Archive for May, 2016

“The horror… the horror…”—Apocalypse Now (1979)

“You can’t show war as it really is on the screen, with all the blood and gore. Perhaps it would be better if you could fire real shots over the audience’s head every night, you know, and have actual casualties in the theater.”—Sam Fuller, film director and author

Nearly 71 years ago, the United States unleashed atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,killing more than 200,000 individuals, many of whom were civilians.

Fast forward to the present day, and President Obama—the antiwar candidate and Nobel Peace Prize winner who haswaged war longer than any American president and whose legacy includes targeted-drone killings and at least 1.3 million lives lost to the U.S.-led war on terror—is paying lip service to the victims of America’s nuclear carnage, all the while continuing to feed the war machine.

America has long had a penchant for endless wars that empty our national coffers while fattening those of the military industrial complex. Since 9/11, we’ve spent more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Adding in our military efforts in Pakistan, as well as the lifetime price of health care for disabled veterans and interest on the national debt, that cost rises to $4.4 trillion. Even now, the war drums are sounding as Obama prepares to deploy U.S. troops on a long-term mission to Libya and continues to police the rest of the world with more than 1.3 million U.S. troops being stationed at roughly 1000 military bases in over 150 countries.

Battlefield_Cover_300To this end, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, Americans are fed a steady diet of pro-war propaganda that keeps them content to wave flags with patriotic fervor and less inclined to look too closely at the mounting body counts, the ruined lives, the ravaged countries, the blowback arising from ill-advised targeted-drone killings and bombing campaigns in foreign lands, and the transformation of our own homeland into a warzone.

Nowhere is this double-edged irony more apparent than during military holidays such as Memorial Day, when we get treated to a generous serving of praise and grandstanding by politicians, corporations and others with similarly self-serving motives eager to go on record as being pro-military.

Yet war is a grisly business, a horror of epic proportions. In terms of human carnage alone, war’s devastation is staggering. For example, it is estimated that approximately 231 million people died worldwide during the wars of the 20th century. This figure does not take into account the walking wounded—both physically and psychologically—who “survive” war.

War drives the American police state. The military-industrial complex is the world’s largest employer. War sustains our way of life while killing us at the same time. As Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent and author Chris Hedges observes:

War is like a poison. And just as a cancer patient must at times ingest a poison to fight off a disease, so there are times in a society when we must ingest the poison of war to survive. But what we must understand is that just as the disease can kill us, so can the poison. If we don’t understand what war is, how it perverts us, how it corrupts us, how it dehumanizes us, how it ultimately invites us to our own self-annihilation, then we can become the victim of war itself.

War also entertains us with its carnage, its killing fields, its thrills and chills and bloodied battles set to music and memorialized in books, on television, in video games, and in superhero films and blockbuster Hollywood movies financed in part by the military.

War has become a centerpiece of American entertainment culture, most prevalent in war movies.

War movies deal in the extremes of human behavior. The best films address not only destruction on a vast scale but also plumb the depths of humanity’s response to the grotesque horror of war. They present human conflict in its most bizarre conditions—where men and women caught in the perilous straits of death perform feats of noble sacrifice or dig into the dark battalions of cowardice.

War films also provide viewers with a way to vicariously experience combat, but the great ones are not merely vehicles for escapism. Instead, they provide a source of inspiration, while touching upon the fundamental issues at work in wartime scenarios.

While there are many films to choose from, the following 10 war films touch on modern warfare (from the First World War onward) and run the gamut of conflicts and human emotions and center on the core issues often at work in the nasty business of war.

The Third Man (1949). Carol Reed’s The Third Man, which deals primarily with the after-effects of the ravages of war, is a great film by anyone’s standards. Set in postwar Europe, this bleak film (written by Graham Greene) sets forth the proposition that the corruption inherent in humanity means that the ranks of war are never closed. There are many fine performances in this film, including Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli.

Paths of Glory (1957). This Stanley Kubrick film is an antiwar masterpiece. The setting is 1916, when two years of trench warfare have arrived at a stalemate. And while nothing of importance is occurring in the war, thousands of lives are being lost. But the masters of war pull the puppet strings, and the blood continues to flow. This film is packed with good performances, especially from Kirk Douglas and George Macready.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962). John Frankenheimer’s classic focuses on the psychological effects of war and its transmutation into mind control and political assassination. All the lines of intrigue converge to form a prophetic vision of what occurred the year after the film’s release with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This chilling film is well written (co-written by Frankenheimer and George Axelrod) and acted. Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury head a fine cast.

Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964). One of the great films of all time, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove burst onto the cinematic landscape and cast a cynical eye on the entire business of war. Strange and surreal, this film is packed full of amazing images and great performances. Peter Sellers should have walked off with the Oscar for best actor (but he didn’t). Sterling Hayden and George C. Scott are excellent in support.

The Deer Hunter (1978). Michael Cimino’s Academy Award-winning film is one of the most emotion-invoking films ever made. This story of a group of Pennsylvania steel mill workers who endure excruciating ordeals in the Vietnam War is one film that makes its point clear—war is the horror of all horrors. Robert DeNiro is fine, and Christopher Walken, who won a best supporting actor Oscar, is superb.

Apocalypse Now (1979). I consider this Francis Ford Coppola’s best film. Based on Joseph Conrad’s novella, The Heart of Darkness, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) treks to the Cambodian jungle to assassinate renegade, manic Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). This antiwar epic is a great visual experience with fine performances from its ensemble cast.

Platoon (1986). This is not Oliver Stone’s best film, but it is one helluva war movie. Set before and during the Tet Offensive of January 1968, this is a gritty view of the Vietnam War by one who served there. Indeed, when Stone is not filling the screen with explosions, he makes the jungle seem all too real—a wet place for bugs, leeches and snakes, but not for people. Fine performances by Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger.

Full Metal Jacket (1987). Stanley Kubrick’s take on Vietnam is one of the most powerful and psychological dramas ever made. Focusing on the schizophrenic nature of the human psyche—the duality of man—Kubrick takes us through a hell-like Parris Island boot camp and into the bowels of a surreal Vietnam through the eyes of Joker (Matthew Modine). Every facet of this film, as in all of Kubrick’s work, is top notch.

