Sunday, March 30, 2014

GRAHAM PARKER AND THE RUMOUR

   1976 was the year Graham Parker happened. And God did we need him. 
   On one side of the scope, the Bicentennial year was the last year the pop charts had such mad diversity mix of future dinosaur groups (Jefferson Starship, Steve Miller, Kiss, Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith, Who, Queen), country-ish (Glen Campbell, Orleans, C.W. McCall), disco (Bee Gees, John Travolta, Silver, KC and the Sunshine Band, Vicki Sue Robinson, Starbuck, Maxine Nightgale, Silver Convention, Walter Murphy and Johnnie Taylor), novelty (Wild Cherry, Bay City Rollers, Rick Dees, Larry Groce), muck by Elton, Wings, Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka, Donnie and Marie, Peter Frampton, Hall & Oates, ELO, George Benson, The Captain & Tennille, Paul Anka, Cliff Richard, Chicago, the Bellamy Brothers, Lou Rawls, and Seals & Crofts), along with some genuinely great tunes from Parliament, David Ruffin, Thin Lizzy, Sweet, War, the Staple Singers, The O'Jays, Rufus, Paul Simon, David Bowie and even the Four Seasons. Clearly, the ratio of shit to shinola was ten to one and even the shinola wasn't all that memorable. 
   Which is why we needed Graham Parker.
   Did you really want to chant along with the Bay City Rollers as they brayed about S-A*T-U-R*D-A-Y*NIGHT? 
   Did you really think the song "Junk Food Junkie" was funny after the first time you heard it?
   Did you really prefer the lukewarm molten sludge whomp of Foghat to its nearest identifiable influence, Chuck Berry?
   Did you really want to wake up in the morning in that year to discover that a song by The Beatles (who had dissolved six years earlier), "Got to Get You Into My Life," had made the Top Forty because of the dearth of existing talent?
   Did you really want to listen to Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show remake Sam Cooke's "Only Sixteen"?
   Of course not! You were not an idiot, even if the A&R men & women and their employees at the radio stations and the Gestapo goon rack jobbers all thought you were! No matter how much money and sweat goes into trying to turn your brain into a turnip and your soul into a cow's heart, real passion and talent wins out in the spirit of the winds of future past, so here sits we all today thinking back upon those far-from-halcyon days of both folk and yore trying to recollect what if anything even remotely non-putrid and anti-fecal remains? Anything at all?
    Well, of course. Rod Stewart released what would be his last good album, Tonight's the Night. Jackson Browne's The Pretender changed a lot of people's ideas of what constituted excellent singer-songwriter material. The Sex Pistols destroyed everything that had come before them with their single "Anarchy in the UK." The Band played their "final" concert on Thanksgiving Day. Bob Seger's mainstream breakthrough album Night Moves at llloooonnnnngggggg last gave the man the credibility he had deserved and been denied. And The Ramones released The Ramones, a fact which changed everything. 
    Graham Parker and the Rumour didn't merely absorb their influences. They recreated Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Van Morrison and threw in an edgy pop sensibility borne directly from pirate radio. Their first album, Howlin' Wind, released in April, sounded to the few ears privileged to hear it like everything its title promised. The pecker-wood ofey scourge of lily-white banality from groups like Queen and Frampton were never going to give the line running from heart to gonads the electric acceleration your average alienated misfit teenager going on forty needs to survive. But Parker shot-blasted down the goddamn door and before the hinges had stopped resisting shuffle-danced in wearing his Soul Shoes while ordering God to stop asking him questions, all with a fans love of Stax-era romance records and a working man's defiance. Even an essentially throwaway tune like "Back to School Days" could insert a lift in one's militancy with lines like:

Don't seem to be a break in the line
Don't seem to be no break boys
They ruined my vision, screwed up my eyes
Tell ya what I'm gonna do boys

Now if I think I might break even
I might go home quietly
I'll marry a rich girl but otherwise
I'm gonna raise hell and rightly.

   More art and consciousness rose from Parker's delivery of those lines than in a year's worth of the friggin Village Voice or NME. parker wasn't culling from headlines. He was making them. Or trying to do so. The public--having been beaten into narcolepsy with the puke-a-thon of mass music--didn't get exposed to guitar and horn bands sharp enough to slice granite. Howlin' Wind failed to chart. 
   A hastily recorded follow-up, Heat Treatment, was met with better commercial reception--barely. With only one weak song on the album ("Black Honey"), it seemed as if Parker and the Rumour could hardly miss. "That's What They All Say" bludgeoned the listener with Dylan-esque sarcasm. "Help Me Shake It" and "Hotel Chambermaid" rocked like Gary Bonds in new tennis shoes. And "Fools Gold" was so damned good it could make statues cry. If an album could be said to emanate with radioactive soul, Heat Treatment was it. With pub rock maestro Brinsley Schwarz on lead guitar and Bob Andrews keyboards, Martin Belmont on rhythm guitar, Andrew Bodnar on bass and Steve Goulding on drums, there was simply no good reason for Graham and the Rumour not to be, if not household names, at least garage heroes. 
    But it was not until 1979's Squeezing Out Sparks that the inevitable happened. A considerably slicker album, Sparks took the group to a level mortals have seldom dared to scale. Parker had always been keen on metaphor, but for the first time songs like "Discovering Japan" worked beyond allegory, becoming extended philosophies on the nature of humanity, while more direct assaults, such as "Passion is No Ordinary Word,"  indicted contemporary mores with the kind of vengeance that had been percolating in Parker for years:

