed in the struggle. To this end, I’d like to extend an invitation to any readers who might be interested in participating in the Mic check guest blogger series, be it poetry, commentary or visual art with full credit given to the author/artist. If you’re interest is piqued, feel free to contact me and we’ll go from there.

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56 Responses to We must speak

  1. In today’s news: FAA announces 6 states will begin testing drones over the U.S.

    “Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s THE MAN!”

    Like

  2. Carol Hand says:

    Thank you, Jeff, for another incisive, elegantly argued commentary. And thank you for reaching out to build a network among bloggers who are called to speak out against injustice. Your support has given me the hope to keep writing.

    Like

  3. People who haven’t read it already might be interested in Sven Lindquest’s 2001 A History of Bombing. He rightly equates civilian bombing with genocide and points out that white Europeans have a long history of indiscriminately bombing dark-skinned people: http://www.amazon.com/A-History-Bombing-Sven-Lindqvist/dp/1565848160

    Like

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Maybe it’s time that all white Europeans are banned from owning bombs of any type for a pre-determined amount of time, say 50 years. Kind of like how Japan was forbidden to have a standing army after World War II.

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      • jamborobyn says:

        Maybe it’s time we gave up on weapons altogether, their only purpose being to destroy life. Taking the stance that every human is of value, then what use any weapon?

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      • Jeff Nguyen says:

        The only time I’ve felt the need for a weapon was while hiking or camping in the event of wild animals. Even if I’d encountered a rogue bear or gator (I live in FL), a drone or bombing sortie probably would be a bit overkill.

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  4. If you’re gonna wait for Bill Gates to be against anything but Apple, well, you better get comfortable. I even question his reasons for being in Afrika when children in America are only a few step above 3rd and 4th world children. And if you have that kinda money do you really need to be in country?

    I almost forgot about the heart of this piece so please forgive me.

    I’ve heard some fool not long ago say (and I can’t remember which fool it was) that MLK would be down with the bombing of Afghanistan, Iraq, and several Afrikan countries. And Just leave you with that.

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    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Don’t get me started on Bill Gates, the modern day robber baron. The same Gates who is funding the full court press on public education that serves as one of the few (for all of it’s faults) paths to economic upward mobility.

      I recalled your suggestion for bloggers to write on the good and had the best of intentions with this piece but got sidetracked when I read Zinn’s chapter on Vietnam. I don’t even want to know who made the comment about Dr. King…best to you in the new year and what’s left of the old.

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  5. It’s getting very dark…but it is written it’s always darkest before the dawn.
    Something’s got to give?
    I tip my keyboard right back at ya Jeff!
    Thanks for being you and doing what you do.

    Like

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Even if I don’t always convey it as well as I should, I do have hope. The levees will collapse one day and every drop of water will contribute to it’s fall. Who knows which single drop of water will be the one to bring it all crashing down.

      This year alone many brave men and women have exposed the cracks in the dam…Chelsea Manning, Lynne Stewart, Chris Hedges, Glen Ford, Margaret Flowers, just to name a few.

      Best to you, PV, in the new year.

      Like

  6. Anonymous says:

    Inspirational post!

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  7. cthebean says:

    peace, solidarity…and keep writing.

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  8. Glad Carol H. found you too. Let us continue to envision and verbalize the world we want to create, with our strongest intentions for the Greatest Good of All Sentient Beings. So be it. Happy New Year.

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  9. Brent Snavely says:

    As an attorney I think that speaking up and out is all very well and good, but that actions speak louder than words — perhaps I’ll wind up in jail during the upcoming new year…

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    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      As a non-attorney, my rebuttal would be that speaking up and speaking out are demonstrable “actions”. You as a lawyer know the significance of words in crafting and deconstructing law. All of the readers I’ve interacted with through this blog and their respective blogs, walk the walk everyday in one form or another.

      Another clarification…I take the weight of my words very seriously and do not want to see anyone go to jail because of them. That being said, the state has let us know in no uncertain terms that there may be consequences for our words and actions, which is a consideration we all must contend with at this time.

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      • Your words merely caused me to recall that, while growing up back in the ’60s, a great deal of “racial” violence was being depicted in the evening news. I doubt MLK would have had either a platform upon which to write a letter from Birmingham certain jail or a podium from which to address a crowd at the Mirror Pond had he not taken overt action at great risk to himself. I think that our intellectual safety and comfort sometimes enables us to avoid the discomfort we might experience if we took into account what was actually occurring when those words were first put forward…

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  10. Inspiring, as always. I think that encouraging people to speak means an eventual shift in consciousness, or at least a wider perspective. Keep going!

