In the days of my youth social struggle was our calling. There were many movements working for change, and some people within those groups called for violence. It was hardly surprising since the cruelty and viciousness directed toward the vulnerable, the disenfranchised and the socially unacceptable were pronounced, institutionalized and even codified by organized religion. People of color, women, children, the disadvantaged and disaffected were in point of fact the property of – Emancipation Proclamation notwithstanding – the white-male establishment. That stratum of society itself was ranked by hierarchical privilege into the moneyed and powerful at the top and those who, along with the marginalized just mentioned, earned that money and surrendered that power falling far to the bottom.
Into the maelstrom came a visionary capable of seeing clearly past the here and now into the possible. Dr. Martin Luther King believed that only nonviolence can achieve honorable, real and permanent change, as did his mentor Gandhi. I suppose to some it felt and even now can feel absurd to suggest peace when children are being shot down by militarized cops and idiots like Rudy Giuliani, still clinging to the forlorn hope of living in the White House, persist in playing race against race, cop against civilian, Obama against everybody.
Nonetheless, Dr. King and Gandhi were unequivocally right. I say this even now as we watch the dream of the former rolled backward by a politicized Supreme Court and rabid, racist statehouses all over the country. By way of demonstration I suggest reflection upon the fact that had anyone told the greatest colonial power in history in the middle of the 19th Century that her Empire in India would be brought to its knees by a robe-draped, Hindu scholar with poor eyesight, mighty England would have laughed in their face. Still in all, that is exactly what happened.
On the other hand, even in the warm light of love the cold shadow of violence lingers; and the oppressed have risen up with rocks, spears, arrows, knives and guns throughout history when they have had enough. From the sacking of the Roman Empire by the Visigoths to the American, French and Russian Revolutions rage has driven the victims of tyranny to war.
Today we see the modernization of Roman brutality; of the divine right and entitlement to exploit held sacred by the many British monarchs; of the opulent decadence enjoyed at the expense of the people by the French Kings, and of the profound indifference to the suffering of generations under the Czars of Russia. One can’t help but see the buffoon Nero, who preferred performing in the theater to the business of state, in Rudy Giuliani posturing in the press; King George III in Jami Dimon’s insistence that the United States Congress be at his beck and call; Louie XVI’s self-indulgence in Wall Street and Czar Nichols’ dearth of care and compassion in Congress.
To me it seems obvious that on the other side of the intense apathy seen in the electorate this past November a mounting fury – growing in the streets as of this writing – will inevitably explode when the American people who failed to participate in the last election realize just what they have let themselves and the rest of us in for with a Republican House and Senate elected by default. The thoughtless unresponsiveness of many to the requirements of citizenship in a free country is, to my way of thinking, as responsible for the rise of government by the minority and by money as are Citizens United, Scalia and the conceited harlots in Congress. A recent study at Princeton and Northeastern Universities would seem to confirm what many of us has long feared. This great democratic republic has deteriorated into a fulminating oligarchy, and we have no one but ourselves to blame in many ways. Accordingly, oligarchies lead to tyranny which is followed by revolution as surely as night follows day.
As Lord Byron said, "History, with all her volumes vast, hath but one page." That page is often written in blood. The only safeguard against revolutionary bloodshed in this country is the franchise. It must be protected, secured and defended on behalf of all the American people. Anyone who isn't prepared to do that is not fit to serve in any area of government - on the bench, in the executive or legislative field. Anyone who is to indolent to vote, even when their very freedom is threatened, deserves neither the safeguard of the franchise nor the dignity of freedom.
It is no longer possible to ignore the monster under the bed or the perpetual children who prefer to sleep therein. Greed and apathy do not a civil society make. Complacency is a velvet cage - softly enfolding those it imprisons as surely as steel bars. We can't all be activists, but we must all participate. We can't all be firebrands, but we must all be alert. It is time to stand up, speak out, hold ourselves upright and defiant before words and peaceful action are no longer enough and out of desperation and wrath we shred our humanity and rip ourselves apart.