We got new idols for the screen today
Although they make a lot of noises
They got nothing to say.
I try to look amazed but it's an act
The movie might be new
But it's the same soundtrack.

   Most challenging of all was "You Can't Be Too Strong," ostensibly about abortion but ultimately a manifesto regarding the triviality of man's abuse of woman's emotions. A lot of people considered the song to be anti-choice. To my ears, it's more about the responsibility of consequences. Either way, it was clearly Parker and the Rumour's most poignant song to date.
    The Village Voice listed Squeezing Out Sparks as its album of the year. 
   Parker's last album with The Rumour for thirty years was the follow-up, the rather weak The Up Escalator. Despite contributions from Bruce Springsteen and production work from the estimable Jimmy Iovine, few of the growing fan base was favorably impressed. 
    Some of us stuck with Parker through the 1980s and 1990s, through occasionally blissful albums like The Mona Lisa's Sister, Alone in America and Human Soul, while pretending that LPs like Christmas Cracker and Acid Bubblegum had never existed. 
    The real point of Parker's legacy today is not one of trying to recreate the past glories. On the contrary, the point is to open up today's minds to the possibility--every bit as remote and real as it was in 1976--that under a foreign or domestic cake of earth there might just be some gas station attendant looking to break out with something original, something that squeezed out the far from ordinary passion our current malaise requires. 
    While we wait, have a drink on me.
Graham Parker

   
   

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GREEN MONKEYS

In a distant street a distant beat repeats machine gun like
In a forest grows a sweet fruit filled with poison
In a clear blue sky a plane bursts into flames high above us
In an office blind machines burst out data in a rush

Whatever they say, they say
It isn't true what they say
It didn't come from the gays
The blacks, the Haitians or the whores or
Green monkeys, ya ya ya
Or green monkeys.

    --Graham Parker

   Snopes disagrees. The idea that the CIA or Center for Disease Control or Friends of Reagan created Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome in a laboratory is anathema to them. The accepted wisdom remains that AIDS "jumped" from chimpanzees to humans. Our brother monkeys sometimes carry a virus known as simian immunodeficiency syndrome. 
   What Snopes does not bother to mention is that this evidence is based on a total of four chimpanzees, something short of a scientific certainty. In short, the theory holds that humans ate infected chimpanzees, or else ate something that had eaten the apes. What a lot of disease scientists liked about this theory was that it was hard to disprove. Then in 1987, someone found a sick cat. The cat had AIDS. More recently, virologists have identified twenty primates and sub-primates that have AIDS-like viruses. Their conclusion? The illness has existed for a thousand years, yet until recently did not kill its host.
   According to The AIDS Institute, "The earliest known case of infection with HIV-1 in a human was detected in a blood sample collected in 1959 from a man in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. (How he became infected is not known.) Genetic analysis of this blood sample suggested that HIV-1 may have stemmed from a single virus in the late 1940s or early 1950s." 
   Okay, now just because the evidence supporting the green monkey theory is less than impressive, that does not mean that the CIA created HIV in a laboratory. Patricia A. Turner published a good book in 1993 called I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African American Culture, wherein the author systematically demonstrates that black fear of white America is far from unfounded. She further unfurls evidence showing how, as far back as arriving slave ships, speculation turned to rumor and frequently folklore.
   We live in a world where many people have discovered that the CIA has been involved in spreading cocaine usage throughout south central Los Angeles, where the same agency has actively subverted democratically-elected governments, where the same college-boy network has assassinated (and failed to assassinate) what it perceived to be unfriendly leaders. These things actually happened and yet no one in our enlightened age has seen fit to dismantle Central Intelligence. Indeed, their budget is secret even from those in government who routinely approve it. Since it does not make any difference to many in America what the CIA does, then anything we cannot otherwise explain--as long as it fits a preexisting pattern of CIA behavior--can not be dismissed out of hand, especially if the result has been in some way linked to the detriment of people who do not wield much power or people whom the CIA might consider expendable. If Charlie Manson, Richard Speck and Ted Bundy all lived on the same block and a bunch of young women turned up missing or dead, a reasonable populace might be forgiven for suspecting a connection.