    Like

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      The process of finding one’s voice for some is a painful but enlightening one. Once we realize that we no longer need to seek validation from our captors, in whatever form they may take, a freedom is birthed. The more voices heard from, the wider and deeper the discourse. Best to you, Nicci.

      Like

  11. weavergrace says:

    Another thoroughly documented post with poignant images. Thank you, Jeff, for all the findings that you share, and all that your keyboard produces.

    The Pledge of Allegiance has become hard for me to say. I don’t pledge my allegiance to the flag that so many people waved after 9/11. I do not pledge my allegiance to the one nation under the gods that too many people promote. I pledge my allegiance to my values and the world that I want, which include liberty and justice for all around the entire globe.

    Since “there is strength in numbers”, and we are apparently the mob, I, too, feel responsible as one of the “strong to fight for the weak, the powerless and the voiceless”. I raise my mug of tea as a toast to the drop of water that collapses the levy!

    Jeff, meeting you this year is a privilege and pleasure, and one of the highlights of my year.

    By the way, Robert A. Vella, thanks for the heads up. My spot of the world (northern NY) is one of the places that put in a bid for the FAA drone test site, in partnership with Boston, Mass (think Boston Bombers, and Boston’s plan to add drones to their crime- and terrorism-fighting strategies). The FAA bid included testing drones over the Adirondack Park Forest Preserve, because someone getting hurt by a falling drone there is so unlikely. We “won” the contract. Another opportunity to speak out; if it wasn’t here, it would be somewhere else, and I would have less credibility. I hope that being a local resident adds to my credibility in the local newspaper Letters to the Editor.

    Happy New Year to all!

    Like

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Grace, it’s always good to hear from you. I’m glad I came across your blog as well and appreciate the intelligence and insights you bring to the blogging table. We’ve all got to keep on keepin’ on. Best to you in the new year.

      Like

  12. Thank you Jeff for another terrific and thoughtful post-wishing you a most abundant 2014-and I look forward to hearing more from you and others who share in this forum-

    Like

  13. wolfess says:

    I consider myself lucky to have met you Jeff, and will continue to enjoy your own unique way of looking at life — Happy New Year to you Jeff. To 2014, the Year of the Peon!

    Like

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      The feeling is mutual, Wolfess. Power to the powerful peons!

      Like

      • wolfess says:

        “Power to the powerful peons” — and may we all realize that we have the ability to exert that power in myriad ways … what you are doing, both as a blogger AND a teacher, is powerful. Know that there are many of us that consider ourselves better for knowing you! To the many powerful peons in this country!

        Like

  14. “. . . it is the duty of the strong to fight for the weak, the powerless and the voiceless. Now is the time to speak up and speak out, now is the time to get up and stand up for our rights.”

    First and foremost, thank you Jeff. You are an inspiration.

    Secondly, I must speak for the weak and powerless and the voiceless.

    Why must every peace talk fall short? Great and intelligent people speak of peace, of the greater good and have high aspirations for mankind. Few ever really mean it, or their talks fall short in including all or the real greater good. For why do they never consider beyond their own species?

    We live on a planet that is shared with us by a greater species. The animals. They know no violence, deception, corruption, or dishonesty of any sort. They live in harmony with and among themselves, keeping perfect (if left alone) balances in nature and evolution. Yet all our talks of peace never include them. We cannot, collectively, accept them as our equals, yet they behave superiorly. We view them as nothing more than yet another resource.

    There will never, nor do we deserve peace as long as we exclude them in our peace talks and efforts. I cannot get past this simple premise of how we can have peace while committing acts of violence against any creature? How can we sincerely and wholeheartedly talk peace when we sit down and eat the flesh of tortured animals? How?

    Happy New Year and peace to you Jeff.

    Like

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      Well stated and persuasive, Peter. The current factory model and over commoditization of the food supply is unsustainable. I agree with you that the way we treat animals is reflective of our startling disconnect from the planet that sustains us all.

      Curious about your thoughts on viable alternatives to the current system? Especially for those not ready to go vegetarian. Come to think of it, that would make a great topic for the mic check guest blogger series. ;-)

      Best to you in the new year and my apologies if I misinterpreted your comments in any way.

      Like

      • Thank you for understanding, Jeff.

        To my reasoning there is no other viable alternative other than the vegan option. Many reasons I say this, but in an effort not to highjack your post, I’ll just say that what separates vegans from vegetarians is dairy. And the dairy industry is perhaps the cruelest of all animal agriculture.

