One of the goals I had in walking across America was to make, and shoot video of, a speech for any who cared to listen at the WTC site after completing the walk. The speech was to demonstrate how the attacks on the towers there, our response to those attacks, and the post 9/11 future we are building together could be seen through the lens of self awareness. Furthermore the speech was to suggest, in relation to that demonstration, action that could be taken to benefit our national security and integrity, today.
On Jan. 21st, I accomplished that goal and the video that was shot will be posted at this site when ready. For now, a transcript of the speech stands in for that video and is as follows.
Last month, on Dec. 20th, I arrived on foot here at the World Trade Center site. With that arrival, I completed a 13 month, 3600 mile walk across America that began in Santa Monica, Ca. I did not undertake this walk for recognition, or money, and certainly not for fun. I, your fellow American did this to get... America's... attention. Because I believe we need to talk about some new areas into which we, and human beings in general, must direct our attention and our effort in order to move forward. Because together, we are entering a great period of change. The waning oil era, rising and falling superpowers, climate change, terrorism, nuclear proliferation and the growing probability of terrorist attacks via weapons of mass destruction, are all part of the different and immensely challenging world that is only beginning to form around us. What we---the American people---do today and tomorrow, is going to play a large role in determining whether this new era leaves us in the dust, or whether we adapt ourselves to go with it. We are fond of referring to the great acts that raised this country to greatness. But we became great some time ago and that in a very different world. To remain great, we must do our own great things. But most importantly we must understand that as the very nature of our world has changed, so has the very nature of the great things that must be done to remain great within it.
My walk was also to gain exposure for my website talkingaboutus.org where I also seek to incite discussion. What I say here today will eventually show up as video on that site. The website remains a work in progress and it needs a good round of editing---but it conveys my larger purpose which is to discuss the broad and official pursuit by human beings of greater self awareness as an available route to a better world. Self awareness, as I use it here, refers to the self consideration of any human entity, from an individual to an entire country.
The reason I'm here today and that I chose this as my end destination is because what happened here on Sept. 11th, how we responded to it, and what can yet be learned from it are all connected to the self awareness of America and are in fact a large part of what motivated me to undertake the walk and the website in the first place. I want to talk about the attacks, our response, and some other relevant factors in the context of some of the concepts at the website and in the interest of America's increased self awareness and national security.
What happened here in 2001 was a great tragedy. A horrific injustice done to U.S. citizens. It is incredibly sad to me, yet I can't even imagine what it is like to have experienced it here in the city. I don't know what it's like to battle my own Government for answers and closure concerning that day. Or to be one of those who were maimed or have been rendered ill. And I can not imagine what it's like being unable to escape the silent, bottomless holes that were left behind by loved ones and comrades slain that day. So before I continue, I want to express to you the utter humility and respect I have concerning the feelings of those, who because of that terrible day, have experienced a trauma that is indeed beyond my imagination.
Soon after 9/11, a false connection between it and Iraq was implied through our highest office. Many Americans eagerly adopted this false implication as a belief and this, I believe, fulfilled a huge part of our willingness as a people to attack Iraq.
One of the first ideas I offer at the website is that we need to infuse our culture with a working knowledge of how, when human beings find themselves in highly charged situations, our most important objectives, such as our safety, can become displaced by more emotional shorter sighted objectives. Furthermore, this can be the source of profoundly self defeating consequences.
After those terrible attacks, we the people were angry and hurt and our anger was just. When one has a just anger, there is a justified place to deliver it. But instinctively, we also wanted to lash out; to hit something with a big stick. When many of us supported the attack on Iraq as a response to 9/11 we delivered our just anger to a place and a people that were completely uninvolved. The point here is not to blame America or dwell on the past. It is to bring our people into better alignment with the truth of who we are so we can work from there to become more of who we want to be in the future. To do this we must be unafraid to look at any misconduct on our part. Injustice was done to us, we responded with injustice done to others. There has been a lot of talk about evil in the past 8 years. We are not evil, but nor do we understand the extent of what evil is. Our actions fulfilled what I call the perpetuation of evil. This is receiving evil and re-energizing it and sending it back into the world under the name of good. Such energy has been transferred and re-energized from party to party across this globe in this way since the beginning of history.
Part of this evil has directly returned to us since we delivered it to Iraq. Officially defeated and liberated 5 years ago, thousands of Americans have nonetheless died there since. Beyond those deaths and the horrific injuries, this evil will continue to spread throughout our society in very subtle ways such as through our broken or disturbed military families and their legacies.