Jacob’s Ladder (1990). Adrian Lyne’s thriller hits the psyche like a thunderbolt. A man (Tim Robbins) struggles with what he saw while serving in Vietnam. Back home, he gradually becomes unable to separate “reality” from the surreal, psychotic world that intermittently intervenes in his existence. This bizarre film touches on the sordid nature of war and the corruption of those who manipulate and experiment on us while we fight on their behalf. Good cast (especially Elizabeth Peña), an excellent screenplay (Bruce Joel Rubin) and adept directing make this film one nice trip.

Jarhead (2005). Sam Mendes’ film follows a Marine recruit (Jake Gyllenhaal) through Marine boot camp to service in Operation Desert Storm, winding up at the Highway of Death. But what Mendes serves up is war as a phallic obsession in the oil-drenched sands of Kuwait and Iraq. Here soldiers fight not for causes but to survive in the nihilistic pursuit of destruction. Fine performance by Jamie Foxx as Sergeant Sykes.

As these films illustrate, war is indeed hell.

What we must decide is whether we’re stuck with war as a necessity of the world in which we live, as President Obama suggested in his Nobel Peace Prize speech, or whether we’re prepared to do as Martin Luther King suggested 45 years earlier in his Nobel Peace Prize lecture and find an alternative to war.

Speaking in Oslo in 1964, King declared:

Man’s proneness to engage in war is still a fact. But wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. There may have been a time when war served as a negative good by preventing the spread and growth of an evil force, but the destructive power of modern weapons eliminated even the possibility that war may serve as a negative good. If we assume that life is worth living and that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative to war.

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“The qualifications for president seem to be that one is willing to commit mass murder one minute and hand presidential medals of freedom to other war criminals in the next. One need only apply if one has very loose, flexible, or non-existent morality.”—Author and activist Cindy Sheehan

Long gone are the days when the path to the White House was open to anyone who met the Constitution’s bare minimum requirements of being a natural born citizen, a resident of the United States for 14 years, and 35 years of age or older.

Today’s presidential hopefuls must jump through a series of hoops aimed at selecting the candidates best suited to serve the interests of the American police state. Candidates who are anti-war, anti-militarization, anti-Big Money, pro-Constitution, pro-individual freedom and unabashed advocates for the citizenry need not apply.

The carefully crafted spectacle of the presidential election with its nail-biting primaries, mud-slinging debates, caucuses, super-delegates, popular votes and electoral colleges has become a fool-proof exercise in how to persuade a gullible citizenry into believing that their votes matter.

Yet no matter how many Americans go to the polls on November 8, “we the people” will not be selecting the nation’s next president.

While voters might care about where a candidate stands on healthcare, Social Security, abortion and immigration—hot-button issues that are guaranteed to stir up the masses, secure campaign contributions and turn any election into a circus free-for-all—those aren’t the issues that will decide the outcome of this presidential election.

What decides elections are money and power.

We’ve been hoodwinked into believing that our votes count, that we live in a democracy, that elections make a difference, that it matters whether we vote Republican or Democrat, and that our elected officials are looking out for our best interests. Truth be told, we live in an oligarchy, and politicians represent only the profit motives of the corporate state, whose leaders know all too well that there is no discernible difference between red and blue politics, because there is only one color that matters in politics—green.

As much as the Republicans and Democrats like to act as if there’s a huge difference between them and their policies, they are part of the same big, brawling, noisy, semi-incestuous clan. Watch them interact at social events—hugging and kissing and nudging and joking and hobnobbing with each other—and it quickly becomes clear that they are not sworn enemies but partners in crime, united in a common goal, which is to maintain the status quo.

The powers-that-be will not allow anyone to be elected to the White House who does not answer to them.

Who are the powers-that-be, you might ask?

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the powers-that-be are the individuals and corporations who profit from America’s endless wars abroad and make their fortunes many times over by turning America’s homeland into a war zone. They are the agents and employees of the military-industrial complex, the security-industrial complex, and the surveillance-industrial complex. They are the fat cats on Wall Street who view the American citizenry as economic units to be bought, sold and traded on a moment’s notice. They are the monied elite from the defense and technology sectors, Hollywood, and Corporate America who believe their money makes them better suited to decide the nation’s future. They are the foreign nationals to whom America is trillions of dollars in debt.

One thing is for certain: the powers-that-be are not you and me.

In this way, the presidential race is just an exaggerated farce of political theater intended to dazzle, distract and divide us, all the while the police state marches steadily forward.

It’s a straight-forward equation: the candidate who wins the White House will be the one who can do the best job of ensuring that the powers-that-be keep raking in the money and acquiring ever greater powers. In other words, for any viable presidential candidate to get elected today that person must be willing to kill, lie, cheat, steal, be bought and sold and made to dance to the tune of his or her corporate overlords.

The following are just some of the necessary qualifications for anyone hoping to be appointed president of the American police state. Candidates must:

Help grow the militaryindustrial complex: Fifty-five years after President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the growth of the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address, the partnership between the government, the military and private corporations has resulted in the permanent militarization of America. From militarized police and the explosive growth of SWAT teams to endless wars abroad, the expansion of private sector contractors, and never-ending blowback from our foreign occupations, we have become a nation permanently at war. As the New York Times pointed out, “themilitary is the true ‘third rail’ of American politics.” The military-industrial complex understands the value of buying the presidency, and has profited from the incessant warmongering of Obama and his predecessors. If money is any indicator of who the defense industry expects to win this November, thus far, Hillary Clinton is winning the money race, having collected more campaign contributions from employees with the 50 largest military contractors.