This is the third in a series of pieces on modern conspiracy theories, most recently More Popular Conspiracy Theories and Popular Conspiracy Theories.
Patricia A Turner

  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

THE BALLAD OF RICHARD ENGEL

Off the coast of Perth, Australia
with the maties in the brig
Ship captain's dancing sideways
while the sailors roast a pig
Greenpeace to the starboard side
and pirates to the right
I am Richard Engel
reporting on the fight.

Oil prices are outrageous
and the Russians are to blame
All due to a civil war
across the whole Ukraine
My cameraman is phoning in
the footage to New York
It's nine AM in Bangkok
and it's time for my report.

I am Richard (He is Richard)
Not lionhearted (no he isn't)
I just have a job to do.
I am Richard (He's still Richard)
Not the King (no he isn't)
And I won't stop til I'm through.

Al-Qaeda's smuggling armaments
across the Ivory Coast
Still G7 leaders fight about
who it was burned the toast.
My taxi driver spies part time
for the Taliban
But I am Richard Engel
and I'm here to foil his plan.

My laundry's in East Timor
and my lunch in Saigon
My passport's disappearing
and my box of Tums is gone.
But NBC is calling
and my cameraman's in flames
My name is Richard Engel 
and I'm here to share the blame.

I am Richard (He is Richard)
Not lionhearted (No he isn't)
I just have a job to do.
I am Richard (He's still Richard)
Not the King (no he isn't)
And I won't stop til I'm through.

I know more about the arms race
than a thousand diplomats
Most of them are dancing
or else barfing in their hats.
They don't ask my opinion
Cause they wouldn't like the sound
My name is Richard Engel
here to buy another round.

I stay awake til dawn here
Rachel must get my report
My manliness doesn't bother her
because I'm somewhat short.
But I'm as brave as anyone
and soon you will agree
I don't do Fox or CNN
but MSNBC.




In case you're interested, I think Richard is fantastic.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

MORE POPULAR CONSPIRACY THEORIES

   As you may recall from our previous dip into the strangeness of paranoia (delusional and otherwise) in Popular Conspiracy Theories, much of the justification and rationale for belief in things that we probably do not fully understand stems from, among other minutiae, a general anomie and distrust of the sources of our information. People who watch Fox News just know that those lovers of MSNBC are full of shit, just as the lovers of Link TV look with pitying contempt upon the empty souls of Rupert Murdoch's graveyard of misery. And all of them hate CNN, for either being a corporate tool or a propaganda outlet, depending on whom you ask. (Just a few years ago, the department chair where I was teaching made a grand statement about how Wikipedia was not a reliable source for research papers. The website's very popularity and ease of access worked against it, as did the presumably democratic nature of its input. Now, five years later, a reasonable argument can be made that the Wikipedia people are better fact-checkers than some of their more academic counterparts.)
   Epistemology wrinkles the issue of how we know what we know. If we believe the compelling argument of a movie I love, American Hustle, we believe what we want to believe. That feels right to me, but I would take it even farther and say that we believe what reinforces what we want to believe. You distrust people such as LBJ, Nixon, the Pentagon, Hunt Oil and anti-Castro Cubans, it becomes automatic to believe in a conspiracy to snuff John Kennedy. As the frequently brilliant Bill Westbrook used to put it, once you decide a conspiracy exists, any explanation makes a certain amount of sense.   
   None of that means the explanation is necessarily wrong. What does matter is the method one used to come to the conclusion. Starting with the conclusion and working backwards is popular and just as wrongheaded. That JFK was killed as the result of a conspiracy needs to be a conclusion rather than a premise. On the other hand, just as with geometric theorems, sometimes conclusions become premises in other "proofs." The statement "Two lines are parallel if they extend into infinity without intersecting" is first a conclusion and later a given used to prove something else. Based on acoustical evidence, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that President Kennedy was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy. If we proceed from that conclusion as our next "given," then we may postulate that the consequence of that murder was a coup d'etat. If we accept that conclusion, then it logically follows that an overthrow of the government is something that is possible in the modern American political system. But going from there we get into a lot of murk. If you say that the Supreme Court perpetrated a nonviolent coup d'etat in 2000 when it acted to deliver up its decision in Bush v. Gore, I will grant considerable circumstantial evidence supports your argument. The danger in all this is not so much the uncovering of the truth as the inability to distinguish truth from conjecture. God knows we have suffered an overabundance of conjecture posing as critical thinking in the matter of the missing Malaysian 777. 
   All this muddiness makes it occasionally tempting to shrug and walk away from thinking altogether, a temptation reinforced with all the trivia and stupidity available on TV, popular music and internet vapidity. I suspect that the presence of so much muck means we must be even more vigilant in our efforts to figure things out.
   One thing that I have noticed--and it is one of the biggest reasons the epistemology of our present moment is so crucial--is that widespread threat and panic--or the perception of these things--invariably leads to governmental suppression of civil and civic rights and especially of the truth. The benefit to the Iranian hostage takers of fifty-two Americans was a heightened paranoia that undid much of the progressive and secular thinking of the previous twenty years in the United States. The events of September 11, 2001, had even harsher consequences for America, even beyond the 3000 graves that were dug and filled. A dubious election became quickly ratified, along with internal repression of voting rights and the provisions of the ironically titled Patriot Act. 
   Naturally, Americans did not invent this paranoia. The first major instance during the last one hundred years was probably the Reichstag Fire on February 27, 1933. Adolf Hitler had been appointed German Chancellor by President Hindenberg. But the National Socialists Party's grip on the government was far from solid despite the rampant antisemitism and economic disparity in Germany and much of Europe. Though the origins of the fire are still unclear, in a propaganda maneuver, the coalition government (Nazis and the German Nationalist People's Party) blamed the Communists. The Nazi press described the Reichstag fire as the work of the Bolsheviks and a signal for their planned uprising.  Although the Communists had not developed any plans for an uprising, the impact of propaganda and terror on existing fears of a Communist takeover convinced many Germans that Hitler’s decisive action had saved the nation from “Bolshevism.” The Reichstag Fire Decree permitted the regime to arrest and incarcerate political opponents without specific charge, dissolve political organizations, and to suppress publications. It also gave the central government the authority to overrule state and local laws and overthrow state and local governments. 
   A lot of people have speculated that the Nazis themselves were responsible for the fire, knowing they could easily blame the left. However the arson was launched, the Nazis did exploit it. The Reichstag Fire Decree was the document that sealed Germany's fate, as well as that of all of Europe. In that decree lay the foundations of World War II and the extermination of more than six million Jews. 
   When we get together again, we'll wrap up this little diversion into conspiracy theories. Until then, don't believe everything you read.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

