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PDY Blog for Martin Luther King Day,
January 17, 2005

“The worst thing is apathy— to sit idly by….”

    On top of being laid low by a virulent stomach virus of some sort this past week, I have never felt more depressed about life in our beloved USA. Not since the 1950s have we seen such blatant contempt for human rights. The current administration’s calculated and cynical disregard for the plight of poor people in our own country has not been seen since the days of the robber barons in the 1890s and early 1900s. Trust me, they are not out to "reform" or "fix" Social Security, they are out to destroy it. The incredibly regal $40 million coronation of the president seems unspeakably vulgar and inappropriate during a time of war and in the face of one of the worst natural disasters in human history. But it tells us just who these people are and how they regard the rest of us. The people in power in our country right now have no sense or dignity and they have brought unprecedented shame to our good name.

    The following lines making the rounds on the web are not so funny as painfully true: “The Iraqis are trying to write a constitution. We should give them ours. It was written by very smart people. And we are no longer using it.”

    What was so dreadful about the stultifying mood of the 1950s was the pathetically small number of people who dared to raise their voices in outrage over the many crises that we faced. Toward the end of that awful period so destructive to our national spirit, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. arose as a voice crying in the wilderness. And his one eloquent voice grew more and more powerful up until and even after he was gunned down in Memphis. What makes our own time seem so desperate is that no such leaders have emerged to take up the fight for peace and justice. But, out of King’s example, we must take hope that in our current crisis other voices will emerge to help put the American dream for all our people back on track. And we must remember the words of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

    Bob Herbert said it better in his New York Times column for today:

    “From my perspective, this is a dark moment in American history. The Treasury has been raided and the loot is being turned over by the trainload to those who are already the richest citizens in the land. We’ve launched a hideous war for no good reason in Iraq. And we’re about to elevate to the highest law enforcement position in the land a man who helped choreograph the American effort to evade the international prohibitions against torture.

    “Never since his assassination in 1968 have I felt the absence of Martin Luther King more acutely. Where are today’s voices of moral outrage? Where is the leadership willing to stand up and say: Enough! We’ve sullied ourselves enough.

    “I’m convinced, without being able to prove it, that those voices will emerge. There was a time when no one had heard of Dr. King. Or Oscar Arias Sanchez. Or Martin O’Brien, who founded the foremost human rights organization in Northern Ireland, and who tells us: ‘The worst thing is apathy—to sit idly by in the face of injustice and do nothing about it.’”