Police the rest of the world using U.S. troops: The U.S. military empire’s determination to police the rest of the world has resulted in more than 1.3 million U.S. troops being stationed at roughly 1000 military bases in over 150 countriesaround the world, including 48,000 in Japan, 37,000 in Germany, 27,000 in South Korea and 9800 in Afghanistan. That doesn’t include the number of private contractors pulling in hefty salaries at taxpayer expense. In Afghanistan, for example, private contractors outnumber U.S. troops three to one. Now comes the news that the U.S. is preparing to sendtroops to Libya on a long-term mission to fight ISIS.

Sow seeds of discord and foment wars among other nations under the guise of democracy: It’s not enough for the commander-in-chief to lead the United States into endless wars abroad. Any successful presidential candidate also needs to be adept at stirring up strife within other nations under the guise of spreading democracy. The real motive, of course, is creating new markets for the nation’s #1 export: weapons. In this way, the U.S. is constantly arming so-called “allies” with deadly weapons, only to later wage war against these same nations for possessing weapons of mass destruction. It happened in Iraq when the U.S. sold Saddam Hussein weapons to build his war machine. It happened in Syria when the U.S. provided rebel fighters with military equipment and munitions, only to have them seized by ISIS and used against us. Now comes the news that President Obama has agreed to sell weapons to Vietnam, lifting a decades-long embargo against the nation whose civil war claimed the lives of more than 90,000 Americans.

Speak of peace while slaughtering innocent civilians: Barack Obama’s campaign and subsequent presidency illustrates this principle perfectly. The first black American to become president, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize long before he had done anything to truly deserve it. He has rewarded the Nobel committee’s faith in him by becoming one of the most hawkish war presidents to lead the nation, overseeing a targeted-killing drone campaign that has resulted in thousands of civilian casualties and deaths. Ironically, while Obama has made no significant effort to de-escalate government-inflicted violence or de-weaponize militarized police, he has gone to great lengths to denounce and derail private gun ownership by American citizens.

Prioritize surveillance in the name of security over privacy: Since 9/11, the Surveillance State has undergone a dramatic boom, thanks largely to the passage of the USA Patriot Act and so-called “secret” interpretations of the mammoth law allowing the NSA and other government agencies to spy on Americans’ electronic communications. What began as a government-driven program under George W. Bush has grown under Obama into a mass surveillance private sector that makes its money by spying on American citizens. As Fortune reports, “In response to security concerns after 9/11, Americans witnessed the growth of a massive domestic security apparatus, fueled by federal largesse.” That profit-incentive has opened up a multi-billion dollar video surveillance industry that is blanketing the country with surveillance cameras—both governmental and private—which can be accessed by law enforcement at a moment’s notice.

Promote the interests of Corporate America and Big Money over the rights of the citizenry: Almost every major government program hailed as benefiting Americans—affordable healthcare, the war on terror, airport security, police-worn body cameras—has proven to be a Trojan Horse aimed at enriching Corporate America while leaving Americans poorer, less secure and less free. For instance, the so-called “affordable” health care mandated by Congress has become yet another costly line item in already strained household budgets for millions of Americans.

Expand the powers of the imperial president while repeatedly undermining the rule of law: George W. Bush assumed near-absolute power soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Unfettered by Congress or the Constitution, Bush led the “war on terror” abroad and championed both the USA Patriot Act and Homeland Security Department domestically. This, of course, led to the Bush Administration’s demand that presidential wartime powers permit the President to assume complete control over any and all aspects of an international war on terrorism. Such control included establishing military tribunals and eliminating basic rights long recognized under American law.

When Barack Obama ascended to the presidency in 2008, there was a sense, at least among those who voted for him, that the country might change for the better. Those who watched in awe as President Bush chipped away at our civil liberties over the course of his two terms as president thought that perhaps the young, charismatic Senator from Illinois would reverse course and put an end to some of the Bush administration’s worst transgressions—the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, the torture, the black site prisons, and the never-ending wars that have drained our resources, to name just a few. As we near the end of Obama’s two terms in office, that fantasy has proven to be just that: a fantasy. Indeed, President Obama has not only carried on the Bush legacy, but has taken it to its logical conclusion. Obama has gone beyond Guantanamo Bay, gone beyond spying on Americans’ emails and phone calls, and gone beyond bombing countries without Congressional authorization. As journalist Amy Goodman warned, “the recent excesses of U.S. presidential power are not transient aberrations, but the creation of a frightening new normal, where drone strikes, warrantless surveillance, assassination and indefinite detention are conducted with arrogance and impunity, shielded by secrecy and beyond the reach of law.”

Act as if the work of the presidency is a hardship while enjoying all the perks: The race for the White House is an expensive, grueling horse race: candidates must have at a minimum $200 or $300 million or more just to get to the starting line. The total cost for this year’s election is estimated to exceed $5 billion and could go as high as $10 billion. However, for the winner, life in the White House is an endless series of star-studded dinner parties, lavish vacations and perks the likes of which the average American will never enjoy. The grand prize winner will rake in a $400,000 annual salary (not including $100,000 a year for travel expenses, $19,000 for entertaining, $50,000 for “general” expenses and last but not least, $1,000,000 for “unanticipated” expenses), live rent-free in a deluxe, 6-storey, 55,000 square foot mansion that comes complete with its own movie theater and bowling alley, round-the-clock staff, florists, valets and butlers. Upon leaving the White House, presidents are gifted with hefty pensions, paid staff and office space, travel allowances and lifetime medical care. Ex-presidents can also expand upon their largesse by writing books and giving speeches (Bill Clinton was given a $15 million advance for his memoir and routinely makes upwards of $100,000 per speech).

Clearly, it doesn’t matter where a candidate claims to stand on an issue as long as he or she is prepared to obey the dictates of the architects, movers and shakers, and shareholders of the police state once in office.

So here we are once again, preparing to embark upon yet another delusional, reassurance ritual of voting in order to sustain the illusion that we have a democratic republic when, in fact, what we have is a dictatorship without tears. Once again, we are left feeling helpless in the face of a well-funded, heavily armed propaganda machine that is busily spinning political webs with which the candidates can lure voters. And once again we are being urged to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Railing against a political choice that offers no real choice, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson snarled, “How many more of these stinking, double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the at least 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils?”

