Keep Your Mouth Open
Recent weeks have seen me under fire for comments I made criticizing the Bush administrations record on civil liberties since Sept. 11, 2001. I was briefly the object of some particularly nasty barbs from the right wing, which has chosen to take Bushs maxim Youre either with us or youre with the terrorists to heart.
On my Web site I posted a wonderful quote from Theodore Roosevelt, which reads, To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
Thats a good one, but my favorite quote on dissent has always been Gunter Grasss famous line, The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open.
With war gathering on the horizon, I asked readers to submit their favorite bits of wisdom on war, peace and dissent in times of turmoil. I was flooded with brilliant submissions, including dozens on related subjects, such as patriotism, tyranny and wartime politics. Here are a few of the best:
On war and peace:
"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."
-- Albert Einstein
"Every gun that is fired, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. You may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish truth. You may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate, nor establish love. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
We must complain. Yes, plain, blunt complaint, ceaseless agitation, unfailing exposure of dishonesty and wrong -- this is the ancient, unerring way to liberty and we must follow it.
--W. E. B. Dubois
Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want crops without plowing the ground. They want the rain without the awful roar of the thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. Without struggle, there is no progress. This struggle might be a moral one. It might be a physical one. It might be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. People may not get all that they pay for in this world, but they certainly pay for all that they get.
--Frederick Douglass, 1857
It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.
-- U. S. Supreme Court
On tyranny, patriotism and wartime politics:
Why of course the people don't want war... Naturally... That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
A people living under the perpetual menace of war and invasion is very easy to govern. It demands no social reforms. It does not haggle over expenditures on armaments and military equipment. It pays without discussion, it ruins itself, and that is an excellent thing for the syndicates of financiers and manufacturers for whom patriotic terrors are an abundant source of gain.
When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Beware of the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind.
And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind is closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and do it gladly so.
How do I know? I know for this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.
-- credited to Julius Caesar
Do you have a favorite quote from history that seems especially apt today? Anita will be publishing the best on her website in coming weeks. Email email@example.com.