POPULAR CONSPIRACY THEORIES

   

   Conspiracy theories proliferate in large part because human beings enjoy explaining things we don't understand by creating myths. How did we explain the existence of fire before we understood it through experience or through science? Prometheus stole it from the gods. The things we believe today through science may--if our species survives--be dismissed by future generations as superstitious silliness. After all, no one has ever seen as atom. We simply infer that they exist because of other shared illusions we accept for the sake of convenient balances. At least the existence of atoms can be supported by what we call the scientific method. And that is something that is not true of many so-called theories that we as people have developed to explain troubling phenomena.
    Another reason for the popularity of these theories is that massive public corruption has tainted the legitimacy of our sources of information, be they textbooks, scholastic journals, internet websites or television news programs. People read or view an event rather than seeing it in front of their own eyes. When governments and businesses that often dominate media are deemed corrupt, people may use their imaginations to fill in gaps. This tendency may even be exploited by the governments, businesses, or media.
    Nevertheless, several theories about bizarre alleged events persist. Perhaps the most persistent events have been the Philadelphia Experiment, the idea that the works of Shakespeare were written by Francis Bacon, the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK, the idea that the Nazis may have burned the Reichstag, HAARP, Atlantis, the suggestion that AIDS was created in a laboratory, CIA drug trafficking, Project Paperclip, Area 51, the Bilderberg Group, and even the true identity of the writer of this website (Phil Mershon).
    The idea of the Philadelphia Experiment is that the USS Eldridge was used on October 28, 1943, as part of a Navy experiment to test Einstein's Unified Field Theory--essentially combining the theory of relativity with electromagnetism. Very much allegedly, the Navy seems to have believed it would be possible to use electromagnetic fields to refract light rays around an object and thereby render that object invisible. Nice work if you can get it. On the date in question, the USS Eldridge is said to have not only become invisible, but in fact to have transported from the Philadelphia Naval Yard to Norfolk, Virginia, where it sat for a spell, before returning to its original location. Funny enough, despite a couple movies and several magazine articles and even books, none of this actually happened. 
    The Baconian theory of Shakespearean authorship annoys me because I very much enjoy Shakespeare's tragedies and become uncomfortable with speculation about his true identity. A very useful analysis of the matter is found on a site called Who Was Shakespeare. After all this time, people presumably knowledgeable in such matters cannot agree as to the exact birth date of William and all those paintings you've admired are presumably nonsensical, which is why no two look alike. I do know this: The controversy has been going on since at least the mid-seventeenth century. I also know that if I'd been Francis Bacon and actually had written Macbeth, I'd have made damn sure everyone knew it. 
    Regarding the assassination of President John Kennedy, anyone who claims to have the single correct solution is probably full of malarkey. However, certain indisputable matters linger: Lee Oswald was never convicted of the crime; Rose Cheramie was thrown from a car in Eugene Louisiana on November 20 1963 (two days before the murder) and while on her way to the local hospital told Patrolman Fruge that she had been disgorged from the car by two gangsters who worked for Jack Ruby and that the men were part of an assassination team whose target was John Kennedy; Lee Oswald gave every indication of working with both the pro and anti-Castro Cuban community; the alleged assassin was murdered on television two days after the murder by Jack Ruby; during the first five years after the murder, many people who espoused alternate theories of the crime died under peculiar circumstances. One of the most trustworthy writings on the subject comes from HSCA member Gaeton Fonzi
   Regarding the assassination of Martin Luther King, I will let the court and jury tell the story:

