BEYOND CIVILITY

Michigan Citizen,  January 23-29, 2011

I am writing this on Monday, January 17, 2011,  a national holiday when millions of Americans are celebrating  the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

January 17, 2011 is also the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address warning of the dire consequences of our growing military-industrial complex.  

It is  nine days since the Tucson killings and five days since Obama’s much-applauded  Memorial speech in  Tucson.

So January 17, 2011 offers each and all of us a unique opportunity to grow our souls.*

It is an opportunity to ask ourselves whether the horrific  events of January 8, 2011  would have happened  had we accepted the responsibility years ago to take seriously and act on President Eisenhower’s 1961 warning against the military-industrial complex and/or Dr. King’s  1967 call for a radical revolution of values  against the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism.

 In his 1967 speech King also  said  “a nation that spends more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching  spiritual death.”  In recent years our spiritual death has resulted in mass physical deaths all over the world and at home,  e.g. at Oklahoma  City,  Columbine High School, Virginia Tech,  Fort Hood, the Immigration Center in  Binghamton, N.Y.  Each of these could have been the wakeup call that this one can become.

On this January 17th  we need to ask ourselves whether we should be applauding President Obama’s speech calling for civility and grieving over the death of nine year old  Christine Green when the predator drones of our military-industrial complex are killing Afghan children and families and causing so much grief in Afghanistan. 

Moreover, we are all aware of troubled and borderline individuals like Jared Loefner . In these uncertain and destabilizing times they are everywhere: in our families, in every workplace and neighborhood,  on every campus.

We each need to be asking ourselves.    Is there something I can do and should be doing  to forestall one or more of these individuals losing it,  as Jared Loefner apparently did on  Saturday, January 8?

We don’t have to limit ourselves to grieving for nine year old Christine Green or to calling for civility.   We are not just bystanders. We are citizens responsible for the safety of ourselves and our fellow citizens in these very destabilizing times.

The time has come for each of us to be involved in creating what MLK called a new concept of global citizenship,  based on each one of us accepting the responsibility for the safety of all of us,

             This includes instituting more gun regulations and more mental health awareness and facilities at the local level, instead of leaving it to Washington, D.C. 

            It includes many more of us risking arrest by initiating or joining non-violent demonstrations, like the December 16 demonstration of 131 war veterans and other citizens at the White House, demanding an end to the war in Afghanistan,

It requires more of us recognizing that the Old American Dream is dead and accepting the responsibility for beginning to create, from the ground up, in our neighborhoods, our cities, and our country,  a New American Dream,  based on  caring for each other in beloved communities  living more simply in order that others can simply live,  ending our wars and military occupations around the world.

 All of us, and not only borderline individuals, need this New American Dream. And until the whole world knows that we are creating it in our country, there will be no homeland security for any of us.

The crisis of the Tucson killings is not only a danger but an opportunity for each and all of us to make this great leap forward in our and the world’s humanity.

 We must seize the time!!

                                                *******

*“These are the times to grow our souls” is the title of the first chapter of The Next American,

Revolution:  Sustainable Activism for the 21st Century,  my new book with Scott Kurashige, University of California Press, 2011. You can read this chapter online at .ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520269248

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