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10 Years Later: A Prayer for America

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The following speech was given 10 years ago today, February 17, 2002, by Congressman Dennis Kucinich in Los Angeles, California at an event sponsored by the Southern California Americans for Democratic Action.

I offer these brief remarks today as a prayer for our country, as a celebration of our country. With love of democracy. With love of our country. With hope for our country. With a belief that the light of freedom cannot be extinguished as long as it is inside of us. With a belief that freedom rings resoundingly in a democracy each time we speak freely. With the understanding that freedom stirs the human heart and fear stills it. With the belief that a free people cannot walk in fear and faith at the same time. With the understanding that there is a deeper truth in the unity of the United States. That implicit in the union of our country is the union of all people, everywhere. That all people are essentially one. That the world is interconnected not only on the material level of economics, trade, communication, and transportation; but interconnected through human consciousness, through the human heart, through the heart of the world, through the simply expressed impulse to be and to breathe free.

I offer this prayer for America.

Let us pray that our nation will remember that the unfolding of the promise of democracy in our nation paralleled the striving and accomplishment of civil rights. That is why we must challenge the rationale of the Patriot Act. We must ask why should America put aside guarantees of constitutional justice?

How can we justify in effect canceling the First Amendment and the right of free speech, and the right to peacefully assemble?

How can we justify, in effect, canceling the Fourth Amendment, probable cause, the prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure?

How can we justify, in effect, canceling the Fifth Amendment, nullifying due process, allowing for indefinite incarceration without a trial?

How can we justify, in effect, canceling the Sixth Amendment, the right to prompt and public trial?

How can we justify, in effect, canceling the Eighth Amendment which protects against cruel and unusual punishment?

We cannot justify widespread wiretaps and internet surveillance without judicial supervision, let alone with it.

We cannot justify secret searches without a warrant.

We cannot justify giving the Attorney General the ability to designate domestic terror groups.

We cannot justify giving the FBI total access to any type of data which may exist in any system anywhere, including medical and financial records.

We cannot justify giving the CIA the ability to target people in this country for domestic intelligence and intelligence surveillance.

We cannot justify a government which takes from the people our right to privacy and then assumes for its own operations a right to total secrecy.

The Attorney General recently covered up a statue of Lady Justice showing her bosom as if to underscore there is no danger of justice exposing herself in this administration.

Let us pray, oremus, that our nation's leaders will not be overcome by fear. Because today there is great fear in the Capitol. And this must be understood before we can ask about the shortcomings of Congress in this current environment.

The great fear began when we had to evacuate the Capitol on September 11. It continued when we had to leave the Capitol again when a bomb scare occurred as members were pressing the CIA during a secret briefing. It continued when we abandoned Washington during the anthrax scare, when anthrax, possibly from a government lab, arrived in the mail. It continued when the Attorney General declared a nationwide terror alert and then brought the destructive Patriot Bill to the floor of the House of Representatives. It continued in the release of the Bin Laden tapes at the very same time the president was announcing our country would withdraw from the ABM treaty.

It remains present in the cordoning off of the Capitol. It is present in the camouflaged armed national guardsmen who greet members of Congress each day we enter the Capitol campus. It is present in the labyrinth of concrete barriers through which we must pass each time we go to vote.

The trappings of a state of siege trap us in a state of fear, ill-equipped to deal with the Patriot Games, the Mind Games, the War Games of an unelected president and his undisclosed vice president.

Let us pray. Let us pray that our country will stop this war. "To provide for the common defense" is one of the formational principles of America. Our Congress gave the President the ability to respond to the tragedy of September 11. We licensed a response to those who helped create the terror of September 11th. But we the people and our elected representatives must reserve the right to measure the response, to proportion the response, to challenge the response, and to correct the response.

Because we did not authorize the invasion of Iraq.

We did not authorize the invasion of Iran.

We did not authorize the invasion of North Korea.

We did not authorize the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan.

We did not authorize permanent detainees in Guantanamo Bay.

We did not authorize the withdrawal from the Geneva Convention.

We did not authorize military tribunals suspending due process and habeas corpus.

We did not authorize assassination squads.

We did not authorize the resurrection of COINTELPRO.