THE COURT: In answer to the question did Loyd Jowers participate in a conspiracy to do harm to Dr. Martin Luther King, your answer is yes. Do you also find that others, including governmental agencies, were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant? Your answer to that one is also yes. And the total amount of damages you find for the plaintiffs entitled to is one hundred dollars. Is that your verdict?

THE JURY: Yes (In unison).


   I wonder why you have not already heard about this trial's outcome, a trial that reached resolution on December 8, 1999 in a Shelby County, Tennessee courtroom in a case known as Coretta Scott King et al, v. Loyd Jowers. The jury indicated it believed King had been assassinated as the result of a conspiracy involving the United States Government. You can read the trial transcripts.

    What's that? We're out of time? Okay, alright. I'll be back here tomorrow with the details of the rest of our conspiracy theory list. 




Saturday, March 15, 2014

AMELIA FEARED LOST

   
   Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared July 2, 1937, on the pilot's second attempt to circumnavigate the earth. Her airplane lost radio contact shortly after she approached Howland Island.
Amelia Earhart

    On December 15, 1944, jazz musician Glenn Miller was flying from England to France. When his plane attempted to cross the English Channel, it disappeared.

   Five torpedo bombers left from Ft Lauderale, Florida for training exercises in 1945. Radio transmissions indicated that the instructor got lost when compasses malfunctioned. Radio contact was lost before the exact problem was determined. Once they disappeared, the Navy sent a seaplane with thirteen men on board to find them. The seaplane also disappeared in what we now think of as the Bermuda Triangle. 

   On its trip from Guam to the Philippines, Flight 739 of the Flying Tiger Line disappeared in 1962, without so much as a distress. 107 passengers were on board. 

   October 16, 1972: Congressmen Hale Boggs and Nick Begich vanished when their twin-engine plane traveled over a remote section of Alaska.

    In 2003, a Boeing 727 departed from Quatro de Fevereiro on its way to Burkino Faso. The plane disappeared in Luanda, Angola.



Sunday, March 9, 2014

THE BANALITY OF HAPPINESS

   Turner Classic Movies ran a trio of screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky films the other night. The three movies (Marty, Middle of the Night and The Bachelor Party) were fine. Betsy Blair was the fine star of Marty. Indeed, as my long-suffering roommate pointed out, they were all of a type, sort of an analysis of domesticity in the late 1950s. Delbert Mann directed all three and you can certainly make the point that the scenes from each film would have fit well within one another. From one perspective, that makes them formulaic. From another it betrays certain topical obsessions. I think the biggest disappointment a budding film aficionado would have with these three is that compared to the wild changes in film-making going on at the same time in Europe, these feel rather tame. It's lousy being alone. It's no fun getting old. Hanging out with your wife beats getting drunk with your friends. Or, respectively, Ernest Borgnine as a sensitive spouse is more fun than being alone. Watching Kim Novak acting crazy beats getting old. Don Murray was a better actor than Tom Hanks, even if you are getting drunk with your friends. The most memorable aspect of any of these pictures was at the end of Bachelor Party when Caroline Jones gets billed as "The Existentialist." 
   None of this should be taken as to diminish the talent of Paddy Chayefsky. This is, after all, the man who scripted Paint Your Wagon, The Hospital and Altered States--the latter a great script either enhanced or butchered by director Ken Russell (it just depends on who you ask). What these three movies share with their three earlier brethren is (1) they were, at the time of their release, considered quite edgy, (2) they have not aged especially well, and (3) the fact that they have not aged well is not overcome by their artistic merit.
   The exception in Mr. Chayefsky's pantheon is Network (1976). Oh, I will grant you that many of the details of the film--directed by Sidney Lumet--have faded into the ahistoric past, but it's my past so who cares? The sentiment, the thrust, the anticipation of doom is still fresh as the smell of a Brillo pad in the morning. Here's a bit from early in the movie.