Remember, the lesser of two evils is still evil.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Rutherford Institute has denounced a stealth effort by the Department of Justice to give law enforcement and intelligence agencies the power to remotely hack into personal computers and mobile devices, implant malicious software on computers, and rummage through the personal contents of those computers in the absence of criminal activity by the devices’ owners. The DOJ’s proposed changes to the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41 have been justified as a way to fight cybercrime and make it easier for law enforcement to track down cyber criminals who use tools such as Tor, botnets or malware to mask their true location.

With the U.S. Supreme Court already having rubberstamped its approval to the Rule 41 amendment allowing the government to expand its surveillance powers, Congress has until December 1 to either block or approve the change. In a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or.) who has publicly announced his intent to introduce legislation to block the amendments, Rutherford Institute attorneys set forth their objections to the proposed Rule 41 changes, which they characterize as a significant expansion of the surveillance power the government may use to spy on its citizens.

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

“Once again, the government is insisting that it needs greater powers to combat cybercrime, even if it means cutting through the very foundations of freedom in order to fight these modern devils,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Of course, it’s a devil’s bargain—much like the Patriot Act was—that attempts to sell us on the idea that safety, security and material comforts are preferable to freedom. The problem with these devil’s bargains, however, is that there is always a catch, always a price to pay for whatever it is we valued so highly as to barter away our most precious possessions. In the end, as we saw with the Patriot Act, such bargains always turn sour.”

Insisting that the government needs greater powers to fight cybercrime, the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement agencies proposed amendments to the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41 which would allow a judge in any district affected by criminal activity to issue a warrant to search electronic storage media and seize and copy stored information if the location of the electronic storage media has been concealed through technological means. Additionally, for an investigation of computer crimes such as the distribution of computer viruses or malware involving more than five computers, the proposed amendments allow a single magistrate to issue a warrant to search numerous computers, including computers that have been infected by the virus or malware regardless of whether the computer’s owner is suspected of involvement in any criminal activity.

These amendments would greatly expand federal investigators’ ability to engage in remote surveillance, which involves the secret installation of data extraction software on a computer. Once installed, the software allows government agents to remotely search a computer’s hard drive and other data storage, transmit data back to the agents, and to even remotely activate and control attached cameras and microphones. In raising its objections to the proposed changes to Rule 41, The Rutherford Institute points out that the proposed rule changes impose no time limit on how long the data extraction software may remain on computers, allowing for ongoing surveillance, and do not require that persons be notified that their electronic storage is being searched by the government.

CASE HISTORY

05-05-2016: Rutherford Institute Denounces Stealth DOJ Move to Expand Police Powers & Remotely Hack Into Phones, Computers in Absence of Criminal Activity

RICHMOND, Va. — Rejecting as patently false the Obama administration’s contention that its mass surveillance program has inflicted no harm on American citizens, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, ACLU, Wikipedia, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have asked a federal appeals court to reinstate a First and Fourth Amendment lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. Department of Justice and their directors.

In advancing their arguments before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the broad coalition of educational, legal, human rights and media organizations point out that the NSA’s surveillance program—which is unprecedented in its scope and intrudes on the privacy of Americans’ internet communications and impairs their expressive and associational rights—has chilled lawful First Amendment expression and given rise to self-censorship. The coalition’s arguments are reinforced by a recent study published by the Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly showing that knowledge of government surveillance causes people to self-censor their dissenting opinions online. A Maryland federal court had dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the coalition of national and international groups does not have standing to bring the lawsuit against the government.

“On any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Revelations about the NSA’s spying programs only scrape the surface in revealing the lengths to which government agencies and their corporate allies will go to conduct mass surveillance on Americans’ communications and transactions. Senator Ron Wyden was right when he warned, ‘If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we are all going to live to regret it.’”

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

The lawsuit brought by The Rutherford Institute, the ACLU, Wikipedia, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and other educational, legal, human rights and media organizations arises from efforts by the U.S. government since the 9/11 terrorist attacks to increase the surveillance and monitoring of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals. Although Congress had previously authorized the issuance of orders for electronic surveillance of foreign agents for intelligence purposes under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in October 2001, President George W. Bush secretly authorized warrantless interception of emails and telephone calls involving persons within the United States if NSA personnel had a “reasonable basis” to believe one party was connected with al Qaeda. When a judge refused to authorize the continuation of this program, the Bush administration obtained amendments to FISA in 2008 authorizing the acquisition without individualized suspicion of the international communications of U.S. citizens that are with or are about foreigners who the NSA chooses to target.

In carrying out this broad authority under the 2008 law, the NSA has engaged in so-called “Upstream surveillance,” which according to the complaint “involves the NSA’s seizing and searching the internet communications of U.S. citizens and residents en mass as those communications travel across the internet ‘backbone’ in the United States—the network of high-capacity cables, switches and routers that facilitates both domestic and international communications via the internet.” Upstream surveillance encompasses the copying of virtually all international text-based communications, review of the content of those communications by the NSA, and the retention of the copied communications for future use and analysis.

CASE HISTORY

May 9, 2016 • The Rutherford Institute, Wikipedia, ACLU Et Al. Rebut the Obama Administration’s Claim That No Harm Is Caused by the NSA’s Unprecedented Mass Surveillance

February 18, 2016 • The Rutherford Institute, Wikipedia, ACLU Et Al. Ask Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reinstate Lawsuit Over the NSA’s Mass Surveillance Program

December 17, 2015 • The Rutherford Institute, Wikipedia, ACLU Et Al. Appeal to 4th Circuit Seeking Reinstatement of Lawsuit Over the NSA’s Mass Surveillance Program

October 27, 2015 • Upholding System of Secret Surveillance, Federal Court Dismisses Lawsuit Filed by The Rutherford Institute, Wikipedia, ACLU Et Al. Over the NSA’s Spying Program

September 04, 2015 • The Rutherford Institute, Wikipedia, ACLU Et Al. Ask Federal Court to Reject Government Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Over the NSA’s Mass Surveillance Program

March 10, 2015 • Rutherford Institute Joins with ACLU, Wikipedia, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Others to Sue NSA Over Its Mass Surveillance of Email

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court has given attorneys for The Rutherford Institute the green light to move forward with a lawsuit against Virginia police officers on behalf of a 37-year-old disabled man who went to a police station to report the theft of his cable services and ended up being strip searched, handcuffed to a table, diagnosed as having “mental health issues,” and involuntarily detained for six days for a mental-health evaluation with no access to family and friends, allegedly because of his slurred speech and unsteady gait.

