Terrorism and the Four Freedoms

The following is a speech given by 91 year-old Doris "Granny D" Haddock, who walked across the U.S. in 1999-2000 for campaign finance reform, in Unity, Maine on September 22, 2001.

It is hard to think clearly as we yet rock in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on our cities and our people. But think clearly we must. Politics is a serious business. Not everyone cares to listen when people argue about the policies and practices of our political leaders. Americans would rather be painting their house or going to a good ball game than listening to a speech, and that is not a bad thing. We wouldn't get much done if we just argued politics all the time.

But there is a time for it, and this is that time. Our neighbors and children are being killed in great numbers because Americans are not in control of the American government, and haven't been for some time. And now we are being killed by our own airplanes, just as we were killed in our African embassies in 1998 by our own explosives, which we gave to the Islamic fundamentalists so that they would please kill our then enemies, the Russians.

And four months ago the current Bush administration gave $43 million to the current Taliban Regime so that it would please kill our enemies, the heroin dealers of Afghanistan. Or was it to protect an oil pipeline? That's what we are now learning.

Our subcontracting of death has never done us much good, with Vietnam still the shining example, and with many other examples still bleeding in Central and South America, Africa, and in Southeast Asia.

The Coca-Cola company has been accused of financing the death squads in Columbia that kill union activists among the plantation workers. This so that our Coca-Cola is affordable to us. Wherever our large mining companies extract the value from foreign lands, we have a CIA and a military working to keep any leaders in power who will guarantee us a cheap labor supply and cheap mining products, at the expense of local people and their efforts toward democracy.

This is not who we want to be.

If you ask the common American to describe the America he or she wants us to be, you will hear this: "We are the country that represents freedom, opportunity and fairness. We use our strength to help people around the world. We oppose brutal regimes and work toward world health and justice and democratic participation of all people. The Statue of Liberty is our beacon to the world."

The common American wants the American government to be that -- to be that every day, in every corner of the world.

The common American would never answer: "America is this: We use our powerful military forces, intelligence forces, and our huge financial power to extract from weaker countries what we need for our own, affordable lifestyle in the US. We will support any brutal regime so long as they provide us with the cheap labor and materials we need, and so long as they keep any competing political systems out of the region. We will finance the massacre of peasants and workers, the torture of journalist and clerics, and the rape of nature and the sky itself so that we may live pleasantly today in America."

The common American feels ill at such words. And yet, that is the vision of America that many people in the world carry in their angry hearts. They see their miserable lives and their precious children and land being sacrificed for our luxury. They see our US-made helicopters and jets and guns and rockets suppressing and killing them. Naturally, they celebrate when we are made to suffer.

The disconnection between their perception and ours is profound: Our people are stunned at the idea that we are not universally loved.

In classrooms all over America this week and last, teachers and professors asked their students, "why do you suppose that some people around the world are so angry at us?" Many students no doubt suggested that differences in religion make some people intolerant and fanatically homicidal. What other reason could they have?

In a West Virginia college classroom last week, a friend of mine had something different to say.

"Look at it like this," he said to a classroom filled with honor students who couldn't imagine why America was under attack, except for reasons of religious extremism. "Imagine that West Virginia was a third world country," he said. "We have all this valuable coal, but there is one country, far away, that buys it all. They are the richest nation in the world, and they stay that way by getting our resources cheaply. They use their wealth to buy-off our government officials, and to kill or torture any worker here who tries to organize a union or clean up the government. How mad would we be toward that distant country, and just how innocent would we think its citizens are, who drive around in luxury cars and live in elegant homes and buy the best medicines for their children, and otherwise live a life in sparkling skyscrapers -- a life made affordable by the way they get resources from us? They admire their own democracy, turning a blind eye to what their government and their corporations do abroad."

The classroom was silent. "Well," he said, "that's pretty much what we do all over the world.".

Someone at the back of the room said, "Well, we may not be perfect, but this attack didn't come from Central America or Africa or Southeast Asia, it came from wealthy people from the Mideast, for religious reasons. "

The class soon remembered that the US had supported the brutal regime of the Shah of Iran so to better protect the supply of oil to the US, and that the brutality of the Shah led to the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the camp of violent Islamic fundamentalists, of which Bin Laden was a product. The class was silent again. Then they began to discuss our problem, and they were in a position to come up with real answers.

So must all Americans see America as the world see us, so that we can strive for justice and the peace that comes with justice.

