>>> Primal Urges
By staff writer Nathan DeGraaf

January 23, 2008

Nathan: The great thing about MLK day is I always get help with my column.
I get a day off.
Fuck you.

Mr. Court Sullivan, ladies and gentlemen, I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great honor to share this website with David Nelson, Nick Gaudio, and Xavier Holland, some of the distinguished weirdos and crack-pots of our nation. And of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside Church. I’m not there right now, nor will I ever be there again. But I hear it’s good to be there and I’m passing that on.

I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Writers and Drunks Concerned about Iraq. The recent statements of your drunk asses are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal, especially when one has to vomit.” And that time has come for us in relation to Iraq.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own heart and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful bullshit, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

“The image of America will never again be the image of revolution and democracy, but that of violence and militarism.”

And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its most wasted humor writers have chosen to move beyond the comfort of flatulence jokes and to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history (which we plan on doing, like next week). Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us (perhaps that’s my penis). If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us (and if it’s my penis, let’s all just try to withhold our jealousy, okay fellas?).

I come to this site tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This piece is not addressed to Iraq or to Halliburton. It is not addressed to Cheney or to Busch. Nor is it another attempt to get chicks to send me naked pictures of themselves.

Tonight, I wish to speak to my fellow Americans (you can stop reading now, Nelson). We are taking the young men who had been denied their opportunities for prosperity and shipping them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Iraq which have not been guaranteed in America. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony ofwatching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to protect their own personal liberties.

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Iraq. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land (unless we get too drunk, but then we totally meant to do that but you know… we were drunk).

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. And yes, acknowledging this truth sucks, because this means that Carson Daly is technically my “brother,” but it must be done if we are to heal each other (and yes, I guess we got to heal Carson too—son of a bitch!).

And as I ponder the madness of the Iraq War and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that desert. But it doesn’t stay long. Because fuck them.

The Iraqis must see Americans as strange liberators. We have been enforcing our own ideals upon them since the creation of the Palestine state in the 40’s, and for some time before. We have been telling them how to live, we have been murdering their people, we have been bribing their officials, and yet we are here to liberate them? Reminds me of the time that one fat bitch ate all my food and then tried to get me to give her head. I mean, it just ain’t polite.

The only change came from America, as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us the real enemy. They are correct.

It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence, militarism, the golden arches, Coca-Cola, and all-you-can-eat buffets.

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind, and in the mind of the world, that we have no honorable intentions in Iraq. If we do not stop our war against the people of Iraq immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Iraq, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Iraqi people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. Inorder to atone for our sins and errors in Iraq, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

One: End all bombing in Iraq.

Two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in the Middle East by curtailing our military buildup in Iran and our interference in Afghanistan.

Four: Remove all corporate entities from the Iraq/Iran region not invited by the businesses in said region.

Five: Somebody, please, get Dick Cheney laid.

The war in Iraq is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “writer and drunkard” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about China and Japan. They will be concerned about Russia and Venezuela. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Iraq, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God (again Nelson, you’re excluded here—it’s a Jewish thing…sorry).

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Fifty-five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of terrorism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch antirevolutionaries.

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional (first time ever using ecumenical—I feel like Dan Brown). Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message—of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide,

In the strife of Truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;

Some great cause, God's new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,

And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet 'tis truth alone is strong

Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong

Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown

Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace.

If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

And if we do not make the right choice, if we continue to hide our thoughts behind the imposed distractions within our manufactured reality, we will never know what it means to feel for another human, we will never truly understand the principles by which we should be living, we will never get to love as men and as women, but as robots designed to believe in and feed the machine.

But we’ll still have iPods.

It’s your call America.

This piece would have never been possible without contribution from Dr. Martin L. King, who is dead and probably has no idea he contributed.