In reversing a lower court decision and reinstating the Fourth Amendment lawsuit against two police officers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Waynesboro resident Gordon Goines’ lawsuit “tells the story of police who assumed from Goines’ physical difficulties that he was mentally ill and never actually listened to what Goines was telling them.” Goines suffers from a neurological condition similar to multiple sclerosis.

Click here to read the Fourth Circuit’s opinion in Goines v. Valley Community.

“By giving government officials the power to declare individuals mentally ill and detain them against their will without first ensuring that they are actually trained to identify such illness, the government has opened the door to a system in which involuntary detentions can be used to make people disappear,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Indeed, government officials in the Cold War-era Soviet Union often used psychiatric hospitals as prisons in order to isolate political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally.”

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Gordon Goines resides in Waynesboro and suffers from cerebellar ataxia, a neurological condition similar to multiple or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. As a result, Goines has difficulty at times with his balance, causing him to walk unsteadily, speaks slowly and with a slur and has problems with fine motor skills. Goines has no cognitive impairment, is of above-average intelligence, and is acutely aware of what is happening around him.

The complaint alleges that on May 15, 2014, Goines was having problems with his cable television reception, including disconnections and extremely loud line noise and signals, and called the cable company for assistance. A technician determined that a neighbor had spliced into Goines’ cable and recommended that Goines contact police about the theft. Goines walked across the street to the Waynesboro Police Dept. and reported the theft to one officer, who called on two other officers to follow Goines home and investigate his complaint. However, the first officer reported that Goines was having “mental health issues.” The officers then proceeded to question Goines about his “mental health issues.” Goines told them he did not have any mental health problems. The officers then asked Goines if he wanted to go talk to someone. Believing they meant about the cable theft, Goines told them he did. The officers then handcuffed him and transported Goines, who pleaded to be taken home, to Augusta County Medical Center. After he arrived, he was examined by an employee of Virginia Community Services Board (VCSB) who concluded that Goines suffered from a psychotic condition, and a petition for Goines’ involuntary detention was filed as a result.

In May 2015, a federal district court dismissed Goines’ lawsuit against the police officers and VCSB concluding that the defendants were entitled to immunity from suit because they had not violated clearly established law in seizing and detaining Goines. Affiliate attorneys Jesse Baker, IV, and Timothy Coffield assisted The Rutherford Institute by representing Goines on appeal.

“Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”—C.S. Lewis

Fool me once, shame on you.

“You” in this case is the government that keeps violating the sacred trust of its citizenry.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

“Me” in this case is the collective “we the people” who should have learned early on that a government that repeatedly lies, breaks the laws, overreaches its authority and abuses its power can’t be trusted.

Fool me over and over and over again, shame on both of us.

Shame on every politician, bureaucrat and technician who is a shill for the U.S. government’s abuses and lies, and shame on every gullible American who keeps buying into the government’s propaganda, believing that it has our best interests at heart.

Battlefield_Cover_300Unfortunately, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government has seldom had our best interests at heart.

The government didn’t have our best interests at heart when it propelled us into endless oil-fueled wars and military occupations in the Middle East that wreaked havoc on our economy, stretched thin our military resources and subjected us to horrific blowback.

There is no way the government had our best interests at heart when it passed laws subjecting us to all manner of invasive searches and surveillance, censoring our speech and stifling our expression, rendering us anti-government extremists for daring to disagree with its dictates, locking us up for criticizing government policies on social media, encouraging Americans to spy and snitch on their fellow citizens, and allowing government agents to grope, strip, search, taser, shoot and kill us.

Certainly the government did not have our best interests at heart when it turned America into a battlefield, transforming law enforcement agencies into extensions of the military, conducting military drills on domestic soil, distributing “free” military equipment and weaponry to local police, and desensitizing Americans to the menace of the police state with active shooter drills, color-coded terror alerts, and randomly conducted security checkpoints at “soft” targets such as shopping malls and sports arenas.

It would be a reach to suggest that the government had our best interests at heart when it locked down the schools, installing metal detectors and surveillance cameras, adopting zero tolerance policies that punish childish behavior as harshly as criminal actions, and teaching our young people that they have no rights, that being force-fed facts is education rather than indoctrination, that they are not to question governmental authority, that they must meekly accept a life of censorship, round-the-clock surveillance, roadside blood draws, SWAT team raids and other indignities.

One would also be hard-pressed to suggest that the American government had our best interests at heart when it conducted secret experiments on an unsuspecting populace—citizens and noncitizens alike—making healthy people sick by spraying them with chemicals, injecting them with infectious diseases and exposing them to airborne toxins. The government reasoned that it was legitimate to experiment on people who did not have full rights in society such as prisoners, mental patients, and poor blacks.

The mindset driving these programs has, appropriately, been likened to that of Nazi doctors experimenting on Jews. As the Holocaust Museum recounts, Nazi physicians “conducted painful and often deadly experiments on thousands of concentration camp prisoners without their consent.” These unethical experiments ran the gamut from freezing experiments using prisoners to find an effective treatment for hypothermia, tests to determine the maximum altitude for parachuting out of a plane, injecting prisoners with malaria, typhus, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, yellow fever, and infectious hepatitis, exposing prisoners to phosgene and mustard gas, and mass sterilization experiments.

It’s easy to denounce the full-frontal horrors carried out by the scientific and medical community within a despotic regime such as Nazi Germany, but what do you do with a government that claims to be a champion of human rights all the while allowing its agents to engage in the foulest, bases and most despicable acts of torture, abuse and human experimentation?