10. INT. 4TH FLOOR CORRIDOR - UBS BUILDING - 6:28 P.14. - TUESDAY LOOKING INTO the small network-news make-up room where HOWARD BEALE is standing, Kleenex tucked into his shirt collar, getting a few last whisks from the MAKE-UP LADY. Finished, HOWARD pulls the Kleenex from his collar, takes a last sip from a glass of booze on the make-up shelf, gathers his papers and exits, turns and enters -- 

11. INT. NETWORK NEWS STUDIO - 4TH FLOOR. Typical Newsroom studio -- cameras, cables, wall maps, flats and propping, etc. HOWARD nods, smiles to various PERSONNEL -- CAMERAMEN, ASSISTANT DIRECTORS, ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS -- as he makes his way to his desk facing Camera One. He sits, prepares his papers, looks up to the control room, nods -- MUSIC ABRUPTLY OUT: END OF CREDITS: 

12. INT. CONTROL ROOM - 4th FLOOR The clock wall reads: 6:30. Typical control room. A room-length double bank of television monitors including two color monitor screens, the show monitor and the pre-set monitor. Before this array of TV screens sits the DIRECTOR, flanked on his left by the PRODUCTION ASSISTANT (GIRL) who stop-watches the show, and on his right by the TECHNICAL DIRECTOR who operates a special board of buttons and knobs. (On the TECHNICAL DIRECTOR's right sits the LIGHTING DIRECTOR). At the moment, the show monitor has the network's Washington correspondent, JACK SNOWDEN, doing a follow-up on the attempted assassination of President Ford in San Francisco -- 

SNOWDEN (ON MONITOR) 
-- the first attempt on President Ford's life was eighteen days ago -- and again yesterday in San Francisco -- 

DIRECTOR (murmuring into his mike) 
-- Lou, kick that little thing shut on ground level -- 

SNOWDEN (ON MONITOR) -- In spite of two attempts -- 

The show monitor screen has switched over to show film of President Ford arriving at the San Francisco airport -- 

SNOWDEN (V.O. ON MONITOR) -- 
Mr. Ford says he will not become -- 

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT (murmurs) -- forty seconds -- 

DIRECTOR (murmurs into mike) -- 
twenty seconds to one -- 

DIRECTOR -- one -- 

HOWARD BEALE'S image suddenly flips on-screen -- 

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT 
-- thirty seconds to commercial freeze -- 

DIRECTOR -- head roll -- 

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR -- rolling-- 

The DIRECTOR and TECHNICAL DIRECTOR turn in their seats to join HARRY HUNTER and his SECRETARY in a brief gossip -- 

HOWARD (ON MONITOR) 
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like at this moment to announce that I will be retiring from this program in two weeks' time because of poor ratings -- 

The DIRECTOR has whispered something to HARRY HUNTER'S SECRETARY which occasions sniggers from the SECRETARY and from HARRY HUNTER. The TECHNICAL DIRECTOR stands to get in on the joke -- 

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (to DIRECTOR) 
-- what'd you say? -- 

HOWARD (ON MONITOR) 
-- and since this show was the only thing I had going for me in my life, I have decided to kill myself -- 

HARRY HUNTER'S SECRETARY murmurs something which causes HARRY HUNTER to burst into laughter -- 

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (to the DIRECTOR) 
-- so what'd she say? -- 

HOWARD (ON MONITOR) -- 
I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to blow my brains out right on this program a week from today -- 

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT 
(frowning and very puzzled indeed by this diversion from the script) -- ten seconds to commercial -- 

HOWARD (ON MONITOR) -- 
so tune in next Tuesday. That'll give the public relations people a week to promote the show, and we ought to get a hell of a rating with that, a fifty share easy -- 

A bewildered PRODUCTION ASSISTANT nudges the DIRECTOR, who wheels back to his mike -- 

DIRECTOR (into mike) 
-- and -- 

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT (to the DIRECTOR) 
Listen, did you hear that? -- 

DIRECTOR 
Take VTA. 

The monitor screen erupts into a commercial for cat food. 

AUDIO MAN 
(leaning in from his glassed-in cubicle) What was that about? 

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT (to the DIRECTOR) 
Howard just said he was going to blow his brains out next Tuesday. 

DIRECTOR 
What're you talking about? 

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT 
Didn't you hear him? He just said --

HARRY HUNTER 
What's wrong now? 

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT 
Howard just said he was going to kill himself next Tuesday. 

HARRY HUNTER 
What do you mean Howard just said he was going to kill himself next Tuesday? 

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT 
(nervously riffling through her script) He was supposed to do a tag on Ron Nesson and into commercial -- 

AUDIO MAN 
(from his doorway) He said tune in next Tuesday, I'm going to shoot myself -- 

Everybody's attention is now on the double bank of black-and-white monitor screens showing various parts of the studio, all of which show agitated behavior. Several of the screens show HOWARD at his desk in vehement discussion with a clearly startled FLOOR MANAGER with headset and no less startled ASSOCIATE PRODUCER -- 

DIRECTOR 
(on mike to FLOOR MANAGER) What the hell's going on? 