        I do agree that the topic would make an excellent mic check but it would have to be by someone more articulate and collected in thoughts than I (if this is in anyway an invitation. Sorry if I miss read you. ;-)).

        You might find it interesting, as vegans like to point out, that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today he might well be a vegan, based on his support of non-violence. It is reported that his late wife Coretta King and his son both became vegan.

        http://www.veganmainstream.com/2012/01/16/martin-luther-king-jr-and-vegans-engines-for-change/

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coretta_Scott_King

        Like

      • Jeff Nguyen says:

        My wife tries to buy only grass fed, free range meat and organic veggies but that means trusting labels often. There are some markets where I live that specialize in locally grown, organic foods but not a lot.

        Yes, you read me right…it’s an open invitation if you’re ever interested. No pressure, though.

        Like

      • That’s the way it starts, and you and your wife are to be commended for your kinder and thoughtful ways.

        I will think on your offer.

        Peace.

        Like

  15. Jeff, keep up the great work. My good friend Marc Joffe had an excellent article published in the Manchester Guardian yesterday that I think you would like:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/02/congress-iran-sanctions-sabotage-agreement?commentpage=1

    Like

  16. Jeff Nguyen says:

    Interesting article…only in the world of myths and fairy tales could the U.S. be considered to be bargaining in anything resembling good faith when it comes to Iran. Sanctions are the western powers’ typical modus operandi for lobbing economic projectiles into the civilian populations in hopes of destabilizing and dividing the people from their rulers. Who can blame Tehran if it wants nuclear capabilities. It’s one of the only real deterrents to invasion/occupation by the coalition of the willing to kick ass and take profits.

    Best to you in the new year, Malcolm.

    Like

  17. Hi Jeff – Thanks for stopping by and “liking” my poem “Masked”. I’ve just recently began writing again, and this poem is a little different, but it just came from a certain place in me. I find your blog interesting and look forward to exploring some more.

    Like

  18. JoAnn Chateau says:

    Reblogged this on Aware & Fair.

    Like

  19. MLK’s Beyond Vietnam speech is, in my view, much more important then the famous I have a Dream. At Riverside Church he spoke Truth to people and power who did NOT want to hear it. He took a lot of flack from supporters and foes alike. He spoke it anyway. I believe it sealed his death warrant and I think he knew it. A year later he was killed. But, he had the courage to talk Truth — and so few do. He absolutely nailed the military industrial complex and the ethical issues.

    http://www.democracynow.org/2007/4/4/beyond_vietnam_40th_anniversary_of_kings

    Hi Jeff.

    Like

    • Yes, I think eventually history will recognize that MLKing, Jr. was a leader for world peace as well as civil rights.

      Like

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      One of the things I admire about Dr. King was the fact that his lens on social justice widened rather than narrowed. That, to me, is the definition of progressive thinking. By expanding the movement beyond discussions of race and equity, important matters in their own right, he laid bare the cruel, naked ambitions of the machine. The power elite have been able to pursue their ruthless agendas by wielding the twin swords of capitalism and militarism with equal dexterity.

      It’s always good to hear from you, white buffalo.

      Like

  20. Jeff, well said. Let us not forget that it was only a few years ago that leaders of the ‘free’ world defended the use of torture (water boarding) as a matter of necessity. Quoting George Orwell in your post is very apt.

    Like

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      While our current leaders continue down the same path using every option at their disposal both legal and extrajudicial. Some days Malcolm, it’s embarrassing to be one of those non-animals.

      Like

  21. sepultura13 says:

    The war on the environment continues as well…the chemical spill in the state of West Virginia is practically being shrugged off, while an article in Al-Jazeera is talking about PM Cameron’s decision to allow a French company to begin fracking. It’s frightening.

    Like

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      I don’t watch the network news much but I hear that the “scandal” involving New Jersey Governor Christie is the talk of the town. Guess that beats talking about the fast-tracking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership or solving important problems like how to stop decimating the environment we depend on for our sustenance.

      Like

  22. lexborgia says:

    I always approach your writings with gladness yet with a measure of fear, because they often leave me saddened, feeling helpless and frequently close to tears, as I am now – yes, I have a very soft heart (surprise surprise).

    Like

    • Jeff Nguyen says:

      I’m not surprised to hear about your soft heart, I’m more concerned about the helpless feelings. In the midst of so much trouble in the world, we still hold the collective power (I hope). Now, back to the bridge, my friend…

      Like

  23. larryjben says:

    Reblogged this on randomthoughts and commented:
    This is a thoughtful blog and shares many good opinions, take the time to read it, you will be glad you did so.

    Like

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