In Alabama, for example, 600 black men with syphilis were allowed to suffer without proper medical treatment in order to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis. In California, older prisoners had testicles from livestock and from recently executed convicts implanted in them to test their virility. In Connecticut, mental patients were injected with hepatitis.

In Maryland, sleeping prisoners had a pandemic flu virus sprayed up their noses. In Georgia, two dozen “volunteering” prison inmates had gonorrhea bacteria pumped directly into their urinary tracts through the penis. In Michigan, male patients at an insane asylum were exposed to the flu after first being injected with an experimental flu vaccine. In Minnesota, 11 public service employee “volunteers” were injected with malaria, then starved for five days.

In New York, dying patients had cancer cells introduced into their systems. In Ohio, over 100 inmates were injected with live cancer cells. Also in New York, prisoners at a reformatory prison were also split into two groups to determine how a deadly stomach virus was spread: the first group was made to swallow an unfiltered stool suspension, while the second group merely breathed in germs sprayed into the air. And in Staten Island, children with mental retardation were given hepatitis orally and by injection to see if they could then be cured.

As the Associated Press reports, “The late 1940s and 1950s saw huge growth in the U.S. pharmaceutical and health care industries, accompanied by a boom in prisoner experiments funded by both the government and corporations. By the 1960s, at least half the states allowed prisoners to be used as medical guinea pigs … because they were cheaper than chimpanzees.”

Moreover, “Some of these studies, mostly from the 1940s to the ’60s, apparently were never covered by news media. Others were reported at the time, but the focus was on the promise of enduring new cures, while glossing over how test subjects were treated.”

Media blackouts, propaganda, spin. Sound familiar? How many government incursions into our freedoms have been blacked out, buried under “entertainment” news headlines, or spun in such a way as to suggest that anyone voicing a word of caution is paranoid or conspiratorial?

Unfortunately, these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the atrocities the government has inflicted on an unsuspecting populace in the name of secret experimentation.

For instance, there was the U.S. military’s secret race-based testing of mustard gas on more than 60,000 enlisted men. As NPR reports, “All of the World War II experiments with mustard gas were done in secret and weren’t recorded on the subjects’ official military records. Most do not have proof of what they went through. They received no follow-up health care or monitoring of any kind. And they were sworn to secrecy about the tests under threat of dishonorable discharge and military prison time, leaving some unable to receive adequate medical treatment for their injuries, because they couldn’t tell doctors what happened to them.”

And then there was the CIA’s MKULTRA program in which hundreds of unsuspecting American civilians and military personnel were dosed with LSD, some having the hallucinogenic drug slipped into their drinks at the beach, in city bars, at restaurants. As Time reports, “before the documentation and other facts of the program were made public, those who talked of it were frequently dismissed as being psychotic.”

Now one might argue that this is all ancient history and that the government today is different from the government of yesteryear. But has the U.S. government really changed?

Has the government become any more humane, any more respectful of the rights of the citizenry? Has it become any more transparent or willing to abide by the rule of law? Has it become any more truthful about its activities? Has it become any more cognizant of its appointed role as a guardian of our rights?

Or has the government simply hunkered down and hidden its nefarious acts and dastardly experiments under layers of secrecy, legalism and obfuscations? Has it not become wilier, more slippery, more difficult to pin down? Having mastered the Orwellian art of Doublespeak and followed the Huxleyan blueprint for distraction and diversion, are we not dealing with a government that is simply craftier and more conniving that it used to be?

Consider this: after revelations about the government’s experiments spanning the 20th century spawned outrage, the government began looking for human guinea pigs in other countries, where “clinical trials could be done more cheaply and with fewer rules.”

In Guatemala, prisoners and patients at a mental hospital were infected with syphilis, “apparently to test whether penicillin could prevent some sexually transmitted disease.” More recently, U.S.-funded doctors “failed to give the AIDS drug AZT to all the HIV-infected pregnant women in a study in Uganda even though it would have protected their newborns.” Meanwhile, in Nigeria, children with meningitis were used to test an antibiotic named Trovan. Eleven children died and many others were left disabled.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Case in point: it has just been announced that scientists working for the Department of Homeland Security will begin releasing various gases and particles on crowded subway platforms as part of an experiment aimed at testing bioterror airflow in New York subways.

The government insists that these gases being released into the subways by the DHS are nontoxic and do not pose a health risk. It’s in our best interests, they say, to understand how quickly a chemical or biological terrorist attack might spread. And look how cool the technology is—say the government cheerleaders—that scientists can use something called DNATrax to track the movement of microscopic substances in air and food. (Imagine the kinds of surveillance that could be carried out by the government using trackable airborne microscopic substances you breathe in or ingest…)

Mind you, this is the same government agency that has been likened to a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast” by the Washington Post.

This is the same government that in 1949 sprayed bacteria into the Pentagon’s air handling system, then the world’s largest office building. In 1950, special ops forces sprayed bacteria from Navy ships off the coast of Norfolk and San Francisco, in the latter case exposing all of the city’s 800,000 residents. In 1953, government operatives staged “mock” anthrax attacks on St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Winnipeg using generators placed on top of cars. Local governments were reportedly told that “‘invisible smokescreen[s]’ were being deployed to mask the city on enemy radar.” Later experiments covered territory as wide-ranging as Ohio to Texas and Michigan to Kansas. In 1965, the government’s experiments in bioterror took aim at Washington’s National Airport, followed by a 1966 experiment in which army scientists exposed a million subway NYC passengers to airborne bacteria that causes food poisoning.

And this is the same government that has taken every bit of technology sold to us as being in our best interests—GPS devices, surveillance, nonlethal weapons, etc.—and used it against us, to track, control and trap us.

So when so-called conspiracy theorists—including the late rock musician Prince and civil rights activist Dick Gregory—suggest that those streaks crisscrossing the sky are chemtrails laced with behavior-modifying chemicals, you might want to tamp down on that kneejerk reaction that chalks them up as nuts. After all, the government has done it before, lacing the fog over San Francisco with bioweapons (delivered by Navy ships moored nearby). In fact, not that long ago, the Obama administration declared by way of executive order that federal agencies are now authorized to conduct behavioral experiments on U.S. citizens in order to advance government initiatives?