On the pre-set monitor screen, the FLOOR MANAGER with headset looks up -- 

FLOOR MANAGER (ON SCREEN) 
(voice booming into the control room) I don't know. He just said he was going to blow his brains out -- 

DIRECTOR 
(into mike) What the hell's this all about, Howard? 

HOWARD (ON MONITOR) 
(shouting at the floor PERSONNEL gathering around him) Will you get the hell out of here? We'll be back on air in a couple of seconds! 

DIRECTOR (roaring into the mike) 
What the fuck's going on, Howard? 

HOWARD (ON MONITOR) I can't hear you -- 

DIRECTOR (bawling at the AUDIO MAN) 
Put the studio mike on! 

AUDIO MAN 
We're back on in eleven seconds -- 

SLOCUM (on floor) 
They want to know what the fuck is going on, Howard. 

HOWARD (on monitor) 
I can't hear you. 

DIRECTOR (bawling at the Audio man) 
Put the studio mike on! 

AUDIO MAN 
We're back on in eleven seconds. 

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER 
Harry, I think we better get him off -- 

HARRY HUNTER (roaring at the Audio Man) 
Turn his mike off! 

AUDIO MAN (now back in the control room) 
What the hell's going on? 

HARRY HUNTER (raging) 
Turn the fucking sound off, you stupid son of a bitch! This is going out live! 

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT (stop-watching) 
Three -- two -- one -- 

DIRECTOR 
Take 2 -- 

At which point, the TECHNICAL DIRECTOR pushes a button; the jangling cat food commercial flips off the show monitor to be instantly replaced by a scene of gathering bedlam around HOWARD'S desk. The AUDIO MAN flees in panic back to the cubicle to turn off the audio but not before HARRY HUNTER and the DIRECTOR going out live to 67 affiliates can be heard booming:

HARRY HUNTER 
Chrissakes! Black it out! This is going out live to sixty-seven fucking affiliates ! Shit! 

DIRECTOR 
This is the dumbest thing I ever saw! -- 

13. INT. MAX SCHUMACHER'S OFFICE - FIFTH FLOOR - ROOM 509 
MAX SCHUMACHER, behind his desk staring petrified at his office console on which pandemonium ha broken out. 
The FLOOR MANAGER and the ASSOCIATE PRODUCER and now an ELECTRICIAN are trying to pull HOWARD away from his desk and HOWARD is trying to hit anybody he can with an ineffective right hand haymaker -- 

HOWARD (ON MONITOR) 
Get the fuck away from me! 

OTHER VOICES (ON MONITOR) 
(coming from all directions) -- cut the show! -- -- get him out of there! -- -- go to standby! -- -- for Chrissakes, you stupid -- 

MAX'S PHONE RINGS -- 

MAX (grabs the phone) 
How the hell do I know? -- 
(he hangs up, seizes another phone, barks:) 
Give me the network news control room! 

On the MONITOR SCREEN, hysteria is clearly dominating. The SCREEN has suddenly leaped into a fragment of the just-done cat food COMMERCIAL, then a jarring shot of the bedlam of the studio floor. This particular camera seems unattended as it begins to PAN dementedly back and forth showing the confusion on the studio floor. Then abruptly the SCREEN is filled with Vice President designate Nelson Rockefeller testifying before the Senate Rules Committee -- 

MAX (shouting into phone) 
Black it out! 

The SCREEN abruptly goes into BLACK as MAX slashes his phone back into its cradle. His PHONE promptly RINGS again, but MAX is already headed for the door. The SCREEN goes into STANDBY. His SQUAWK BOX suddenly blares -- 

SQUAWK BOX 
What the hell happened, Max? -- 

MAX (shouting as he exits) How the hell do I know? I'm going down now!

In July 1974, news personality Christine Chubbuck stared into the camera at the local Florida television station where she worked and said, "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living color, you are going to see another first--attempted suicide." Whereupon she put a gun behind her ear and fired.
   Paddy took elements then current and fired them into the near future. A multinational conglomerate owned by Arabs buys up the fourth news network. News becomes entertainment. Opinion replaces content. Blood and guts dominates. A local left wing terrorist organization gets its own prime time show. Faye Dunaway becomes a man. William Holden becomes a woman. And when Howard Beale's ratings drop, the Network has him assassinated on the air. Ned Beatty tells the world that ATT and IBM are countries. Robert Duvall becomes a Republican. 

   It doesn't matter whether you know Angela Davis, Patty Hearst, Squeaky Fromme, Sara Jane Moore or even Gerald Ford. What matters is that you are perceptive enough to realize that what this movie says to the ages is that this movie shows how things are now and at the time it was made things were not yet quite that way. Think of it as watching "Star Trek" in the twenty-fifth century, except the show is well done. 