In Iraq, it is the same story with far more dead and the addition of even further injustice towards the Iraqis as a result of such things as the methods and conduct concerning Abu Graib, American war profiteering and corruption, the systematic destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure and much more. Such behavior also comes across to others as hypocritical in relation to America's stated beliefs and intentions. And nothing breeds enemies more than violence and injustice that is coupled with hypocrisy. At present, the evil we received and transferred will yet come back to us in a million ways and we must understand that all this is literally connected to a simple American assumption and the strokes of a few pens.
There are other important aspects to how we the people have responded to 9/11 which again overlook our objectives of safety and self integrity. We have allowed the 3000 deaths that occurred here to be officially explained to us with no more than four... words. They. . . hate. . . our. . . freedom. This is a highly designed statement. But it was NOT designed to deliver information to us. It was designed to push specific buttons and divert our attention away from wanting information. But why do we accept it? I suggest we want it to be true. Why do we want it to be true? Because then we bypass any possibility that we will discover ourselves to be involved somehow. No one wants to be involved in the bad things that happen to them. It is instinctual. Because if one is so involved then to optimize the situation it becomes necessary to question ones own conduct. And that presents a far far more complex and unattractive task than striking out with a big stick. I suggest it is one of human kinds most important challenges to learn how to look for how we are involved in the bad things that happen to us.
It's time to recognize that being more honest about who we are is in our own best interests. We must accept that America is ultimately a human institution and thus simply can not fulfill the spotless image we have of ourselves. Do you think the biggest kid on the block ever throws their weight around? Have any of us seen this in our lives? I think virtually every one of us knows that our government throws its weight around in this world. When the U.S. as the biggest kid on the block throws it's weight around--- people, families, lives just like yours and mine get oppressed and abused, whole groups become pushed to the side. Human beings lose their lives and enemies are born.
In this world where the steaks are growing higher, distinctions are all important. It's not easy, but in the interest of our own future safety we need to separate motive from act concerning the 9/11 attacks to gain perspective on how to optimize our response.
There was the act, the attacks upon us, which were utterly intolerable. All perpetrators should be hunted down and brought to justice. But then there was the motive behind the attacks. For our own safety, we need to understand that the motive behind the act could be a product of justified anger, much like our anger was justified in response to the act. There might be some justified anger towards us that is an understandable result of how the representatives of we the people, the biggest kid on the block, have conducted our affairs in the world.
There is a message in 9/11 for us. In fact it could be said that it has already been interpreted by the 9/11 commission appointed by Pres. Bush himself. How many of us are aware that this commission in its final summary stated that, in the interest of our national security, we should re-examine our foreign policy? This message stems from a very simple concept: treat others justly and they will most likely do the same for you. If you want to be safe, make others feel safe around you. To pursue this would not be to accommodate the terrorists, but to both be who we say we are---purveyors of justice---and serve two of our highest objectives, safety and integrity. It is time to decide if our highest objective in these matters is indeed our national security, or if it is, for whatever reasons, preserving within our foreign policy the interests of individuals or groups other than we the people which run counter to that objective.
Last year The U.S. sold more than 1/3 of the arms purchased in the entire world. 20 of the 27 countries in the world that were actively engaged in major armed conflicts were receiving arms and training from the US. Did you know that? That we trained 20 countries in active wars? Thirteen that we sold arms to are un-democratic or engaged in human rights abuses. Who are we, my beloved America? Right now, what we are is a war machine. We the people are directly making money from bloodshed and death, torture and abuse. Are you able to grasp the reality beyond these words? This is not about a speech at the world trade center. It's about real people and families just like you, OUT THERE, having their doors kicked in with U.S trained boots and their family members taken away and being stolen from and displaced and abused and beaten down and kept in bondage with U.S. weapons
Do we, or do we not care about people America? Is not that part of our identity? Upholding the rights of people? And not just Americans---people. Throughout our own history we the people have re-assessed our internal practices to better align what we do with who we say we are. It's time to apply this same effort to our external practices. In the 21st century we can now see our way to the true extent of our beliefs concerning human rights. All people should be treated as we would treat Americans. The Iraqis are not our citizens, but I submit they are our people. The Iranians are our people. We here in this great melting pot have already proven this. We work side by side with people from every nation. They work with us. They are us. There is no us and them. Across this world, there is only us. We in this world are one people.
WHO are we my beloved America? We love to talk about how great our country is but when is the last time when, beyond voting and paying bills and taxes and consuming, we as a people actually became involved in our country's conduct? Certainly we have sincere defenders who have stood up and offered their bodies to protect us, but protecting a country doesn't make it great. That happens from WITHIN and although we are undeniably great in many ways we are presently, simply someone Else's America.
