Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chris Hedges: Why We Resist

Ralph Nazareth sent us this piece:

Why We Resist

By Chris Hedges

12/11/07 " " --- The refusal to pay my taxes if we go to
war with Iran, and the portion of my taxes spent on the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan if we do not cut off funding for these two conflicts,
is not a means. It is an end. I do not know if my refusal, and the
refusal of others, will be effective in halting these wars. All I know
is that it is worth doing. The alternative, a complacency bred from
cynicism and despair, is worse. Refusing to actively resist injustice
and flagrant violations of international law, refusing to attempt to
turn back the tide of American tyranny, is surrender. It is the death
of hope.

Acts of resistance are moral acts. They begin because people of
conscience can no longer tolerate abuse and despotism. They are carried
out not because they are effective but because they are right. Those
who begin these acts are few in number and dismissed by the cynics who
hide their fear behind their worldliness. Resistance is about affirming
life in a world awash in death. It is the supreme act of faith, the
highest form of spirituality. We remember and honor the names of those
who, solitary when they began, defied their age. Henry David Thoreau.
Jane Adams. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Mahatma Gandhi. Milovan Djilas.
Andrei Sakharov. Martin Luther King. Václav Havel. Nelson Mandela.
It is time to join them. They sacrificed their security and comfort,
often spent time in jail and in some cases were killed. They understood
that to live in the fullest sense of the word, to exist as free and
independent human beings, meant to defy authority. When the dissident
Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was taken from his cell in a Nazi
prison to the gallows, his last words were "this is for me the end, but
also the beginning."

Bonhoeffer, who returned to Germany from Union Theological Seminary in
New York to fight the Nazis, knew that most of the citizens in his
nation were complicit through their silence in a vast enterprise of
death. He affirmed what we all must affirm. It did not mean he avoided
death. It did not mean that he, as a distinct individual, survived. But
he understood that his resistance, and even his death, was an act of
love. He fought for the sanctity of life. He gave, even to those who
did not join him, another narrative. His defiance condemned his

"Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole
influence," Thoreau wrote in "Civil Disobedience" after going to jail
for refusing to pay his taxes during the Mexican-American War. "A
minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even
a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole
weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give
up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a
thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not
be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable
the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood."

Those who recognize the injustice of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
and a war with Iran, who concede that these wars are not only a
violation of international law but under the post-Nuremberg laws are
defined as criminal wars of aggression, yet do nothing, have forfeited
their rights as citizens. By allowing the status quo to go unchallenged
they become agents of injustice. To do nothing is to do something. They
practice a faux morality. They vent against war on the Internet or
among themselves but do not resist. They take refuge in the conception
of themselves as moderates. They stand on what they insist is the
middle ground without realizing that the middle ground has shifted
under us, that the old paradigm of left and right, liberal and
conservative, is meaningless in a world where, to quote Immanuel Kant,
those in power have embraced "a radical evil."

"I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely
disappointed with the white moderate," King wrote from another era as
he sat inside a Birmingham jail. "I have almost reached the
regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his
stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku
Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order'
than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of
tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who
constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot
agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically
believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives
by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to
wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people
of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from
people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than
outright rejection."

This lukewarm acceptance, this failure to act, is the worst form of
moral cowardice. It cripples and destroys us. When Dante enters the
"city of woes" in the "Inferno" he hears the cries of "those whose
lives earned neither honor nor bad fame," those rejected by heaven and
hell, those who dedicated their lives solely to the pursuit of
happiness. These are all the "good" people, the ones who never made a
fuss, who filled their lives with vain and empty pursuits, harmless no
doubt, to amuse themselves, who never took a stand for anything, never
risked anything, who went along. They never looked too hard at their
lives, never felt the need, never wanted to look.

We face a crisis. Our democratic institutions are being dismantled. We
are headed for a state of perpetual war. We are paralyzed by fear. We
will be stripped, if we do not resist, of our few remaining rights. To
resist, while there is still time, is not only the highest form of
spirituality but the highest form of patriotism. It is, if you care
about what is worth protecting in this country, a moral imperative.
There are hundreds of thousands who have died in the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan. This number would be dwarfed by a war with Iran, which
could ignite a regional inferno in the Middle East. Not a lot is being
asked of us. Compare our potential sacrifices with what is being
inflicted on and demanded of those trapped in the violence in Iraq,
Afghanistan and soon, perhaps, Iran. Courage, as Aristotle wrote, is
the highest of human virtues because without it we are unlikely to
practice any other virtue. Once we find courage we find freedom.