Do you hear the people sing?
Do you hear the people sing,
Singing the songs of angry men,
It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.
When the beating of your heart matches the beating of the drums,
There is a life about to dawn when tomorrow comes.
With these lines the freedom fighters in the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's take up their arms to fight. They are a people who have suffered too much, had far more wrongs hoisted on their shoulders than their backs can take; with this rallying cry they struggle for justice and righteousness.
Here in America we are currently engaged in a struggle divided by those same battle lines; but our battle will come to head not on the crude but heroic barricade hastily wrought on a Paris street, it will be fought in curtain covered cloisters where we will strike blows of glorious Democracy.
And as we stoke the forge of Liberty, we have our own battle cry; it is a song deeply rooted in the song America, sung again during the Revolution in France. It is a prayer for change, a chant of liberte, fraternite, egalite, of Freedom equality and brotherhood.
It is the song of the Abu Ghraib prison, of torture, and of broken laws and false accountability.
It is the song of lies, of avarice and greed, of leading a country to war; of pride and arrogance and a hardly final end to combat; of doing what may be the right action for thousands of wrong reasons, and in thousands of wrong ways.
And it is the song of outrage at the trade-off spoken of in Franklin's wise words, of trading liberty for false security and receiving neither. It is the song of fury as the event we can never forget is held hostage to ambition we cannot deny; the song of a President who plays on fear and hate and fights for a God that must be unique to him alone.
It is a song being sung more and more by those on the left and on the right, a bubbling and broiling anger simmered over a fire of economics and stoked by the bellows of outrage at an America who believes God is on it's side while playing a game of might makes right.
It is a song of change in the fall, a song of hope and righteous anger, and a song finally being sung that cannot be ignored.
The question Mr. Bush is: Can you hear the people sing?
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Dulce et Decorum est…
A very wise man once told me that his litmus test for whether or not a war was truly and inevitable necessary was thus: Whether or not he would want to send his children to fight in the war. Being a loving parent, this is a hard test to pass indeed.
This is how we must look at the War in Iraq; with the critical eye of someone who may be sending their most precious people off to die. When the Congress of the United States of America voted to give President George W. Bush the authority to wage war in Iraq, only one Congressman had a child in the Military. Sexual discrimination in the military aside, no Alex or Vanessa Kerry’s were shipped out to fight on the front lines; Jenna Bush is not encamped in Falujah or in a Baghdad Shiyite ghetto, wondering if Al-Sadr is going to get her killed.
But there are a great many young men and women serving in Falujah, and in the Baghdad ghettoes. There are a great many sons and daughters who are putting their lives on the line for a war they may or may not have supported.
We have always made heroes of our military—there is a reason G.I. Joe is still around—but do so without looking at the real reasons for the fighting they do. Our children fight the War on Terror, and our children die fighting it. When they do, we hang our heads and pray for them.
But when we are done praying for them we give speeches; our leaders tell us that they fight for Freedom, and they fight for our Safety, and that they give their lives in the service of something greater. It is an old tune with new words: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
The line, which literally means “It is sweet and right to die for your country,” is most famously used in the Wilfred Owen poem Dulce et Decorum est. The poem speaks of lies used to bring children in to War, to recruit for the army.
“If in some smothering dream you too could pace
Behind the wagon we flung him in
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin…
…My friend you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.”
If we were on the front lines of the War on Terror, if we were bent double like old beggars in a bunker waiting for a 15 year old with a Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher to come looking for us; if we lived in fear of the bullet that would do us in, of the boy our own age with an AK-47 with murder in his eyes, would we say the things we do?
If every day we lived in fear of another new militia army attacking our post, if we fought day by day against the people we had come to save, would we tell our children Dulce et Decorum est?
How can a Congress vote to go to war when only one man of hundreds has a child with a stake in the game?
And how can we, as Americans, sit by and watch our children and our friends die? With the election coming, with a chance to change and bring our family’s home, can we truly sit by and do nothing.
America, ask yourselves…is it truly Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori?