“Time To Break Silence”

Let me preface this post by saying that I strongly support the gay rights movement and applaud their effective and aggressive activism. Their willingness to confront issues, organize, passionately advocate their rights, and engage in activism to move a political agenda is inspiring and should serve as a model for other communities. The recent Trenton demonstration and lobby effort is impressive and truly inspiring.

But, I am deeply troubled about our current politics and priorities.

On Tuesday of this week, we all know that President Obama announced the escalation of the Afghanistan war.

Outraged by this decision, I felt compelled to act. Old enough to remember that US campuses erupted in protest in the wake of Nixon’s escalation of the Vietnam war, and hoping for some kind of similar spontaneous outpouring of concern, I went to the belly of the beast, West Point.

But apparently only 275 or so of my fellow citizens felt so moved and joined a candlelight vigil and protest there. There must be 10 million people  within a reasonable driving distance of West Point, so that small of a turnout is an indication of something deeply wrong in our politics. http://www.lohud.com/article/2…

The next evening, I joined an even smaller candlelight vigil in Princeton. Although it was raining and cold, I would guess there were only about 30 people or so. Where were the Princeton students? Where was Dr. Cornel West and other prominent Princeton faculty? Where was the clergy and progressive communities of faith and goodwill?  http://www.nj.com/mercer/index…

So, in the wake of these disappointments, the huge 700+ turnout to Trenton to advocate for marriage equality led me to think of Dr. King’s famous 1967 speech, where he came out against the Vietnam War and joined a burgeoning anti-war movement.

Many in the civil rights movement opposed King’s linking of the war with domestic issues and civil rights:

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.


So, I ask, is it time yet to break silence?

Where is the anti-war movement?

Why can progressive communities turn out 700+ people to lobby Trenton for marriage equality,  but virtually none to oppose an immoral and unjust war?

Comments (10)

  1. Winston Smith (Post author)

    I was in Trenton on Monday at the Senate Environment Committee. Arriving at the hearing room, I came upon a disturbing scene. Equality supporters had arrived early and filled the room. Apparently upset by this, outside, in the hallway, I came upon a lobbyist for fishermen who was urging a priest to get his people out of the room. You see, this lobbyists had planned to pack the room with his selfish fishermen opposing a small fishing license fee. At any rate, I know this fellow, and found his apparent hectoring of the priest and activists TOTALLY inappropriate, so I called him out on it. We damn near came to blows because he is a bully and macho man, and I don’t get intimidated. I was going to diary on this topic alone, but thought it wouldn’t be productive. However, I’d like to know of the priest or the organizers that were involved in this exchange to get their views. If by chance they read this, they can contact me at bill_wolfe@comcast.net  

  2. Winston Smith (Post author)

    I was in Trenton on Thursday (the day of the equality protest), not Monday!

  3. Hopeful

    …and I mean with the implication that activists are not prioritizing well.

    This turnout on marriage reflects the fact that a vote will occur next week on an issue very important to some people. Furthermore, we know that it is the only chance to pass such a law for at least four years, maybe eight, or more. So activism is well motivated and will have a demonstrable effect by the end of the month. And the tradition of gay acticism has had many effects in recent decades. If anything, the activism this week is more akin to popular lobbying.

    People have stood outside, in the cold, in the Sun, in the rain, for anti-war vigils for almost a decade now. (I live in a town of 3000 people and there have been many vigils with dozens of people.) There are sadly not a lot of results to show for it, but surely we will continue to see events.

    (Let’s not re-fight Vietnam, after all I wasn’t around to live it.)

    (Dr. West is promoting his new ghostwritten book. Just joking, just joking.)

  4. Bertin Lefkovic

    If we want to approach foreign policy with the premise that all wars are immoral and unjust, that’s fine.  This premise may or may not be correct, but it is as reasonable a premise as any.

    However, if we do not want to approach foreign policy this way, I don’t think that it is fair to characterize what the Obama administration is doing with regards to Afghanistan as a moral and unjust war.  It may not necessarily be the correct policy for Afghanistan or the United States, but if nothing else, it appears to be well-meaning.

    For eight years, the Bush Administration did irreparable damage to Afghanistan and Iraq and left these and the Middle East as a whole if not the entire world much less safe and secure than it was before.

    I think that it is reasonable for the Obama administration to believe that we need to eventually leave these countries, but before we do, some effort must be made to repair the damage that has been done over the last eight years.  This may not necessarily be the correct decision, but I believe that President Obama’s heart is in the right place.

  5. Winston Smith (Post author)

    US troops, bombing, and unmannned CIA drones are killing innocent civilians and assassinating suspects without any due process.

    As someone recently said, this is not a war, it is a slaughter.

    Obama just bought Bush’s war. He did not pledge to leave (end the war) and increasing troops is further destabilizing the region, fueling the insurgency, and creating more recruits to radical terror groups.

    This all is immoral to me.

  6. carolh

    has better information than I do about Afghanistan, I was not about to protest what I didn’t know anything about. I wanted to hear what the President had to say after examining all his options. I am a progressive who wants to understand something before I try to pretend I was part of the 60’s counterculture when I was born a generation too late.  I am not a “Knee-jerk” liberal.  

    Let the President make his case about Afghanistan.  That’s his job, and Congress’s job to fund it – or not.  Do most of the protestors even understand what they are protesting? I thought Obama made an excellent case the other night.  

    Just because I care about my LGBT friends and know that ME is the right thing to do, and I don’t have enough information about Afghanistan to have made up my mind about it, doesn’t mean I have my priorities screwed up.  

    Lets have our NJ State Legislators do what they can do here in NJ.  On THEIR plates right now – this week is ME.  The Afghan war has been going on 8 years, do you think it will go to hell in a handbasket further if our NJ state legislators worry about the civil rights of folks standing next to you right here, and let our WASHINGTON elected officials deal with the war, which is, um, kind of their job?  

    Federal folks deal with matters of war, Trenton deals with domestic issues.

    We can’t stop the war instantly, but we can give our LGBT friends Equality.  Telling folks they shouldn’t have gone to Trenton because they could have gone to West Point and protested with YOU is divisive and frankly, really, really annoying.

  7. Rosi Efthim

    Hopeful’s right. The timeline on marriage is a short ramp-up now – 4 days. Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, full Senate Thursday. Or wait 4-8 years.

    I don’t trust the President’s judgment on this war – at all. We’ve been in Afghanistan the better part of a decade and spent money we do not have to do it. But almost everybody I know is 24-hours/day on marriage.

    For me, this will have to wait.  

  8. Winston Smith (Post author)

    you misconstrue what I wrote.

    I didn’t say activists should no got to Trenton and instead go to West Point.

    I said the fact that onlyt 275 people went to WP adn over 700 went to Trenton illustrated a serious problem with out politics.

    In terms of what the President may know, well first of all, you are hopelessly naive. IF Stone said “all governments lie”, adn that applies to Mr. Obama as well.

    You see, I am a boomer, adn am old enough tpo have lived through 50 years of government lies, particualrly about war (asn you are old enough to recall WMD, no?).

    In terms of the ad hominem attack about being a “knee jerk liberal” and “divisive”, well that not only illustrates naivete, but ignorance of history. I posted Dr. King’s speech as an example of building coaltion between civil rights adn anti-war movements.

    Obviously, as you lack that knowledge and experience, you didn’t get the primary thrust of my post.

    But yes, knee jerk, ignorant, ad hominem criticism is truly annoying!

    My apologies for not playing by the sandbox’s rules of decorum.



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