The politics that killed six thousand people in New York last week is the politics of Mideast oil, the politics of the Shah of Iran and our support for him and his torture police -- supported so that we might secure cheap oil and an anti-Communist puppet at any price to the local people and at any price to their democracy. The Shah did not deliver peace or safety, but instead he delivered into the world the Ayatollah Khomeini and the present wave of violent Islamic fundamentalists -- who are no more Islamic in their practices than America's radical right are Christian in their practices. Both radical fringes are beating the war drums and accusing everyone who is not exactly like them of causing last week's horror. George Bush, has declared war on evil. That is a holy war as chilling as the Taliban's call for war on evil.

This is not a time for all good Americans to forget their political differences and rally behind the man in the White House. The man in the White House should apologize for the most serious breach of internal security in the nation's history, not disguise his failure in calls for war. Can he hope that the fiery explosions in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania will be more acceptable to us if they are placed in a larger context of explosions of our own making? I do not rally around that idea. It is "wag the dog" taken to an extreme level, for he is not covering up his failure with a fake war, but with a real one.

He has taken every opportunity to make the world less safe, first in North Korea and then in the Mideast and in Russia and in China. He needs a dangerous world to sell his military vision of the future. He is getting it. We must not go along with him.

The international community may soon have to rescue the Afghan people from the Taliban just as we had to rescue Europe from the Nazis, and rebuild it and let it find its way to self-government, but that is not the same issue and that will not resolve international terrorism at its roots. It is a diversion of our attention from Bush's catastrophic failure at home and abroad.

Sixty years and eight months ago Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his "four freedoms" State of the Nation speech to Congress as he prepared the nation for war. In it, he laid down the sensible and humane preconditions for future world peace and democracy.

If Mr. Bush insists on preparing us for his war against evil, let him learn from that great speech.

Let me read you the final paragraphs:

"In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world."

Now Mr. Bush, do not tell us that we must prepare to lose our free speech rights and our rights to privacy, so that you and your corporate-military complex can continue to abuse the world safely. Do not take away our first freedom. You have installed your closest political associate as the head of FEMA, which has its own prison camps set up across America for any coming disturbances. We are indeed disturbed.

And now it seems we are to have an internal secret police, headed not by a law enforcement man but by Tom Ridge, and it is to be a cabinet-level position. This puts it far above the FBI, our non-political, professional internal security police, which has been discredited in an intensive campaign this year.

"The second," FDR continued, "is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world."

Do not, Mr. Bush, let your vision of good and evil and your friends on the religious right overpower the religion of mainstream America, which is the religion of peace and justice. Do not take away our second freedom.

"The third," said FDR, "is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world. Unquote.

We cannot live peacefully if we do not work every day for the people, not the despots, of the world -- for justice, not for banking arrangements and trade agreements to fatten our already fat banks and corporations. Do not deprive the third world of this third freedom, for none of us are free if some of us are yet enslaved.

"The fourth is freedom," said FDR, "from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world."

Let the US stop selling the weapons of death throughout the world. We have fallen far, far away from the vision of a peaceful, unarmed world. We are now the principle source of arms and high-tech weapons for all the despots of the world. Mr. Bush, you can only give us freedom from fear if the people of the world are free of fear. This the common American knows in his heart.

I remember Roosevelt's speech well. My husband and I no doubt discussed it at the dinner table. We had already been married eleven years at the time. I hope I speak for many common Americans who cannot see our flag without getting emotional with love for it. Our dream is that it should always represent the best that human beings can do on this earth. This is a time for us to rally around its best values and its highest dreams.

To the terrorists, here is my message: you are not martyrs, but cowards. Your selfish, ego-maniacal greed for a place in heaven cannot be purchased with the deaths of other people. Look across the Khyber Pass toward the land of Gandhi, who taught us that violence makes justice harder to come by, not easier. Today in America, the work of terrorists makes the work harder for those who want reform America's policies and practices. You do not want to change American policies, or you would be using your millions to bring your message to us in ways that we can understand and act upon. You want only your shortcut to heaven. We have the same great God, the same Allah, and he shakes his head in sad disbelief at your spiritual immaturity.

"The ultimate weakness of violence," Dr. King taught us, "is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it... Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.... adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Terrorism makes it hard for us to do the right thing, but do it we must.

Old "Fighting Bob" LaFollette, that great reformer, said that "war is the money-changer's opportunity, and the social reformer's doom." But we will not accept doom. We will keep going. It is a time for all of us to speak the truth with courage and hope. America is, despite all, still the best hope for the world. But we are a work in progress, and we all have some work to do right now. It is the work of peace, of frank education, of making our lives and our communities more sustainable and less dependent on the suffering of others, and of cleaning up a campaign finance system that has allowed our elected leaders to represent not our interests and values, but those of international corporations who are set on world domination and who have the resources to buy our government away from us if we will let them. We will not, so long as we live, and so long as our four freedoms are our guiding lights and inspiration.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.