We did not authorize the repeal of the Bill of Rights.

We did not authorize the revocation of the Constitution.

We did not authorize national identity cards.

We did not authorize the eye of Big Brother to peer from cameras throughout our cities.

We did not authorize an eye for an eye.

Nor did we ask that the blood of innocent people, who perished on September 11, be avenged with the blood of innocent villagers in Afghanistan.

We did not authorize this administration to wage war anytime, anywhere, anyhow it pleases.

We did not authorize war without end.

We did not authorize a permanent war economy.

Yet we are upon the threshold of a permanent war economy. The president has requested a $45.6 billion increase in military spending. All defense-related programs will cost close to $400 billion.

Consider that the Department of Defense has never passed an independent audit.

Consider that the Inspector General notified Congress, recently, that the Pentagon cannot properly account for $1.2 trillion - that's trillion - in expenditures. Correct, that it cannot account for $1.2 trillion in transactions. Consider that in recent years the Department of Defense could not match $22 billion worth of expenditures to the items it purchased. Consider that it has written off as lost billions of dollars worth of in-transit inventory and stored nearly $30 billion worth of spare parts it did not need.

Yet the Pentagon's budget grows with more money for weapons systems to fight a cold war which ended, weapon systems in search of new enemies to create new wars. This has nothing to do with fighting terror. This has everything to do with fueling a military industrial machine with the treasure of our nation, risking the future of our nation, risking democracy itself with the militarization of thought which follows the militarization of the budget.

Let us pray for our children. Our children deserve a world without end. Not a war without end. Our children deserve a world free of the terror of hunger, free of the terror of poor health care, free of the terror of homelessness, free of the terror of ignorance, free of the terror of hopelessness, free of the terror of policies which are committed to a world view which is not appropriate for the survival of democratic values, not appropriate for the survival of a free people, not appropriate for the survival of a nation, not appropriate for the survival of the world.

Let us pray that we have the courage and the will as a people, and as a nation, to shore ourselves up, to reclaim from the ruins of September 11th our democratic traditions.

Let us declare. Let us declare our love of democracy. And declare our intent for peace.

Let us work to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our own society.

Let us recommit ourselves to the slow and painstaking work of statecraft, which sees peace, not war, as being inevitable.

Let us work for a world where someday war becomes archaic.

Let us work for a world where nuclear disarmament is an imperative. This is the vision which the proposal to create a Department of Peace envisions. Forty-three members of Congress are now cosponsoring the legislation.

Let us work for a world where America can lead the way in banning all nuclear weapons not only from our land and sea and sky but from outer space itself. This is the vision of HR 3616: A universe free of fear. Where we can look up at God's creation in the stars and imagine infinite wisdom, infinite peace, infinite possibilities. Not infinite war, because we are taught that the kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

Let us pray. Pray that we have the courage to replace the images of death which haunt us, the layers of images of September 11th, faded into images of patriotism, spliced into images of military mobilization, jump-cut into images of our secular celebrations of the World Series, New Year's Eve, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the strobic flashes which touch our deepest fears, let us replace those images with the images of people working to rebuild their democratic institutions. With images of the work of human relations. Of the work of reaching out to people, helping our citizens here at home. Of lifting the plight of people everywhere.

That is the America which has the ability to rally the support of the world.

That is the America which stands not in pursuit of an axis of evil, but which is itself the axis of hope and faith and peace and freedom.

America, America. God shed grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood and sisterhood.

America, America. Long may Thy land be bright with Freedom's holy light.

America, America. Let us pray for our country. Let us love our country. Let us defend our country not only from the threats without but from the threats within.

America, America. Crown thy good. Not with weapons of mass destruction. Not with invocations of an axis of evil. Not through breaking international treaties. Not through establishing America as king of a uni-polar world. But through looking at America as a nation among nations and viewing the world as an interconnected whole.

Crown thy good, America. Crown thy good with sisterhood and brotherhood. And crown thy good with compassion and restraint and forbearance and a commitment to peace and democracy here at home and in the world. And a commitment to economic democracy here at home and throughout the world.

Crown thy good, America. Crown thy good America. Crown thy good.

Thank you.