Burt Lancaster
network

Thursday, March 6, 2014

HOLODOMOR

   The Holocaust We Never Knew
   
   One need not be a visiting scholar of Modern Russian Studies to suspect why Russian President Vladimir Putin has been sniffing around the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine. The twenty-eight nations that comprise the European Union have been utilizing their European Neighborhood Policy as a means of getting the Ukraine to become number twenty-nine. One of the caveats to official membership has been the establishment of "democratic ideals" which the EU has very much found lacking with former (and future) Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The ENP calls for a constant eastern push and the Ukraine already borders with four member states (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania). It was as recent as September 2013 that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin warned Moldovia (which would border Ukraine were it not for a theoretical and strategic stretch of land called Transnistria) not to get too chummy with the country's EU allies. The Russian government appears concerned over the prospects of the European Union destabilizing an already precarious Russian economy.
   As a  primarily economic entity, the EU has seen its relations with Russia under Putin deteriorate proportionately as the girth of NATO likewise encroaches. The same four EU member nations that border the Ukraine are perhaps conveniently likewise members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a community of two North American and twenty-six European countries bound by their agreement to treat an attack against one of their members to be an attack against all of their members. The former USSR has already lost eleven former members of the now defunct Warsaw Pact to NATO. The current Russian equivalent to NATO is the Collective Security Treaty Organization which presently has six members, those being Russia itself, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. 
   As the EU and NATO press east, it is not surprising that President Putin pushes back. 
   You may have noticed that there are four countries in the region which are not members of either NATO or CSTO. Those countries are Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, four countries which make up a group calling itself (and I'm not kidding) GUAM. 
   The Ukraine and Moldova both have very good reason to distrust Russia's recent expedition in Crimea. The seeds of that distrust were first planted in 1932 and 1933 when the USSR under Joseph Stalin purposefully and deliberately starved to death 7.5 million Ukrainians and Moldovians. This act of genocide is known as Holodomor. 
   Because the populations of Russia and Belarus were growing three times the rate of the Ukraine, Stalin ordered an enforced famine whereby food was first rationed and then cut off altogether, while his propagandists told city-dwellers that the peasants were hoarding food and explained to the rural communities that urban centers such as Kiev were the hoarders. Despite Stalin's efforts, not all of the 7.5 million died of starvation. Many died from typhus or malaria, while reports have surfaced that 2,500 people died as the result of cannibalism. 
   How exactly does someone create a forced famine? 
   The Ukrainian farmers of the period--many of them, at any rate--declined to join with the USSR's policy of collective farming. Stalin responded with a form of class warfare that pitted the city folks against the peasants. The police confiscated livestock, grain and land. In 1932, Stalin signed a decree mandating the arrest or execution of anyone in Ukraine caught stealing food from his own work areas. Military blockades were placed around the villages. Food was confiscated. You need food to live. At the height of the famine, 30,000 Ukrainians died every day. 
   In November 2006, the Ukrainian Parliament declared the Holodomor a deliberate act of genocide. The Russian government still denies this, just as Putin denies the presence of soldiers in Crimea. 
   And yet actions do not exist in a vacuum. They can also be somewhat predictable, unless one is a member of the CIA, in which case bets are off. Just as Russia moved against Georgia when there were rumblings about that state joining the EU, so does Russia clamor for retribution and control as Ukrainians rebel against the likes of Yanukovych. Russia wants stability--on its own terms. The nature of any organization--from book clubs to multinationals and from Boy Scouts to nations--is to maintain itself. Of course, that maintenance may require that some people view the organization differently than the organization views itself. In the same way that Stalin thought of himself as a good guy who had to do unpleasant things, so perhaps does Putin view himself as the contemporary model, a "realist" who does what he must to ward off encroachment of the motherland. Understanding the Russian President's probable self image is necessary to any negotiation process. 
Ukraine genocide

Sunday, March 2, 2014

MLK SPEECH: A TIME TO BREAK SILENCE


4 April 1967

Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City
   I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
   The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
   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. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
   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 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.
   In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.
   I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.
   Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.
   Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

   Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
   Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
   My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.
   For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

   Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
   As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?
   Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.
   This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

   And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
   They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.
   Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.
    For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.
   Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.
   After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators -- our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change -- especially in terms of their need for land and peace.
   The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy -- and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Vietnamese --the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go -- primarily women and children and the aged.
  They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
  What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?
   We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force -- the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?
   Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.
   Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front -- that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the north" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
   How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them -- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?
   Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
   So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.
   When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.
    Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.
   At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

   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 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 an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.
   This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:
    "Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."
   If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.
   The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.
   In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
  • End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
  • Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
  • Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
  • Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
  • Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.
  Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

   Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.
   As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
   There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
   In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
   Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.
   I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
   A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
   America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
   This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

   These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."

   A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
   This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:
   Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

   Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."

   We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.
   We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
   Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

   As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.