August 28, 2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the incomparable I Have A Dream speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Regretfully, because the next day is my birthday and I was on an extended birthday trip on that date in 1963, I was unable to go to Washington to hear Dr. King and all of the other civil rights leaders who participated in that signal event. To this day, I regret missing it.
Now, fifty years later, like millions of other Americans I have just received an invitation from President Barack Obama to come to Washington and listen to his own words commemorating this historic anniversary. However, I would not wish to join the Presidential celebration of the MLK Jr. speech, as this President has sadly betrayed much of what Dr. King stood for:
I HAD A DREAM, MR. PRESIDENT! I had a dream that you would truly be the progressive leader promised in your first presidential campaign. Instead, you are far from progressive, you pander to the right wing on so many issues. You fail to even carry out the provisions of your own Affordable Health Care act, many of which your own administration has put on hold. Even after the conservative Chief Justice of the Supreme Court found Obamacare to be constitutional, you have sadly undercut it by delaying its full implementation for specious reasons.
I had a dream, Mr. President, that you would honor your campaign promises to have the most transparent administration in American history. Instead, you have secret courts ordering secret surveillance of many Americans emails and phone calls, and your National Insecurity Agency spies on our own citizens, world leaders, and even the United Nations itself. Such acts violate your Oath of Office.
I had a dream, Mr. President, that you respected the rights of Americans to be whistle-blowers when warranted, who would help to keep this nation honest, truthful, and faithful to its commitments to its own people as well as to those around the world. Instead , your administration unmercifully (and often illegally) pursues those who have brought truths to light which you find to be unpleasant or embarrassing -- thus attempting to inhibit the exercise of vital Free Speech and other Constitutional Rights of all Americans.
I had a dream, Mr. President, that you had a moral compass which would endorse forceful yet prudent actions to protect human rights, not only in America but all over the world. Instead, your administration looks the other way at abuses of human rights in America and abroad, most recently by the failure to act during three years of escalating violence in Syria culminating in the recent use of banned chemical weapons to kill a host of innocent Syrian civilians -- while your key officials make sanctimonious speeches but fail to produce a long-delayed substantive response to such atrocities.
I had a dream, Mr. President, that you would keep your campaign promises to get our nation out of our fruitless wars in the Middle East, which have destroyed so many lives and cost our economy so dearly. Instead, you have transferred the War in Iraq to uncontrolled private contractors; continued the War in Afghanistan as the longest war in our history; and meanwhile escalated the use of unmanned drone strikes, directed from far away, which often kill and maim innocent people. Thus, your administration combines and takes on all judicial and executive functions in violation of the Constitutional separation of powers.
I had a dream, Mr. President, that you would be the true steward of the environment as you promised during your campaigns. Instead, while you have endorsed some timid steps aimed at reducing the planetary climate change disaster which is impending, you have also endorsed drilling for oil and fracking for natural gas virtually everywhere in America, while looking the other way at many envirnomental abuses.
I had a dream, Mr. President, that you would speak out forcefully to protect human and civil rights all over the world. Instead, you appear to tolerate violation of those rights in many nations -- including in our own nation, except when there are high-profile opportunities of which you take advantage.
I had a dream, Mr. President, that you would really carry out the financial and economic reforms you promised, to attempt to prevent future severe crises such as those your administration inherited. Instead, you appointed the same type of Wall Street insiders and corporate cronies as did your predecessor to key posts, and now even seek to appoint a head of the Federal Reserve Board who helped design the flawed policies which nearly led to an economic meltdown.
I had a dream, Mr. President, that your administration would be one of courage, of fortitude, of sound judgment, and even of wisdom. Instead, your administration is one of appearances and photo-ops, of superficiality, of endless sounding of the waters and feeling of the winds, in a futile attempt to be all things to all people, while often pandering to our worst instincts and behaviors.
I had a dream, Mr. President, that you would understand and respect the wise words of American founder and patriot Thomas Paine, who said: The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from its government. Instead, your administration treats those who follow the dictates of Thomas Paine as enemies, to be surveilled, intimidated, prosecuted, and imprisoned. That stance is truly abominable, Mr. President. It is indeed unworthy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is unworthy of your past supporters, like myself, who believed in The Audacity of Hope. It is even unworthy of you, yourself.
Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)