Are you getting my drift yet?

What kind of government perpetrates such horrific acts on human beings, whether or not they are citizens? Is there any difference between a government mindset that justifies experimenting on prisoners because they’re “cheaper than chimpanzees” and a government that sanctions jailhouse strip searches of individuals charged with minor infractions simply because it’s easier on a jail warden’s workload?

And when all is said and done, what kind of people rationalize, write off, or just turn a blind eye to such monstrous acts of inhumanity?

Shame on the government, yes, but shame on us for blindly trusting that the government’s motives and priorities have changed.

Shame on us for believing that the government’s bloody wars on terror are keeping us safe in any way. Shame on us for placing greater value on the government’s phantom promises of security over our own hard-won freedoms. Shame on us for allowing our government, our freedoms and the rule of law to be held hostage at the end of a military-issued gun.

Shame on us for letting ourselves be played for fools by individuals who care nothing for us, our our health, our happiness, our welfare, our livelihood, our property or our freedoms. Shame on us for letting ourselves be bamboozled about the war on terror, deceived about the need to trade our freedoms for greater security, and conned into believing that turning America into a battlefield will actually make us safer. Shame on us for letting ourselves be double-crossed by politicians who promise change and reform and hoodwinked into believing that politics is the answer to what ails the nation. Shame on us for not doing a better job of ensuring that future generations have some hope for a better, freer future.

Most of all, shame on us that even after being repeatedly tricked, deluded, misled, swindled and betrayed by government officials, even after learning about the many ways in which we have been duped and deluded, shame on us for still falling for the government’s trickery, chicanery, hocus-pocus, scams and lies.

Shame on us, yes, but still, the question remains: why? What’s in it for the government?

Perhaps the answer lies in The Third Man, Carol Reed’s influential 1949 film starring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles. In the film, set in a post-WW II Vienna, rogue war profiteer Harry Lime has come to view human carnage with a callous indifference, unconcerned that the diluted penicillin he’s been trafficking underground has resulted in the tortured deaths of young children.

Challenged by his old friend Holly Martins to consider the consequences of his actions, Lime responds, “In these days, old man, nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t, so why should we?”

“Have you ever seen any of your victims?” asks Martins.

“Victims?” responds Limes, as he looks down from the top of a Ferris wheel onto a populace reduced to mere dots on the ground. “Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax – the only way you can save money nowadays.”

In other words, we are citizens of a government that has dehumanized us and reduced us to little more than faceless numbers, statistics and economic units.

What’s in it for the government? Money and power. Or as John Lennon summed it up, “I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that.”

“The most striking fact about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not that he slept 20 years, but that he slept through a revolution. While he was peacefully snoring up on the mountain, a great revolution was taking place in the world – indeed, a revolution which would, at points, change the course of history. And Rip Van Winkle knew nothing about it; he was asleep.”—Martin Luther King Jr., Commencement Address for Oberlin College

The world is disintegrating on every front—politically, environmentally, morally—and for the next generation, the future does not look promising. As author Pema Chodron writes in When Things Fall Apart:

When the rivers and air are polluted, when families and nations are at war, when homeless wanderers fill the highways, these are the traditional signs of a dark age.

Those coming of age today will face some of the greatest obstacles ever encountered by young people. They will find themselves overtaxed and struggling to find worthwhile employment in a debt-ridden economy on the brink of implosion. Their privacy will be eviscerated by the surveillance state.

They will be the subjects of a military empire constantly waging war against shadowy enemies and on guard against domestic acts of terrorism, blowback against military occupations in foreign lands. And they will find government agents armed to the teeth ready and able to lock down the country at a moment’s notice.

As such, they will find themselves forced to march in lockstep with a government that no longer exists to serve the people but which demands they be obedient slaves or suffer the consequences.

It’s a dismal prospect, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, we who should have known better failed to guard against such a future.

Battlefield_Cover_300Worse, as I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we neglected to maintain our freedoms or provide our young people with the tools necessary to survive, let alone succeed, in the impersonal jungle that is modern civilization.

We brought them into homes fractured by divorce, distracted by mindless entertainment, and obsessed with the pursuit of materialism. We institutionalized them in daycares and afterschool programs, substituting time with teachers and childcare workers for parental involvement. We turned them into test-takers instead of thinkers and automatons instead of activists.

We allowed them to languish in schools which not only often look like prisons but function like prisons, as well—where conformity is the rule and freedom is the exception. We made them easy prey for our corporate overlords, while instilling in them the values of a celebrity-obsessed, technology-driven culture devoid of any true spirituality. And we taught them to believe that the pursuit of their own personal happiness trumped all other virtues, including any empathy whatsoever for their fellow human beings.

We botched things up in a big way, but hopefully all is not lost.

Not yet, at least.

Faced with adversity, this generation could possibly rise to meet the grave challenges before them, bringing about positive change for our times and maintaining their freedoms, as well.

The following bits of wisdom, gleaned from a lifetime of standing up to injustice and speaking truth to power, will hopefully help them survive the perils of the journey that awaits:

Wake up and free your mind. Resist all things that numb you, put you to sleep or help you “cope” with so-called reality. From the day you are born, enter school, graduate and get a job, virtually everything surrounding you is not something you entered by free will. And those who establish the rules and laws that govern society’s actions dictate what is proper. They desire compliant subjects. Those who become conscious of the chains that bind them and free their minds and decide to disagree are often ostracized and find themselves behind bars. However, as George Orwell warned, “Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they rebelled, they cannot become conscious.” It is these conscious individuals who change the world for the better.