We are a people who, on 9/11, were instantly deeply concerned beyond our personal lives. Who instantly felt our connection with our country resonate. Who got out of our chairs. Who left our homes and cities to act. Who became citizens beyond voting and consuming and paying our bills and taxes. Who bought books and read magazines to responsibly gain knowledge about the beliefs of our alleged attackers. Who rose to the occasion in our country's specific hour of need. We the people didn't have to be lead. All we needed to take things into our own hands was to recognize our country's great need and see a way to apply ourselves.
Our country's hour of need has not passed. It is upon us NOW. The next great or terrible events that will affect us are being shaped NOW. It is NOT time to go home. It is not time to sit down. It is not time to bury ourselves in our personal lives. I believe we CAN all see this and something more can be done NOW. Before another 9/11. Before we wake up one day and we say "Damn it! I should have stood up!" We need to become America instead of just going along for the ride.
But what do we do? That's the big question, isn't it? How can we the people best apply our efforts? On my walk, I experienced an immense amount of concern for the basic direction we are heading in but also complete hopelessness from those I met concerning any effective way for the common person to address it.
Furthermore, it was simply understood that our Government did not consistently act in our interests. When all else fails, the duty to the American people ultimately falls back upon the American people.
Since it is we the people that are being represented to the world by our Government, our form and level of education is inseparably connected to our safety. We need to instill in our education, a functional element of worldly understanding, a much greater element of citizenship, and to optimize our ability to use these and all our other tools, it is imperative that we pointedly instill ourselves with greater self awareness.
Self awareness is geared towards the modern world where the greatest things of consequence are our relationships. Our relationships with our representatives with our country with our citizenship, with our neighbors, with ourselves.
We have to strike at the heart of the problem in order to effect long term solutions. The real problem is that we the people do not have the tools or the understanding that illuminate the incentive to become informed and impose our just will. We the people must start somewhere to take our interests into our own hands. Our routes to change, such as letters to our leaders and self-organization are still effective. We simply have to use them as a people. We have to unite behind one or two issues. I suggest there are two clear demands that together we place upon our Government.
First, our government has stated that our national security is our highest priority yet within our foreign policy we have special interests being served above our national security. In the interest of our national security and integrity and as an American citizen, demand a campaign based on our national creed and domestic standards to identify and eradicate American hypocrisy in our international pursuits and conduct. As fast as we are able to implement this is as fast as it utilizes a route to our safety that lies in terrible neglect.
Second, what we the people need in order to communicate our informed desires to our government, has grown far beyond our present knowledge and involvement. And I ask you why, in the greatest most wealthy country in the world that has the self determination of being lead by the people, for the people, is the finest most comprehensive 21st century education for every single one of us not our number one priority? Stand up and demand the comprehensive, education that gives us the tools we need to address everything else. With this, we the people would have what we need to truly BECOME America instead of going along for the ride.
Stand up and make these two simple yet central demands to each other and our leaders. Send them out in email, in telephone calls in faxes and letters.
Concerning this, and all the things I have taken up with you here, the war we need to wage is A WAR ON MISUNDERSTANDING AND IGNORANCE AT HOME. An educated populace is the single most important tool we have to address our developing world. Period.
WE CAN MAKE EDUCATION OUR THING; An American SPECIALTY and our true strength. and in so doing strengthen ourselves in all other areas and again lead by example.
We say we are the greatest country in the world. We are the most wealthy country: why can't we do this? We have done such great things as put a man on the moon. During World War II our citizens stepped up to a massive domestic restructuring as men went overseas and women filled the jobs they left. Our Nation actually rationed food for goodness sakes. The only obstacle to this is our unwillingness to take to our feet like we did when the trade towers fell and this because we do not recognize our hour of need.
If together we make these demands and there is no effective action taken, then we need to take the next step. You, like common people everywhere, united, courageous and committed, are the greatest force on this earth. Don't WANT such things as a retooling of our priorities from our leaders. Don't hope for such things. Stand up and relentlessly apply your wills and get them! When we the people are not getting what we need, the system has failed and it is at that point our job to get up and recalibrate things!
Through a comprehensive, 21st century, whole world education for every one of us, we can become more than a great idea. More than a dream. I am tired of dreaming and periodically waking up to a nightmare, aren't you? We can become the American realization. We have everything we need right now except one crucial force: our unified will. If you agree with what I have stood up and walked 3600 miles to say to you here, don't let it be a novelty. Don't let it become a passing interest. Fulfill its sense of importance by standing up! It is all... truly... up to YOU, my beloved America.
Thank you very much for your time. And may it not only be America that is blessed by God, but may EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY ACROSS THIS EARTH be blessed, with insight, and vision, and humility, in recognition of the kinship and the common interests and the need that we all share.