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Stand Your Ground
February 2, 2002
by William Rivers Pitt

"This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."

- William Shakespeare

One hundred and forty two years ago, an American President committed the blood and treasure of Americans into battle, determined that the United States would remain united. In the process, he began a long fight to establish for all time the fundamental idea that being of African descent does not make someone less than a citizen with all rights intact. The effort robbed him of his health, much of his sanity, and earned him a bullet in the end. He did not live long enough to see the glorious victory his efforts earned.

Fifty eight years ago, thousands of normal Americans raged across a beach in France. Scores were cut down and shattered by machine gun and artillery fire from cliffs high above them. The waters lapping the shoreline were dyed crimson with the blood of these men, who did not stop moving forward until they seized Germany and ended the Nazi war in Europe.

The people engaged in these conflicts were average Americans of undistinguished background who rose to unparalleled greatness by responding to the demands of crisis, by giving their last full measure of devotion to the dreams that founded this nation. Their sacrifice guaranteed the American dawn that has risen unrestricted day after day for generations.

You are no different from them. You live in a time of war and uncertainty. The freedom of other Americans, as well as the safety of humanity across the planet, stands in the balance. You are an ordinary American caught up in the tide of history, and events seem to be getting beyond you. Who are you to stand against the current?

I will tell you.

You are your father's son or daughter. You are your grandfather's shining light. You are an American at the point of the sword, whether you like it or not. You stand at the fulcrum of destiny, and much is expected of you. Your ancestors are watching, and history will judge you, as it judges us all in the end.

You live in a nation that absorbed a terrible blow in September of 2001. You live on in the wreckage, yet none in authority have deigned to tell you why it happened or who is truly responsible. None have offered opinion as to how it could have been stopped. None dare tell you who has benefited from the bloodshed even as some fellow Americans reap impressive gains from the ashes of the fallen.

Here is what you know: a man who stands as President arrived in the well of Congress on Tuesday to perform his Constitutionally-mandated duty. He spoke in platitudes of the recession you fear, and waxed bellicose about nations far from our shores that stand as threats to our safety. He spoke of a widening war across the planet against formidable enemies, and offered opaque solutions to economic problems close to home.

He laid claim to victory after victory in the undeclared war against those who attacked us in September, yet failed to deliver the whole truth. His purported victory has come with the total absence of Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the attacks. Bin Laden remains alive and free, yet you are told this does not matter.

He promised economic resurrection with nary a detail as to how it will happen, and proffered pleasant-sounding fictions instead of functional policy. The Social Security he promised, the Medicare he offered, the jobs he extolled, the security he purported to represent can not possibly exist in the same universe as the economic/tax plans he has demanded passage of.

This is what you know: The America of today is a terrifying place, filled with shadows and whispers. Speak out of turn, offer an opinion contrary to what has been codified by the media, and you run the risk of being branded a traitor. The America of today is a place where companies like Enron can gut the reliability of Wall Street and the accounting industry, putting on shaky ground the viability of every retirement account in the nation. The America of today apparently can depend only on the good will of politicians who have supped at the willing financial teat of criminal enterprises like Enron for years.

You are the inheritor of a formidable history. Average Americans like you fought and died to hold this nation together. Average Americans like you fought for and won the right of workers to labor in a fair and equitable balance with employers. Average Americans like you survived the Great Depression, World War II, the McCarthy years, the Cold War, Vietnam, Richard Nixon, and countless other challenges daunting to even consider in the light of day.

You are being called again. You must not fear, nor can you surrender to the siren songs of fatigue and apathy. The very soul of this country is at stake.

When next you greet the day, consider the nation you would like to give to your children, and to history. Dare you dream of a nation not permanently embroiled in an international and unilateral war? Dare you imagine a country that stands on economically sound ground? Dare you consider it your sovereign right to speak and act with freedom? Dare you demand to be the inheritor of your American birthright?

You had better. You had better do it tomorrow. So much was lost today as you waited, as you slept. So much was lost yesterday. So much more will be lost tomorrow.

You are an average American of undistinguished background. Yet your blood seethes with the boldness and greatness that has been the hallmark of Americans for four centuries. Your blood wills you to the cause that is just. Your history demands that you stand up and denounce injustice and oppression. Your soul knows that freedom is the very breath of life.

How can you refuse to act?

You cannot.

You are an American, and justice burns in your eyes. Capture your birthright, claim your inheritance, and stride forth into the awful responsibility of history to set right what has gone so terribly wrong.

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