Be an individual. For all of its championing of the individual, American culture advocates a stark conformity. As a result, young people are sedated by the flatness and predictability of modern life. “You can travel far and wide and have a difficult time finding a store or restaurant that is even mildly unique,” writes Thomas More in The Care of the Soul. “In shopping malls everywhere, in restaurant districts, in movie theaters, you will find the same clothes, the same names, the same menus, the same new films, the identical architecture. On the East Coast, you can sit in a restaurant seat identical to that you sat in on the West Coast.” In other words, the repetition that is modern life means the death of individuality.

Resist the corporate state. Don’t become mindless consumers. Consumption is a drug. It makes us unaware of the corruption surrounding us. As Chris Hedges writes in Empire of Illusion:

Corporations are ubiquitous parts of our lives, and those that own and run them want them to remain that way. We eat corporate food. We buy corporate clothes. We drive in corporate cars. We buy our fuel from corporations. We borrow from, invest our retirement savings with, and take our college loans with corporations and corporate banks. We are entertained, informed, and bombarded with advertisements by corporations. Many of us work for corporations. There are few aspects of life left that have not been taken over by corporations, from mail delivery to public utilities to our for-profit health-care system. These corporations have no loyalty to the country or workers. Our impoverishment feeds their profits. And profits, for corporations, are all that count.

Realize that one person can make a difference. If we’re going to see any positive change for freedom, then we must change our view of what it means to be human and regain a sense of what it means to love one another. That will mean gaining the courage to stand up for the oppressed. In fact, it’s always been the caring individual—the ordinary person doing extraordinary things—who has made a difference in the world. Even Mahatma Gandhi, who eventually galvanized the whole of India, brought the British Empire to its knees, and secured freedom for his people, began as a solitary individual committed to the idea of nonviolent resistance to the British Empire.

Help others. We all have a calling in life. And I believe it boils down to one thing: You are here on this planet to help other people. In fact, none of us can exist very long without help from others. This is brought home forcefully in a story that Garret Keizer recounts in his insightful book Help: The Original Human Dilemma. Supposedly in hell the damned sit around a great pot, all hungry, because the spoons they hold are too long to bring the food to their mouths. In heaven, people are sitting around the same pot with the same long spoons, but everyone is full. Why? Because in heaven, people use their long spoons to feed one another.

Learn your rights. It’s easy to complain, throw up your hands and just accept the way things are. Unfortunately, for all the moaning and groaning, very few people take the time to change the country for the better. Yet we’re losing our freedoms for one simple reason: most of us don’t know anything about our freedoms. Lest we forget, America is a concept. You have to earn the right to be an American, and that means taking the time to learn about your history and the courageous radicals who fought and died so that you and I could live in a free country. At a minimum, anyone who has graduated from high school, let alone college, should know the Bill of Rights backwards and forwards. However, the average young person, let alone citizen, has very little knowledge of their rights for the simple reason that the schools no longer teach them. So grab a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and study them at home. And when the time comes, stand up for your rights.

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Support the work of The Rutherford Institute with a tax-deductible donation today.

Speak truth to power. Don’t be naive about those in positions of authority. As James Madison, who wrote our Bill of Rights, observed, “All men having power ought to be distrusted.” We have to learn the lessons of history. People in power, more often than not, abuse that power. To maintain our freedoms, this will mean challenging government officials whenever they exceed the bounds of their office.

Don’t let technology be your God. Technology anesthetizes us to the all-too-real tragedies that surround us. Techno-gadgets are merely distractions from what’s really going on in America and around the world. As a result, we’ve begun mimicking the inhuman technology that surrounds us and lost sight of our humanity. If you’re going to make a difference in the world, you’re going to have to pull the earbuds out, turn off the cell phones and spend much less time viewing screens.

Give voice to moral outrage. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” There is no shortage of issues on which to take a stand. For instance, on any given night, over half a million people in the U.S. are homeless, and half of them are elderly. There are 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, and 16 million children living in households without adequate access to food. Congress creates, on average, more than 50 new criminal laws each year. With more than 2 million Americans in prison, and close to 7 million adults in correctional care, the United States has the largest prison population in the world. At least 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one parent in prison. At least 400 to 500 innocent people are killed by police officers every year. Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist. On an average day in America, over 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams. Since 9/11, we’ve spent more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It costs the American taxpayer $52.6 billion every year to be spied on by the government intelligence agencies tasked with surveillance, data collection, counterintelligence and covert activities.

Cultivate spirituality. When the things that matter most have been subordinated to materialism, we have lost our moral compass. We must change our values to reflect something more meaningful than technology, materialism and politics.

Standing at the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City in April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. urged his listeners:

[W]e 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 motive and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

We didn’t listen then, and we still have not learned: Material things don’t fill the spiritual void.

Unfortunately, our much-vaunted culture of consumerism and material comforts has resulted in an overall air of cynicism marked by a spiritual vacuum, and this generation of young people is paying the price. For example, at least one in 10 young people now believe life is not worth living. A survey of 16- to 25-year-olds by the Prince’s Trust found that for many young people life has little or no purpose, especially among those not in school, work or training. More than a quarter of those polled feel depressed and are less happy than when they were younger. And almost half said they are regularly stressed and many don’t have anything to look forward to or someone they could talk to about their problems. Equally alarming is a recent report by The Washington Post indicating that the U.S. suicide rate has increased sharply since the turn of the century, particularly among women.

No wonder many young people have such a pessimistic view of the future. But that can change. As King said, we have to start putting people first.

Pitch in and do your part to make the world a better place. Don’t rely on someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. As King noted, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” In other words, don’t wait around for someone else to fix what ails you, your community or nation. As Gandhi urged: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Finally, you need to impact the government, be part of the dialogue on who we are and where we’re going as a country. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your political ideology is. These are just labels. If you have something to say, speak up. Get active, and if need be, pick up a picket sign and get in the streets. And when civil liberties are violated, don’t remain silent about it. Take a stand!

The only way we’ll ever achieve change in this country is for this generation of young people to say “enough is enough” and fight for the things that truly matter.

I shall end as Dr. King ended his commencement address to the graduates of Oberlin College in June 1965:

Let us stand up. Let us be a concerned generation. Let us remain awake through a great revolution. And we will speed up that great day when the American Dream will be a reality.